Twice. And the year hasn’t come to an end yet. Twice our state electrical company has been thrown into madness. Someone at the top should go and help out Greece; at least there they couldn’t be blamed for doing a worse job. This time though the wine cellar was pretty well stocked, being that it was so heavily depleted the last time we had no power. And bearing in mind that it’s a lot colder now, the reds have been coming upstairs to see the light. Pretty little reds too. It was interesting yesterday – I had a conversation with one of our sales reps about The Prisoner wine – that battlefield wine from Orin Swift’s fabled vineyards in California. The sales rep wanted me to try it, again, so I did. He then eloquently went on about how Swift is trying to combat the internet discounting policy (show it on the web at $5.00 below cost but never have it available via an internet purchase and pay $5.00 above retail to buy it at the store). I tried to explain that a wine like this is of no interest to me. It’s a wine that will immediately garner a 1,000,000 point rating from you know who; it will be wine that will hit the internet at close to or below cost; and it will be wine that will sell out before you can say boo. Personally I thought it was horrible; about as fat a wine as you could make, covered in sugar coated sweet cherry with added saccharin in the mix – there are better home-made jams than this at a fraction of the price. And there’s so much alcohol in the bottle that anyone who tells you it will cellar for years is hallucinating. I marveled at a Robert Sinskey POV that had been lurking in my cellar for a number of years (was a 2001 I think) on Sunday night – the first night after ‘the storm’. That’s a proper wine; balanced, refined, fruit, acidity, oak – the parts that create an awesome whole. And at 10 years old it’s still singing the blues.
It’s like the Barolo’s we tasted this week. You can sniff the modern styled ones with their heady oaky nose, versus the classic, rustic styled Barolo’s. And yet, in both cases, the wines we tried were as complicated as War and Peace. It’s only recently that I began a love affair with Barolo. Prior to starting this shop my experience with the wine was subject to whose corporate account was it going on and which steak house I was squirming in. Last year my wife and I stayed in Barolo for a few days. I began to see the land as a topological Renoir – how the famous slopes all faced south, the interesting slopes ran due east to west and how Barbaresco et al were left to the northern and eastern slopes. I saw that the majority of Barolo wine makers are family owned, family farmed. I began to understand the argument proffered y Domenico Clerico and Elio Altare, leaders of the modernist faction, using small barrique barrels, versus the classicists who believe in using the old styled monolithic oak barrels. At a glance the difference in style is quite clear – small oak barrels allow more oak flavors to muddle into the smaller amount of wine; huge oak ‘foudres’ do the reverse. But the argument is not just about the size of your barrels – what is at stake in Barolo is where the modernization ends. Already there has been talk about allowing cabernet and Barbera and even merlot into the mix – Angelo Gaia has declassified several of his most expensive wines in the neighboring Barbaresco zone so that he can do his own thing (as he has always done). The argument splits families like the civil war in the states – Conterno vs. Conterno! Interestingly though both sides of the argument have enjoyed almost two decades of uber-fantastic vintages and whether the wine was barrique aged or big balls aged hasn’t made much of a difference in their overall quality. This meteoric rise in quality has both sides agreeing that global warming has had a measurable effect on their grapes; they point out that the rise in temperature has allowed farmers to ‘green harvest’ more efficiently (green harvest is the practice of dropping fruit just after the bunches begin to color – leaving the larger, more advanced colored grapes to remain on the vine unhindered by the weaklings – Darwinism at work in the vineyards!) and it has allowed them to harvest later (Nebbiolo grape needs a seriously long amount of hanging time). Better quality wineries, rising temperature, greater advancement in manufacturing, aging and bottling techniques, and loads more profit because of their back-to-back winning vintages – this is why Barolo is on a roll right now. And when you get into the minutia of life behind the barrels you begin to understand why this wine is truly ‘noble’. I would far prefer even one bottle of great Barolo lying in my cellar to a whole case of the Prisoner. So there!
