what am i tasting?


Tasting Note

Posted February 14, 2013 Smells enticing, exhibiting notes of cherry and flowers that segue to the sweet spice, floral and tar aromas typical of this mature red. The cherry flavor builds on the palate, backed by a stern structure. A touch austere on the finish now, with excellent potential.

And the answer is...


Varietal:

This one’s a heartbreaker with its alluring scents and sweet fruit, but underneath these feminine trappings lie stern structure and austere leanings. Sounds like a complicated wine! Despite the complexity, we can solve the puzzle.

Let’s take a look at our grape choices. As you may have guessed, our wine can't be Mondeuse Blanche, which is not only funny-sounding, it happens to be a white grape. Our wine is obviously red. Next up for elimination: Gamay. Gamay, the queen bee of Beaujolais, is sweet with fruit and flowers, yet virtually powerless in terms of tannic structure. If you like Gamay and Beaujolais but are looking for a bit more structure for pairing with richer dishes, try a cru Beaujolais (such as Morgon or Juliénas), wines that offer more tannic density than the village versions.

Onward to Pinot Noir: At its best it’s transcendently ethereal, silky and elegant; at its worst it’s a stinky-footed fruit bomb. Pinot is a hard grape to grow—it has thin skins that are permeable to fungal infections and rot. Judging from the expressions of cherry, spice and structure in our note, this wine could be a Pinot, and it could also be Sangiovese, which has the same sort of expression but with added rusticity. But the floral and tar aromas give this wine away as a Nebbiolo. Roses and tar are classic hallmarks of Nebbiolo.

This wine is a Nebbiolo.

Country:

Since we’ve determined that this grape is Nebbiolo, we can toss out Spain and France from our list. Though some winemakers in California and South Africa are experimenting with the grape, Nebbiolo thrives predominantly in the Piedmont region of Italy, which tells us that this Nebbiolo is Italian. (But if you're interested in trying an odd-ball Nebbiolo from California, check out Bonny Doon's from Monterey County.)

This Nebbiolo is from the grape's traditional home in Italy.

Age:

Now that we know this Nebbiolo is from Italy, it's reasonable to look at Nebbiolo-producing areas from the Piedmont region in order to help us determine the wine's age. Nebbiolo from Piedmont's Barolo area is aged for three years prior to release while wine from the Barbaresco DOCG is aged for only two, either of which would put a young Nebbiolo in the first or second age bands. But this "mature red," as the note indicates, is owning its age. We can therefore assume that we're not dealing with the youngest possible age categories. Furthermore, the presentation of cherry fruit that segues to secondary notes of floral, sweet spice and tar indicates a wine with additional age. It's safe to say that we're looking at a slightly older wine, putting this in the 6- to 9-year-old age category.

This wine is nine years old, from the outstanding 2004 vintage.

Appellation:

Barolo and Barbaresco are the husband and wife of Piedmont. Rather, they are the King and Queen. They’re both powerful wines, strong and firm, but with Barbaresco displaying the feminine aspects of this signature grape from Piedmont. With the earlier ripening of grapes and the shorter time spent in the barrel, Babaresco’s tannins are softer, with aromas that are typically more floral in comparison to a Barolo, which packs the power. Barolo features ample drying tannins, and there’s oak, there’s tar, there are roses and there’s structure—all meshed to make it a very ageworthy wine. This structure tells us that the wine we’re tasting is a Barolo.

Wine:

This wine is the Vietti Barolo Villero Riserva 2004, which was rated at 96 points in the April 30 issue. There were 315 cases made of this wine, and it retails at $300. All of the grapes used to make this wine were grown in a single vineyard, Villero, in the Castiglione Falletto commune of Barolo.

Morgan Taylor, associate tasting coordinator

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