For Those Who Haven’t Given Up On Great Barolo at a Reasonable Price

If ye are of sufficient faith to be holding your spend for great Barolo at an affordable price, then you would do well to navigate yourself in the direction of the nearest bottle of Luigi Einaudi Barolo Cannubi 2013. One of the great young Barolo wines I’ve come across of late, Luigi Einaudi Barolo Cannubi 2013 lives up to praise bestowed upon the 2013 Barolo vintage as one that will be remembered for wines of great finesse. Aromatic and textured, showing good depth, along with expected notes of tar and roses, finishing with graceful, silky tannins. The wine is pure pleasure even now. This is one that neither the Nebbiolo-curious nor Barolo junkies will want to miss.

*provided as sample

Three Attention-Grabbing Wines from Castello Gabiano

One of the most interesting wines that have come my way of late hails from one of Italy’s smallest DOCs. Indeed, some sources note Gabiano DOC as Italy’s smallest, in fact.

Castello Gabiano’s “A Matilde Giustiniani”, a wine dedicated to Princess Matilde Giustiniani, who last century restored the castle to its former glory, communicates with emotion and personality. The wine is 95% Barbera with 5% addition of Freisa, and speaks in a language of ripe dark berry fruit with notes of spice and baker’s chocolate. The wine is soft in the mouth, with impressively supple tannins and a finish that is in no hurry to leave you.

Gabiano’s Barbera d’Asti “La Braja”, perhaps a more typical Barbera, is a wine that brings enjoyment and interest to the dinner table on any given evening. The massively food friendly “La Braja” is produced from 100% Barbera grapes and is given refining time 60% in cement and 40% in big wood. La Braja showed notes of fresh red fruit with hints of spice and tobacco, and over the course of a couple evenings, never once lost its fine balance.

“Il Ruvo”, Gabiano’s Grignolino that is produced under the Grignolino del Monferrato Casalese DOC, is an absolute gem. Made with 100% Grignolino, one of Italy’s excellent though less well-known native grape varieties, Il Ruvo is a lighter red that weighs in big with complex aromatics and flavor. It can be a great pairing for everything from blue fish to poultry to cured meats and cheeses, one reason that if I were headed out for a romantic picnic, I would be packing this bottle along in the picnic basket.
Not as widely available as an interested consumer might like, however, you can use or similar to get a handle on where to locate these wines.

Note: wines provided as samples.

The Grandi Marchi Experience: Symphonic

The Grandi Marchi – visionary winemakers from across Italy – are here today at Del Posto Restaurant in New York City to lead attendees through a seminar and guided wine tasting of some of Italy’s best terroirs.

Like the Philharmonic minutes before a concert, the “orchestra” Grandi Marchi, is tuning up.

As Grandi Marchi members take their seats, tasting glasses clink and jangle, papers rustle, polite chatter and excuse me’s whispered one after another.

Audience iPhone camera shutters clllick away.


What follows is to be an immensely informative seminar, with each producer/representative speaking with subject matter expert authority about their respective regions, production methods, and unique terroirs.

I won’t kid you – the tasting segment is ridiculously pleasant. And massively instructive. The elegance, vigor, joy and pleasure of Grandi Marchi wines is remarkable.

But, for anyone who is familiar with the Grandi Marchi – member names that include the likes of Gaja, Masi, and Antinori – icons of fine Italian wine – that much is not unexpected.

What has so impressed me at this Grandi Marchi tasting – more so than any single wine or producer – is that, as a group, the wines braid together 13 different appellations and 15 wineries in a way that speaks so vividly, so sonorously, of Italy’s rich and diverse wine tradition.

To put it another way, perhaps in musical terms, the Italian wine tradition is composed not of a single tone, but from many different tones which, as in good music, allow us to experience the symphony.

