Last week, I had the good fortune to visit the biennial food party called Salone del Gusto in Torino (Turin), Italy. This is a global event sponsored by Slow Food and designed to feature high quality food products from around the world.
A unique offering of the Salone is their “Taste Workshops.” Since I consider wine a food group, I took the opportunity to attend one, specifically a guided tasting of six Barolo wines.
Barolo is a wine production area in the Piedmont Region of northwest Italy. Made exclusively with the nebbiolo grape, there are a number of stringent production criteria winemakers must follow in order to label their wine a Barolo. The criteria range from specific fields where grapes can grow, to how long a maceration period is permitted, to the type and size of wood barrels used during the aging process.
Many wine industry experts consider Barolo the best wine produced in Italy. I won’t speak in absolutes like that, but it is certainly a formidable, well-structured, sophisticated wine. It is expensive, too.
The six wines presented at the Taste Workshop all came from the village of Castiglione Falletto, a charming hamlet just east of dead center in the Barolo production zone. That central position offers producers here the chance to take advantage of either the sandier soil found on the western side of Barolo or the harder clay soil found to the east.
All the wines were either vintage 2008 or 2009. Some purists would argue that is still too young for Barolo to reach its potential, but I leave that discussion to those with a more discerning palette than I have.
Here are the wines we tasted, in the order they were presented, and my thoughts on them.
(On each vintner’s name, you’ll find a link to their web site, the first two are in Italian only, the others are in English.)
Vintner: Cavallotto Wine: Riserva Bricco Boschis Vigna San Giuseppe 2008
Look: This wine had a deep garnet color and striking transparency.
Smell: A strong alcohol presence, attenuated with prunes and spices.
Taste: A high acidity that reminded me of citrus fruit, balanced by a leather undertone was pleasant, but this wine was very high in tannin – too high for my taste.
Vintner: Cascina BonGiovanni Wine: Barolo Pernanno 2008
Look: A dark and intense ruby color that was nearly opaque.
Smell: A sharp tobacco aroma at first made way to licorice then a hint of prunes and blueberries.
Taste: While the tannins were lighter in this wine than in the first, that was still the predominant feature. Slightly less acidity as well, with a light bitter finish.
Vintner: Azelia Wine: Bricco Fiasco 2008
Look: A deep ruby red.
Smell: A strong combination of dark chocolate and Bing cherries.
Taste: Much softer on the palette, this wine offered a nice balance with berries and a pleasant, not overstated tannic finish.
Vintner: Vietti Wine: Rocche 2009
Look: A rich bright red that was very clear.
Smell: I got sweet onions that covered a dried fruit aroma, perhaps apricot.
Taste: Yellow fruit (apricot and pear) and caramel that blended nicely with a tannic finish. The finish was interesting in that the tannins started out soft but then lingered for quite a while.
Vintner: Mascarello Giuseppe Wine: Monprivato 2009
Look: A much lighter red, bright and transparent
Smell: I got a combination of stale fruit and rubber tires. The guy next to me smelled raisins, but I did not detect that.
Taste: A mixed fruit taste including various berries and citrus. Then a little hint of burned toast. Very low tannins at the finish.
Vintner: Brovia Wine: Villero 2008
Look: This wine had a dark, dark ruby color, but was still very clear.
Smell: Roses and strawberries with a slight plum tone.
Taste: Very nice combination of cherries and berries that are softened by a velvety tobacco texture. The absence of tannins at the finish made it a pleasant wine, but a little uncharacteristic for a Barolo.
My final remarks are that any time you can find a Barolo , you should drink it. That said, these are expensive wines that really should be opened on special occasions. Come to think of it, opening a Barolo IS a special occasion, so as my Italian friends say: Cin CIn!