After the rain of 2002 and the excessive heat of 2003, all indications are that 2004 is a year to remember for all the right reasons for Italian wine.
A long, cold winter was followed by a cool Spring in the centre and north. Warm, but not too hot weather prevailed during the summer, leading on to a September and October with warm sunny days and cool nights, ideal for the long, slow ripening of wine grapes.
The results are fabulous in Tuscany with exceptional wines, likened to 1997 and 1999. Sangiovese is particularly successful across the region from Chianti Classico to Montalcino.
In the Veneto, the phenolic levels of ripeness in Valpolicella are very impressive, and it is a great vintage for Amarone.
Barolo & Barbaresco
Arguably the most eagerly awaited Barolo
and Barbaresco vintage since the statuesque 1996
, the fine-boned, nuanced 2004s possess both power as well as poise; the finest examples show pinpoint aromas of raspberry, sage and licorice, with a compact, finely-structured, suave, savoury and rose scented flavours delighting the palate.
A textbook growing season: a perfect fast flowering, fine summer if cooler than average August, the high quality Nebbiolo fruit was sealed by an exceptional September and October with warm dry days and cold nights allowing an extended `hang-time' and a later-than-average harvest, giving thicker skins and consequently bolder, riper tannins.
Indeed, to lovers of all fine wines, these Baroli and Barbareschi are structurally not a million miles away from the best of the classical Bordeaux 2004s, if with more stamina. Unlike the large production levels of Bordeaux however the quantities of Barolo and Barbaresco available are tear-jerkingly small. Built for the cellar, these wines should blossom from 2013 until 2024 and beyond.