There are no short cuts to understanding Italian wine. There are, however, some very good places to begin the Sassicaiajourney. Grandi Marchi wines represent a point of departure that grant you exposure to a highly relevant cross-section of Italy’s most important grape varietals and regions, act as model reference points for what wines ought to be like within their respective categories, and help to communicate the cultural values and traditions that unite them.

For more information about the Grandi Marchi, I recommend you to follow the link to Grandi Marchi Institute of Fine Italian Wines.

Two Wines, Snow, Hungry Birds

Given the recent weather, I am pretty certain, no matter where in the great New England outdoors you may be standing at the moment, that you are quite knee deep in snow. In my particular case, thigh deep, actually, and trudging through to fill a bird feeder with seed for our local fine-feathered friends.

I am thinking to introduce you to a couple of wines that, back indoors, brought some much appreciated sunshine – however virtual it may have been – to an otherwise snowy weekend:

vinarija-dingac-plavac-peljesac-2012-1Dingac Vinarija Pelješac 2012
I adore this somewhat geeky wine from the Pelješac (pell-yuh-shatz) Peninsula on Croatia’s rugged Dalmatian Coast. Produced from 100% head-trained Plavac Mali or Little Blue, Plavac is apparently a varietal cousin of California Zinfandel. Savory herb components are in good unison with the wine’s sweeter notes of wild berry, plum, and dried fig, underlined with delicious salinity, a taste / aroma profile calling to mind that of Carignano del Sulcis. Come to think of it, both do share a certain wildness of spirit. That humid conditions do not exist in the vineyard(s) has allowed the producer to forego spraying vines for mold. A flourishing yeast population kick-starts a wild fermentation conducted in stainless steel. Aged for one year in used oak.

vajra-barolo-albe-2009G.D. Vajra Barolo Albe 2009
Vajra’s Barolo Albe conferred a fitting level of refined drinking to a family sit down of rare-cooked lamb t-bone cuts, butternut squash risotto, and roasted asparagus, dinner taken by the woodstove on a recent and cold ass New England evening. On the feminine side of the Barolo gender-meter, this lovely wine gives up delicate notes of dried flowers, herbs, underbrush, hints of anise and cocoa, pleasantly ripe tannins. Blended from sustainably farmed grapes sourced from three different vineyards at altitudes of 400-440 meters, undergoes 30 – 40 day fermentation. The wine is aged ~36 months in Slavonian oak.

As an aside, both these wines, in their respective price ranges, bring serious value for money to the table. Poseur wines with inflated price tags: take notice. But, that’s a discussion for another day.

Anyway, yesterday brought another fourteen inches of snow. And I hear that Punxsutawney Phil, America’s weather forecasting Groundhog, on February 2nd 2015, the 129th North American Groundhog Day, predicted another six weeks of winter. Best I should pull on boots and thick wool trousers and head out to top off the feeder.

Cantine Ascheri Verduno Pelaverga 2012

This post is dedicated to the grape varietals I will ask you to forget: the likes of Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, to name a few, whatever varietals command your usual attention.

cantine-ascheri-verduno-pelavergaDon’t worry. It’s only temporary. Forget them just long enough to discover something completely new about wine, perhaps a varietal you know nothing about.

Enter your favorite wine shop ready to resist the temptation to follow your usual path to familiar bottles. Wander the racks and aisles until you come upon an unfamiliar name, a region unknown to you, a bottle that piques your curiosity. Buy it and go home.

That’s how I came to know Pelaverga, a rare and totally charming wine from Italy’s northwestern hills in the region of Piemonte.

This particular wine, Cantine Ascheri Verduno Pelaverga, pours with pleasing crimson color. Between one sip and the next, air around the glass fills with ethereal scents of strawberry, cherry, notes of incense and of pepper. Berry fruit transfers to the palate along with a bit of subtle spice. Dry, clean, and warm in the mouth, harmonious, with ever-so-slight tannins. Delicate, almost shy at first, this wine achieves an even greater harmony hours after opening and into day 2.

