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Ruminations on Barolo

In an earlier blog on the Wine Spectator’s Grand Tour wine tasting, I had noted that at that tasting there had been an extraordinary opportunity to taste eight different wineries’ Barolos.  Barolo is at home in Piedmont in northwestern Italy, and its sole or occasionally primary grape is considered by some to be Italy’s most impressive: Nebbiolo.  The origins of Nebbiolo are unclear, but there are those who think it goes back as far as Roman antiquity.  Whatever its past, what one either learned or re-learned from the WS tasting is that Nebbiolo, and Barolo in particular require considerable age before the wines are ready to drink.  The tasting, for the most part, was a reminder of that fact owing to the relative youth of the wines offered … wines that promised great things but were yet too young to have yet met that promise.  Still, one label in particular – a 2009 Damilano – was already a lovely quaff, despite its expected array of tannins.

2009 Damilano Barolo

2009 Damilano Barolo

What does that prove?  When it comes to the aging of wines, you never really know.   One more point, Barolo can be and usually is pretty expensive … and yet … there are Piemonte wines made from Nebbiolo that can be drunk younger than Barolo and thoroughly enjoyed.  Next time you’re buying, try a Babaresco or a Gattinara or a Spanna.

I guess none of these was quite prestigious enough for the WS array, but don’t forget them; they’re delicious.

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Wine Spectator’s Grand Tour 2014, Las Vegas

Just back from attending the annual tasting that the Wine Spectator puts on with such class; this year’s final version was held at the Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas.  It lasted three hours, but it would take many more for anyone to sample all of the 227 wineries that were pouring some of their choicest selections.  The represented wineries included some that are very well-known, e.g. Pio Cesare or Castello Banfi, and some that are rather more arcane, e.g. Caparzo or Tasca Almerita … all from Italy, though the same division was true of, say, Spain and France. The vinous largess was almost too generous to believe: such as eight wineries from Italy’s Piemonte, all pouring their most recently released Barolos.  Across the same aisle, eight more wineries from Toscana, pouring not just Sangiovese, but Sangiovese Grosso, the very finest clone of that grape: Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montipulciano, in mind-boggling abundance and quality.  Same with Spain … not just Tempranillo, but Tempranillo Tinto Fino: the very best.  Ever had a Tempranillo from Muga?  Go for it.

Yes, France was there, but not in such abundance and quality; most of those great Bordeaux having long since been sold to the Chinese market for their prestige value.  For much the same reason, there wasn’t much of Burgundy to be seen either.  Still, Bordeaux’s Ch. Margaux showed up, and, predictably enough, when the doors opened, most of the attendees rushed straight to the Margaux stand.  They were pouring their 2004 vintage, a pleasant but not great year in Bordeaux, but it was still a lovely reminder of what can be done all over the world by the best wineries from the best regions using the best grapes.  Nothing new there, of course, but there are just so many of those wines now compared to, say, twenty years past.  On the one hand, I suppose the sheer abundance of magnificence complicates the business of making an informed choice, but then again, the likelihood of making a bad choice has been dramatically reduced.  If they hadn’t driven us from the tasting at the end of the appointed time, I’d still be there.  Perhaps a few more ruminations are in order at another time.

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After tasting 200+ wines, the photos get a bit blurry!