Ronald Reagan was President of the United States. Perestroika began in earnest in the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union was the Soviet Union. We lost Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie Scotland. Pan Am still existed. Kirk Gibson hit his legendary Game 1 home run in the 1988 World Series and Microsoft released Windows 2.1
I, was in college.
The aforementioned all being accurate, it stands to reason that 1988 was quite some time ago. For those that don’t remember, 1988 was an excellent vintage across Tuscany. Shortly thereafter, it was eclipsed by the legendary 1990. However, I’ve often made the analogy that 1988 is to 1990 as 1995 is to 1997. The latter vintages were hotter and drier resulting in wines that were riper, more alcoholic and charmed sooner with their vibrant, sexy fruit and plush textures.
The former vintages were slightly austere in their youth. But the wonderful fruit was there; especially in Sangiovese based wines. The elegance, the aromatic freshness and the structure were there and portended a lengthy and beneficial cellar run. I’ve loved the 1988s I’ve had. One of my earliest wine “epiphanies” was the 1988 Castello Banfi Summus, (Thanks Vindy!) So when I was given a bottle of today’s subject wine, I was excited to try it. It’s provenance is impeccable; having come from the cellar of the winemaker himself, where it has rested for the past 29 years. Until last night.
The 1988 Carpineto Vino Nobile Riserva is a wonderful example of an elegant, refined and perfectly aged Sangiovese. We chose not to decant the wine, but opened it about 60 minutes before dinner. In the glass, the wine is an incredibly youthful ruby color with violet highlights. Remarkable. After only about 15 minutes in the glass, complex aromas began to emerge. Fresh cut flowers, lilies, mint, cured salume, cracked pepper and soft cherry notes fill the bowl. Barely any coaxing is required to bring out the aromas.
Initially, the wine seemed thin on the palate. But after about 30 minutes it had plumped up significantly. The tannins are fully resolved and what’s left is plenty of crushed red fruit flavors with muted wood notes and soft acidity. Too austere without food, but with the sausage and bean dish pictured above, the remaining life in this wine surged front and center. Would it have been better 5 years ago? Yes, I think so. I imagine I’ve caught this on the slow ride down hill. But that’s not really a knock, nor is it a complaint. This is the beauty of wine. This is the education, the life cycle, and the contemplation of history that makes wine special and transcendental. I am the richer for it. 88 points.