Enjoy Pelaverga with soups and light stews, egg-based dishes such as quiche or sophisticated omelets, meat and vegetable kebabs, white flesh fish dishes. Am looking forward to try this wine with Asian plates, too, as I suspect the exotic incense / spice notes will be a nice compliment to flavors of that cuisine. Serve slightly chilled.

Every once in awhile, forget for a moment what you know in order to discover something which you don’t.

Random? Totally. But, sometimes random is where the party is 😉

PS Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot… now safely recollected.

Marcarini Dolcetto D’Alba Fontanazza 2010

Marcarini Dolcetto D’Alba Fontanazza 2010

We can disagree about if it is the Beatles or the Rolling Stones who made the better music. And feel free to cheer against my team when the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees do baseball battle.

But, if you don’t find something to love about Marcarini Dolcetto D’Alba Fontanazza … well, I don’t think we can be friends 😉

marcarini-dolcetto-dalba-fontanazza-2010Marcarini Fontanzza 2010 is simply an outstanding representative of everything great about Italian wine – massively food friendly, traditional, terroir-expressive, honest, and above all, delicious.

The wine is produced from Dolcetto grapes grown among the Langhe Hills of Italy’s Piedmont in the area of La Morra – a locale famous for its Barolo wines – at 320m above sea level in a calcareous soil of high magnesium content.

The producer has decided against ageing in wood in order to preserve the wine’s character, aroma, and freshness.

Tasting Notes:

Scents of fresh cherries and violets with delicate notes of brown spice that transfer nicely to the palate. Warm in the mouth, sensations of marzipan, cinnamon, and a persistent finish with the most delicately bitter grace note. An affordable, delicious wine that brings a bit of class to everyday life at table.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

Incredibly versatile and food friendly at table, it will exalt leftovers and better meals both for almost any cuisine. Use with confidence 🙂

Oddero Barolo 1998

Oddero Barolo 1998

Psychologists tell us that most people live in the past with their regrets or in the future with their worries.

Confession: I am, on occasion, guilty of both.

oddero-barolo-1998-2There is an art to living in the moment. In fact, my virtuosity in that pursuit has recently improved somewhat thanks to a bottle of Oddero Barolo 1998 😉

Brilliant garnet in color, the wine showed brooding dark cherries, tobacco and faded roses dominating the nose during the first hour. Smoke, mushroom and tar made their appearances during hour 2. Majestic, fine, silky tannins are totally the main event and lead us to a satisfying finish with notes of dried fruit and licorice.

This Barolo kept me riveted with sheer pleasure to the here and now, transfixed in a moment that lasted an entire evening.

100% Nebbiolo, selected manually. Fermentation / maceration carried out in stainless steel over 20 days. Aged in Slavonian and Austrian oak for 30 months. 6 additional months in bottle.

A great expression of Piedmont terroir from an historic producer.


Mirafiore Barolo 2007

Tobacco hangs in the curing barns now. Great fields of corn have been cut down to brown stalks returning an expansive feel to the local landscape. Thousands of jack-o’-lantern-orange orbs peek out from among the pumpkin vines.

mirafiore-barolo-2007Fall is rolling into my neck of New England. Today, the world outside seems composed in shades of brown accompanied by a sleepy, rainy day’s soundtrack. But inside, overhead lighting and the sizzling sound of shitake, portobello, porcini mushrooms and shallots hitting the pan turn the kitchen into a lively space. We’ll simmer these in a cream sauce and serve over fettuccine, washing it all down with a bottle of Barolo.

There are professional wine critics who loved Mirafiore’s Barolo 2007. And there are non-professional, but informed palates that have spread the word otherwise. The wine didn’t flex much muscle, frankly, and seemed somewhat contrived at times. Impressions of dried leaves and faded roses for which nebbiolo is famous lacked volume in comparison to other Baroli at similar price points. Nonetheless, the wine was lovely with dinner, showing a gentle firmness of structure and an alluringly soft texture that worked well enough with the mushrooms and cream.