When it comes to wine, I think there are two regions that generate more passion (and frustration) than any other: Burgundy and Piedmont.
Both regions rely heavily on microclimates and the concept of terroir—the minute differences in wines based on where the grapes are grown. Both regions rely on finicky grapes, Pinot Noir and Nebbiolo, respectively. Both regions produce myriad wines in small-production lots that can be difficult to track down. Both regions have modern vs. traditional camps that stimulate vigorous debate among consumers as to what is "typical."
In addition, both regions produce wines that often need time in the bottle to reveal all of their nuances. Most Burgundy and Piedmont aficionados will only drink the wines with considerable age on them.
If you ever want to liven up one of your wine nights, pick either a Burgundy or Piedmont BYO theme. You’ll invariably wind up with a room split in terms of the likes and dislikes.
Last night my Merry Band of BYOBers got together for a Piedmont night, and while I typically try to avoid the "what I had for dinner last night" blogs, I know that a few Piedmont notes can stir the pot, so you can see my unofficial and informal tasting notes below. The wines are listed in the order they were poured.
Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco 1993: Floral, with tangy mineral and red cherry notes. Long and tightly focused. Shows a nearly salty minerality. Far more aromatic than what it delivers on the palate. 90 points, non-blind.
Michele Chiarlo Barbaresco Asili 1995: Soft and easy with plum, mineral and incense notes. Shows a fruit cake note on the nearly spirity finish, though it softens nicely in the glass. 89 points, non-blind.
Campè della Spinetta Barolo Vigneto Campè 2001: Overtly smoky with dark cocoa, plum and mocha notes. Plush and toasty finish. Diametrically opposed stylistically. The most un-Nebbiolo of the bunch. More like an amped-up Barbera. Sculpted. 88 points, non-blind.
Scarzello Barolo Vigna Merenda 2001: High-toned with lots of incense and cherry. Underlying mushroom and mulled spice notes. Deceptive length. 89 points, non-blind.
Aldo Conterno Barolo Cicala 2000: This pulls together ripe fruit, racy acidity and mouthwatering minerality. Toasted coconut note up front but very black on the back end. Long, deep and classy despite its obvious ripeness. 96 points, non-blind.
Domenico Clerico Barolo Ciabot Mentin Ginestra 1998: Lots of dark plum, spice and toast. Figgy undertow. Toasty edge still holds sway on finish. Still tight. Frankly modern style. Rock solid but not compelling. 92 points, non-blind.
Alfredo & Giovanni Roagna Barolo La Rocca e La Pira Riserva 1996: Rock hard at first, with puckering iron and sanguine notes. Big streak of black cherry runs underneath. Very, very racy. Opens nicely in the glass, showing more breadth of fruit. 92 points, non-blind.
Marcarini Barolo Brunate 1996: Tangy, iron driven wine with mulled spice and black cherry. Long and tightly coiled at first but opens up steadily. A very pure, unadorned expression of Nebbiolo. Deceptively persistent finish. 92 points, non-blind.
Elio Altare Barolo Vigneto Arborina 1986: Raisin, tar, spice and braised fig. Very inviting. Fleshy but stays pretty at the same time. This is totally open and at peak, with its toast perfectly melded into the fruit. Still has some reserve too. 95 points, non-blind.
Aldo Conterno Barolo 1967: Stunning, with rose petal, incense, tobacco, mineral, leather and Jasmine tea notes. Extremely elegant, with a hint of carmelized walnut on the finish. Super long. 97 points, non-blind.
Riccardo Ceretto Barolo Riserva 1964: Corked.