2012 GIANFRANCO ALESSANDRIA – Barolo, Piemonte, Italia
We only rarely bring you this undisputedly world class wine type due to its typically higher price; Barolo just doesn’t fit into the budget - usually. In this instance, we promised to also represent this wine on our WineBar menu and that was all the persuasion the importer needed for a nice price concession. Now, for the first time in quite a while, we bring you Barolo.
Barolo is not a grape, but the name of a sub-region of Piemonte in Northwest Italy. Barolo and next door neighbor Barbaresco are both renowned for their renditions of the Nebbiolo grape. The former is often called the “King of Nebbiolo” for its more majestically durable qualities, while more affable Barbaresco holds the title of “Queen”. Despite many attempts – some of them respectable - Nebbiolo has a hard time behaving anywhere near as “regally” from anywhere else.
Let’s try “The King” together: Pour this into a Pinot Noir-style glass and first note the color. Reflect on the fact that one of the world’s greatest wines is anything but dark and opaque. Rather, we are witnessing a very translucent, reddish / orange-ish hue. That, my friends, is honest-to-goodness Barolo in your glass. These days, certain market-paranoid producers are doing all they can to “color-up” Nebbiolo. Let them. I’d rather appreciate this more delicate appearance as a marker for authenticity.
The scent is the real “tell”. When you first uncork your bottle you’ll be rather impolitely greeted with a gruff nose of concrete dust. I am about 30 minutes into smelling my own glass, and now cherries and strawberries plus wisps of tobacco and potpourri are now more endearingly inviting me to my first sip. Yes, Barolo needs either time or air or both!
On the palate this wine is graceful with syrupy fruit then intense with tannins in the finish. That’s Barolo for you! You have two solutions at your disposal: Age this Barolo for a while or eat some Osso Bucco. The tannins will soften and resolve with either application. I vote for the second of the two!
This is Cabernet Franc from Argentina
2015 BRESSIA ‘Monteagrelo’ CABERNET FRANC – Mendoza, Argentina
I’ve visited Argentina’s famous Mendoza wine region but once, yet I think I gleaned enough from that one week to bring you the salient points.
This is the only place in the world where viticulture begins at 3,000 feet above sea level and heads up from there. This higher exposure to the sun is believed to be one the area’s assets; grapes here ripen differently and – to the Argentine’s mind – better. Certainly, the average deeper color of Mendoza Malbecs and the like can be attributed to this unique situation.
Argentina is how most of us learned about this grape variety. Possibly originating in Bordeaux and counted as one of the five primary Bordeaux varieties, Malbec actually plays only a minor role there these days. Further south in Cahors it plays the starring role, occasionally inviting Merlot to the cuvée. Cahors Malbecs feature challenging tannins only a southern French, cassoulet-chomping native would appreciate (the rest of us wine lovers give it a college try). Argentine’s more affable, New World translation of the grape is the reason why so many know and love Malbec these days.
This is not Malbec: T
The varietal for which Argentina’s wine scene is so famous is not represented here. We’re giving Malbec a break to show you another Bordeaux-derived varietal which, for me, has achieved at least “darkhorse status” down there. I have found a lot to admire from Argentine Cab Francs, and we’ve carried no fewer than four vintages of Bressia’s (we like this small winery and its family, shown above). This wine along with my other faves provide New World “fruit love” and soothing, rich textures while still retaining just a bit of Cabernet Franc’s more eccentric qualities of brush and red peppercorn. It is as exotically fragrant as any Franc I’ve had, but doesn’t scare off the tentative taster. We’re all happy!
If our World Class Club more often challenges you with Barolo tannins and Northern Rhone eccentricity, here’s our rare olive branch of accommodation . . . And it’s a slam dunk for . . .