1970 E. Pira & Figli Barolo


The 1970 Pira Barolo is a wine I have never had before, at least that I can recall. Sweet, perfumed and ethereal, the 1970 takes us back to another generation, a time when Piedmont was far more agrarian and artisan than it is today. Crushed rose petals, mint, licorice, dried flowers, sweet dried cherry fruit, pipe tobacco and old chest drawer waft from the glass. Fine, silky, mature Nebbiolo tannins pull it all together beautifully. The 1970 is fully mature and past its prime, but well-stored bottles will drink well for another few years.

Luigi Pira's was a staunch traditionalist. He insisted on crushing his grapes by foot and making wine without any mechanical intervention. The 1970 was a blend from several sites: Cannubi, S. Lorenzo, Prea, Vignane and Via Nuova, as was the custom at the time, done with 100% whole clusters and aged in cask. Chiara Boschis bought the property in 1990 following Luigi Pira's death. Boschis made her early reputation with super-modern Barolos, which garnered considerable acclaim. In more recent years, Boschis has taken some of Pira’s techniques and incorporated them into her wines, including the blending of sites for the Via Nuova Barolo and the use of stems in experimental bottlings that have not yet seen commercial release.

Readers approaching the 1970 or other wines of the same era will want to pay special attention to the storage and serving of these wines. Older Nebbiolo can appear fragile upon opening, but these bottles are usually far sturdier than their appearance or first impression might suggest. I generally do not like decanting older wines, as that operation can be too sudden. Over the years, I have learned that a more successful approach is to store bottles upright for as long as possible, a few days at least. (I know collectors who store all their older wines upright, but that is a subject for another discussion.) Upright storage will allow for a natural decantation of sediment. From there, pouring while avoiding sediment should be easy. These wines tend to need considerable aeration, given their age and the decidedly rustic means with which they were made. I prefer to see that evolution in the glass, but readers need to be patient with bottles like this, as that process can take a few hours. 92/Drink 2023-2025.

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