I had a very brief meeting the other day with Frederico Ceretto, who was motoring about town with bags full of 2004 Barolos and Barbarescos (well, actually only two bags, and he took them with him when he left, but still). About the vintage he had the following to say: "The bouquet of the wines is probably the most complete and interesting of any vintage I've tried in the past ten years. The structure is nice; there's a bit more sweetness than usual, which helps balance the tannins and acidity. This is a well-balanced, fresh vintage." Hard to catch his tone in a blog, but the word 'nice' was guarded; i.e., good but not spectacular. After tasting the wines, he's certainly right about the aromas—all those superlatives like "explosive," "intense," and "exotic" come to mind.
This was particularly true of the 2004 Ceretto Barbaresco Bricco Asili ($130), my favorite of the new wines. It's a perfume of blossoms, anise, and cherries—the kind of scent that wafts out of the glass and carries across the table. On the palate, it was firm, drying on the end, with sleek raspberry-cherry notes and a lingering hint of orange rind. I'd buy a case if it weren't just absurdly out of my budget.
The 2004 Ceretto Barbaresco Bernadot ($75) was not as siren-like in its allure, but it was still terrific. Along with floral and cherry aromas there was a tarry note not present in the Asili; the wine itself was powerful but graceful, the fruit recalling ripe dark cherries, the acidity tangy.
In terms of the Barolos, to my mind they weren't showing as well as the Barbarescos on the day I tasted them, particularly Bricco Rocche—an odd state of affairs, as it's usually such a gorgeous wine. It seemed a bit dense and blunt, and I wondered if it might be ever so slightly corked—not enough to detect TCA in the nose, but just enough to mute the wine.
But the 2004 Ceretto Barolo Prapò ($85) showed better. An extremely fragrant wine with notes of sweet cherries, herbs and caramel, its tannins were grippy and strong, its black cherry fruit very lush, especially for young Barolo. Spice notes lifted the finish. Lovely wine, but still, the glass I went back to at the end of the day was that Bricco Asili. I could hear it calling to me from down the hall, and I suppose I could have lashed myself to my desk or something, but really, isn't being seduced part of the point?