Here’s what we tasted this week:
Azienda Agricola Scarzello: A small 12 acre vineyard located in the heart of Barolo. Since its very beginning some 300 years ago Scarzello has prided itself on its independence and individuality. The current wine-maker is Federico Scarzello who uses traditional cultivation and wine-making techniques with a few modern twists.
Barolo Classico 2005: Lovely nose of toasted vanilla bean, cedar and allspice. Perfect clarity in the glass. On the palate, dried cranberry with Marachismo cherry and woody mushroom. As an entry level Barolo it surpasses the price-quality test: $70.00
Barolo ‘Vigna Merenda’ 2004: Great white truffle nose. Wild mushroom compote – it’s a rustic, dry Barolo style that even now is still a little young. On the palate super ripe red and black currants with incredible depth. Full frontal fruit with voluptuous curves all round. Incredible now, will be amazing in another 5 years: $96.00
Azienda Oddero: Founded in 1878 in the Santa Maria hamlet of La Morra. One of the oldest producers in Barolo, the family has kept the distinctive traditional style of wine making for over a century. Their vineyards stretch across the famed sits of Brunate, Rocche di Castiglioni, Villero and Mondaca. It certainly doesn’t hurt to have the daughter of the owner pour the wine – even at 10:00am in the morning!
Oddero Barolo Villero 2006: One of the few sites grown on heavy clay soil. South facing; a really vibrant wine with an open aroma of spice, vanilla and dark chocolate fudge cookie. On the palate, dense, saturated blue fruits, touch of marmalade even (this is the clay/acidity balance coming through), with a dry, persistent finish. Lovely jubbly: $75.00
Barrolo Serralunga 2007: A blend of the old and the new – seamlessly. On the nose an earthy quality with truffles and fresh mushroom. Slovanian oak barrels give the aromas a sense of forest – slightly damp, musty but rich. On the palate the wine dances a different tune – vibrant, fresh, clean and distinctly terroir driven. Young blackberry and blueberry fruit with a touch of cedar and baking spice: $50.00
Barolo La Fenice 2006: Not your typical Barolo. Rusty tinged color in the glass; musty, wet leather aroma – sweaty saddles for the horsey set. Loads of truffle, mushroom, duck fat going on. Very traditional style with some funk going on behind the scene. Fascinating Barolo if only because its so different.
Poderi Colla Dardi le Rose
Barolo Bussia 2007: Much more modernist – this is a Barolo for the young hedonist. Lovely aromas of hot chocolate and whipped cream (not that horrible pumpkin chocolate stuff from the corner coffee house). Soft and lush with a huge mouth feel brimming with black fruit and mocha. Definitely a Barolo for everyday drinking – cash the bonus check first: $70.00
G.B. Burlotto: One of the oldest family owned wine-makers in the region. This is where I stayed last year and will always remember Fabian suggesting a wine-tasting early one morning. We began at 9:00, my wife and I and finished at noon. During the intervening 3 hours we drank almost ever Barolo that Fabian makes and then some, and then some older stuff he had – just for the hell of it. What a morning!
Burlotto Barolo 2007: One of the great classicist styled entry level Barolos. Compact at first but explosive at the finish – a rush of dried fruit with slurps of Ribena (if you’re English you’ll know what that is). Probably wouldn’t be wasted if you poured it over vanilla ice-cream – wow, what a thought! $60.00
Burlotto Barolo Monviglieri 2007: the new vintage of this great classic style perfectionist Barolo. Make room in your cellar, take out a second mortgage and buy as much of this as you can. Unlike your stock portfolio and your diminishing return pension plan you will never be disappointed when you taste this wine – until you only have one or two bottles left and wish you’d sold the kids as well. Unmistakable flavors of creamy scrambled egg and white truffle with wild mushrooms cooked in duck fat. Perfect ‘assemblage’ for breakfast! Girls – you know how Diamonds are a girl’s best friend? Trust me, this is what a man wants. $69.00 whilst stocks last (stupid price!).
Monday10.00am – 7:00pm
Tuesday10.00am – 8:00pm
Wednesday10.00am – 8:00pm
Thursday10.00am – 8:00pm
Friday10.00am – 8:00pm
Saturday10.00am – 7:00pm