2005 Paitin Barbaresco Sori Paitin
The two greatest wines of Italy are Barolo and Barbaresco. While the Nebbiolo grown on the priceless hillsides around Alba is of monumental complexity, even the very best producers have been struggling for decades to bring out the aromatic majesty of the variety while controlling the grape's firm tannic structure. That battle for equilibrium divided the region into two camps -- the modern and the traditional.
The modernists, headed up by producers like Elio Altare and Domenico Clerico, argued for shortening fermentation, drawing color and extraction from the grapes early on, as the tannins that are water soluble are less astringent than those that are alcohol soluble. After the short fermentation, the modernists opted for new wood aging, enhancing oxygen exchange ('loosening the wines up') while drawing fine wood tannins from the new cooperage.
The traditionalists -- producers like Giuseppe Mascarello and Giacomo Conterno -- watched as wine writers raved about the supple, modern Barolos, but they stayed on track. Short fermentation meant less skin contact. Less skin contact guaranteed reduced aromatic complexity. Sure the wines were more supple, but at what cost? Better to focus efforts in the vineyards, work harder to get ripe tannins on the vine, allowing for a long vinification while mitigating the risk of harsh tannins.
Giovanni and Silvano Pasquero-Elia, from their precious perch on the south-facing hillsides of Barbaresco, sat right in the middle of the debate. The family had long made 'traditional' wines, only to be seduced by the sweet fruit and supple tannins of the modernists in the late 1980s. Their Barbarescos swung on the Piedmontese Pendulum, until 2003, when they finally discovered the happy medium, producing Barbarescos that combined the lushness of the modern with the structure and great vinous aromatics of traditional Nebbiolo. That's what we found when we visited Giovanni in Paitin with this 2005 Barbaresco Sori Paitin.
This 2005 -- the second vintage in a string of four superb Barbaresco havests -- combines the deep color associated with the modernists with the wonderful seductive aromas that come only from longer maceration. Forward red fruit marries with traditional dried flowers and pine-needle complexity, magically marrying old and new.
"($55) Unfortunately I was only able to taste one Barbaresco from Paitin this year, but it is a gem. The 2005 Barbaresco Sori Paitin is a gorgeous wine redolent of flowers, ripe red fruit and subtle French oak nuances. This Barbaresco offers lovely overall balance, with well-integrated tannins and superb purity. Today the wine is bursting with primary fruit and needs at least a few years in bottle to develop its tertiary aromas and flavors. This is a terrific effort from Paitin. Anticipated maturity: 2012-2025. 93 points."
93 points--Robert Parker, The Wine Advocate