Vertical Tasting: Giacomo Borgogno Barolo Riserva

September 22, 2014

Giacomo Borgogno Barolo Riserva (4 Bottles)


Founded in 1761, the Borgogno (or Giacomo Borgogno e Figli, as it is know from 1959) remained under ownership and management of the Borgogno family and it descendants, the Boschis family until 2008 when it was sold to Oscar Farinetti (the founder of Eataly).

Inspired by his honeymoon-cum-aprenticeship in Burgundy in the late 1930s, Cesare Borgogno (in charge at the time) shifted his focus on work in the vineyards and introduced the practice of extensive ageing his wines in the glass prior to release. This practice, quite unique for Piemonte (and not that common elsewhere either, really), meant that certain proportion of that era’s Borgogno’s Barolo Riserva made in an unwaveringly ultra traditional style eventually reached the market for the first time at 20-40 (!) years of age. At its peak and with perfect provenance, as Cesare saw it.

Although completely raided by the Nazis during the WWII, the cellar, under long-ageing practice, has also built up quite a substantial library of old vintages. They are still being released ex-cellar today, although under strict allocation, unlike even 10-15 years ago.

When the winery releases its “library” wines (usually much much later than the original release), it often goes through a process of ensuring the wine is in perfect shape.

This process usually consists of opening a bottle, inspecting the wine, perhaps even carefully decanting it to remove sediment, topping off the bottle with the same wine from the same vintage, but from a donor bottle, recorking with a new cork, indicating on the bottle or in an attached legend book which procedures, of the mentioned above, were taken and when.


This was a small tasting with Max and a Vivino friend of ours – Burgundy Addict in Rome.

Burgundy Addict was kind enough to get us started with a set of serious whites which, in all honesty, would easily handle being the headliners for the evening. You can read my individual notes on them here:

2007 Domaine des Comtes Lafon Meursault-Charmes Premier Cru

1999 Bonneau du Martray Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru

2007 Domaine Zind Humbrecht Riesling Clos Windsbuhl


DECANTING. The Borgogno bottles were opened and carefully decanted roughly 1.5-2 hours ahead. While many people are reluctant to aerate old Barolo, I believe that they need plenty of air time to compose themselves. What may begin as a slightly “tired” 40 year-old Barolo, often comes back to life and gets fresher and cleaner after 3-4 hours in decanter/glass. Our line-up received roughly 4 hours of total breathing time, with the last 1.5 hour over the course of drinking it. The evolution was evident in all wines and even the off bottle (’71) kept its damaged composure very well, although not really improving much.

CORKS.  These were normal releases, so cork deterioration was not a surprise. However, even at that only the ’64 put up serious resistance and it was largely because  I didn’t have my trusted  Ah-So opener with me, which, in my experience, it is usually the best option with older bottles. Distributing pressure and upward force along the entire length of the tired and crumbly cork helps it come out in one piece.

STYLE. Borgogno’s austere, serious and very manly style was evident across the board. Softened by age, this style doesn’t slip into sloppiness or bare bones, neither does it offer ether-like nuances. Instead, you get a military man, once fit, unwavering, direct and not a fan of display of emotion, but who, with age, is still tough and fit, but is more relaxed, slightly more talkative and wise.


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Name:Barolo Riserva
Vintage:1958, 1961, 1964, 1971
Type:Red Wine
Producer:Giacomo Borgogno & Figli
Region:Italy / Piedmont / Langhe / Barolo/ Barolo




Leathery and nutty with a layer of balsamic and madera. Loud tertiary aromas leading the way, but layers of secondary and primary are still evident. Faded, thin, but still evident. Still alive, but definitely over the hill in terms of precision and balance. I can only speculate that evolution is advanced due to merely good (vs. ideal) history of storage. Typically reclusive, dusty and dry Borgogno style.



This bottle was in the best condition of the line-up. Great balance. Not only the façade is sophisticated, intricate and extremely pleasing, but also, underneath it, is the masterpiece of a frame. Ripe, but assertive tannins. Super acidity. Elegant. Clean lines. The fruit is more present, which provides a better balance to the secondary and tertiary aromas and adds in perceived complexity. The color is clean, saturated and is deep enough to really surprise if this is the first old Barolo of such kind for you. This one also had signs of slight daydreaming or mild absentmindedness. An endearing imperfection, but at this age it separates the good one from great ones.



Storage issues. Not dead, but quite cooked & maderized.



Bigger and little less dimensional than the ’58, but at the same time it is more focused. Showing age, but in a proper way. Tertiary / oxidative notes are reasonable and in check. The palate is pleasantly sharper. Not only in the acidity aspect, but overall it felt more gathered. Darker and broody, with tar and truffle well intertwined with dark vs. red fruit (think cherry). It was definitely the loudest of the four.