Sunday, March 15, 2009

1974 Dessilani Gattinara: A Footnote

Luigi Dessilani was 90 years old when he produced the 1974 Gattinara Riserva reported on below. He was quoted at the time as attributing his longevity to his habit of drinking a full liter of red wine every day. Whatever the reason, his longevity was authentic: he lived and continued to make wine until he was 100.

Luigi's winemaking was traditional, and the wine spent long periods in old barrels in order to tame the high levels of both tannin and acid. His son-in-law Enzo Lucca now produces Dessilani wines, and he has installed modern, high tech equipment to control temperatures and fermentations. Although I haven't tasted Dessilani wines recently, I have little doubt that Enzo Lucca still draws upon the great vineyards and the wealth of traditional information passed along by his father-in-law. The Dessilani wines are no longer cheap, but I suspect that they are still very good values.


  1. Fred - I cannot believe you wrote about this wine. I was lucky to meet Signore Dessilani several times and imported the 74 as one of the first Italian estate wines we brought into the USA from Neil Empson in 1982. It was a great wine and I only wish I still had some bottles. Where did you get this bottle? Thanks for writing about it and bringing back some great memories! They don't make'em like that anymore.

  2. You did a great job with this one, Craig. I have enormous gratitude to people like you who introduced Americans to great artisan wines. (Actually, my bottle was distributed in Michigan by Paul Mann, who undoubtedly got it from Empson.)

    I bought lots of Dessilani wines (mostly Spanna and Gattinara) in the early 1980s and am sure I probably drank them all too early--although they were certainly wonderful at every step along the way.

    Ric Cerrini at Village Corner warned me that the 1974 Gattinara was a wine for long keeping so I drank a few bottles in the late 1980s and many more in the mid-1990s. It was always very good, but this last bottle--a straggler--was heavenly. I have tasted many great wines, but this one has to rank right there among the best in my memory. The 1974 Caretta Canubi Barolo (which you probably brought in as well) was another winner, but I think this bottle might be even better. I agree with someone's assessment that Gattinara is a different take on Nebbiolo, but not necessarily a lesser wine. Wish I had more of it; as you said: "they don't make 'em like that anymore."