The WINE-DAR has outdone itself this time. Today’s wine is from Northern Italy, Piedmont specifically, and is truly one of the great wines of Italy and the world: the Cardone Barolo. Made from the Nebbiolo grape this is truly a world-class wine.
The Barolo DOCG comprises 11 communities in Piedmont, with the most important being La Morra, Castiglione, Falletto, Monforte d’Alba, and Serralunga d’Alba. Time is the most important aspect to Barolo. It takes lots of time for the tannins in Barolo to soften and become a wine that you would enjoy drinking. By law, Barolo must age for a minimum of 3 years between the barrel and bottle. A five year-old Barolo is very young, and can age for decades.
Before the 19th century Barolo was a sweet wine, not unlike an ice wine, because the Nebbiolo grapes ripen late, sometimes being harvested in November and December. By that time the temperatures in Piedmont are cold enough to stop fermentation, leaving a ton of residual sugar in the wine.
Enter Camillo Benso and French enologist Louis Oudart. Together they began to improve winemaking techniques in Piedmont. Focusing on the Nebbiolo grape, they developed a great-tasting, long-lasting dry wine that soon became a hit with the ruling class in Turin and the house of Savoy, giving Barolo the moniker, “the wine of kings and the king of wines”. It’s always about marketing!
Nothing much changed until the 1960’s when Italy was beginning to wake up from a 100 year nap. Individuals–oh my god, not that–started growing and bottling their own wine. One of these aspiring winemakers was Angelo Gaja, who is today known around the world for his Piedmontese wines, especially his Barbaresco. In 1980 Barolo was given it’s DOCG status.
Our wine here, a Bruno Cordone 2009, comes for the Vineyard Terre da Vino and is rated “Due Bicchieri” or “Two Glasses” by Gambero Rosso, Italy’s famed wine guide. So it’s a fairly good wine. As you may remember, to be outstanding it would need to be “Tre Bicchieri” or “Three Glasses.”
I learned about Barolo from my good friend Mario at Center Street Wine and Spirits in Wallingford CT. So, when I first opened the Cordone it didn’t seem right: the color was wrong, it was clear! Typically, Barolo is rust colored and opaque, not clear. At 2009 I had a very young Barolo, so I was a little concerned that I had pulled the cork too early. However, as the air got to the wine the color grew into the rusty color I had expected. The reviewers claim the nose of this wine as tar and roses. Well not in my garden! The aroma was pleasing and prevailing, but I didn’t get tar or roses. Instead I got a slight leather. Taste was D-R-Y. I mean unabashedly dry. If you don’t like dry wine, drink something else, as you’ll likely hate this wine. I, on the other hand, love dry wines and strong tannins, so I was pleased to the max.
Barolo is not for everyone. If you are a vegetarian, may I suggest something in a white? This is a big wine and needs big food roasted meats, high proteins or heavy pastas. The tannins will combine with the food proteins and the wine will come across softer. Barolos can be expensive, but worth it in my opinion. I got lucky and caught a special with the WSJ wine club, but like everything else I enjoy, it’s either fattening, expensive, or sold out. In this case it’s the latter.
We are not done with Piedmont. I am reading a book “The Vines of San Lorenzo “ which is a biography of Angelo Gaja, and if you read the blog you know if I read about a wine, it’s almost certain I will drink it. I love the research as much as the wine itself.
“A good wine is something that pleases you and that you like because it satisfies your taste and knowledge and passion for wine”. Angelo Gaja