Friday, March 7, 2008

Vino Rosso di Langa e dell’Alto Piemonte

When one of my ODPs (occasional dining partners) Philadining asked what I’d be drinking to celebrate the first anniversary of this obsessive venture earlier this week, I hadn’t even stopped to think about it. Even though I hate to consider sparkling wines only in the context of celebratory events, my first thought went to the bottle of Vouvray Pétillant Brut from Huët that has been whiling its time away in my wine fridge, waiting for a suitable moment. As it turns out, it was not yet the Vouvray’s time. Instead, a spur of the moment invitation from a pal who stopped by the shop turned the evening into an opportunity to share some leftovers and taste a few reds from the Langhe and Alto Piemonte.

Coste della Sesia “Orbello,” Aziende Agricole Sella 2004
I’d been looking forward to trying more from Sella ever since the last time I tasted their regular Lessona bottling. “Orbello” is a simpler, more jovial wine that falls under the more flexible Coste della Sesia DOC. It’s a blend of 50% Barbera, 25% Nebbiolo and 20% Cabernet Franc, with 5% Vespolina rounding out the pack. Pale ruby with the tinge of orange around the rim that seems typical to wines, both reds and rosés, of the region. Bright, lithe, juicy and refreshing, this could be a solid choice for a versatile, every day pour. In spite of its modest percentage in the blend, Nebbiolo asserts itself on the nose, which is dominated by early season raspberries and a touch of red licorice. With aeration, a leafy, slightly earthier element emerged. $16. 12.5% alcohol. Natural cork. Imported by Selected Estates of Europe, Mamaroneck, NY.

Dolcetto d’Alba, G.D. Vajra 2006
Plummy, with bing cherry and blueberry fruit in spades, followed by a hint of cocoa. This is as forward a vintage of Aldo Vajra’s Dolcetto as I’ve tasted in some years. Its tannins are so fresh and grapey that they impart a feeling of actually holding just-crushed grape skins against your teeth. If only we’d had some carne cruda to complete the picture. If there’s a downside to the simple beauty of this wine, it’s a recent move in its price point. For years, it hovered in the mid-teens, making it one of my favorite characterful, food-friendly reds for regular drinking. The current strength of the Euro has pushed this Dolcetto’s price point into the low $20s, making it somewhat less casual in application. $21. 13% alcohol. Natural cork. Imported by Petit Pois, Moorestown, NJ.

Langhe Nebbiolo, G.D. Vajra 2006
Vajra’s Nebbiolo can often be extremely tightly wound when first released. Aromatically, this 2006 is no exception to that rule. However, it is already open-knit and unfurling wonderfully on the palate. Fresh, soft raspberry fruit, with nuances of rose petals, five spice and cinnamon. Firm acid lends a slight tanginess that is followed by delicate yet firm grip and excellent persistence, suitable for mid-term cellaring. I visited Vajra’s estate, located on the hillside above the hamlet of Barolo, two years ago. I’m so far behind on writing up winery profiles, which I’m trying to do chronologically, that for now I’ll have to fall back on the occasional tasting note. $27. 13.5% alcohol. Natural cork. Imported by Petit Pois, Moorestown, NJ.

Lessona “Omaggio a Quintino Sella,” Aziende Agricole Sella 1999
This is Sella’s top wine, made only in strong vintages from a selection of the estate’s best barrels of Lessona. A blend of 80% Nebbiolo and 20% Vespolina, it spends a full three years in large barrels of old wood before bottling. When first opened, it reminded me immediately of a slightly sterner, more brooding version of the regular Lessona from 2001 (see link in the “Orbello” note above). Dried cherries and rosemary aromas hovered above an integrated wood-driven structure. Leather and wild cherry fruit followed in the mouth, with supple tannins, a rather narrow mid-palate and somewhat short finish. First impressions changed quickly with a bit of time in the glass, as the wine took on greater breadth and body, with a much rounder, purer mid-palate. Fuzzy red berry fruit and a little dusty attic kicked in on the finish. There’s plenty of life left here. Decanting would certainly be appropriate. $50. 12.5 % alcohol. Natural cork. Imported by Selected Estates of Europe, Mamaroneck, NY.

No comments:

Blog Widget by LinkWithin