Serafini & Vidotto "Il Rosso Dell’Abazia," 1999

Today’s post is about the 1999 Serafini & Vidotto “Il Rosso Dell’Abazia,” but begins with a long digression.

Only one wine has ever brought me to tears. It is unfortunately not eligible for this forum due to its extraordinary price ($350-400 retail), but I name it now to establish my benchmark for truly great wine: the 2004 “Astralis,” the flagship Syrah from the Clarenden Hills collection. At first whiff it was the wine that will always haunt me, setting the bar for every wine I’ve tasted since. Huge, dark, brooding, pungent, rich – but it was an infant! Even then, I knew that the 2004 Astralis was a wine that would not be ready to drink until 15-20 years later; it is still barely approachable now. L’Enfant terrible. Shockingly good.

Which brings me to the focus of today’s post: the 1999 Serafini & Vidotto “Il Rosso Dell’Abazia.” It has nothing in common with “Astralis,” not on the surface. “Astralis” is fermented from Syrah; this wine is made using Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc, a Bordeaux blend. Clarendon Hills is located 25 miles south of Adelaide, and northeast from the McLaren Vale in southern Australia; Serafini & Vidotto have their vineyards in Montello, a hilly area on the right bank of the Piave river in Treviso, a sub-region within Veneto (see photo).

“Astralis” is an ultra-boutique wine, a world-class luxury item made in a truly New World style. “Il Rosso Dell’Abazia,” on the other hand, is an exemplar of Cabernet Sauvignon in its Italian expression, but following the vinification philosophy and techniques of the great French makers. What do these wines share, what intangible quality? Easy: greatness. Why wax eloquent? It is greatness.

I opened the “Il Rosso Dell’Abazia” to celebrate moving to Brooklyn. It was to be paired with prime rib, roasted potatoes, and sauteed mushrooms, the first meal made in our new kitchen. If wine and food pairing could be considered a tango, this wine was definitely the leader. Textbook blood orange fading to pale rose-brown at the rim in the glass. On the nose, the first pour offered devious aromas, almost all secondary: rose petals, waterlilies, tar, olives, hung meats, and hints of dark fruit. In the mouth, “Il Rosso Dell’Abazia” felt like velvet. Over a decade of bottle-aging softened the tannins beautifully, giving it one of the finest textures of any wine I have tasted since “Astralis.” More dark fruit in the mouth, along with tobacco and a definite touch of balsamic spice. Long finish, echoing the completely even and balanced experience this wine provides. It touches greatness.

Normally a bottle retails for $80, but I found some for $16 at wholesale. Buying another half-case today. I do not think it will last another year, having just peaked, so find this wine immediately. Pairs with roast game of any kind, simpler fare; let the wine lead you.

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