The one-week countdown to WBW 54, “A Passion for Piedmont,” starts today. Just in case you missed it, you can start from the beginning with my original announcement. In last week’s reminder, I issued a little bonus point challenge. As that was a potential toughie, I thought I’d put another extra credit option out there for your WBW enjoyment.
Find, drink and write-up two wines, each made from the same variety (or varieties) but hailing from different areas and/or different DOC(G)s within Piedmont.
From a shopping or cellar raiding perspective, this one should be a little easier than last week’s challenge. Some of the more straightforward options – focusing on the core of Piedmontese wine country, the Langhe district surrounding the city of Alba – might include comparing:
- Barolo and Barbaresco
- Barbera d’Asti and Barbera d’Alba
- Dolcetto d’Alba and Dolcetto di Dogliani
- Nebbiolo d’Alba and Langhe Nebbiolo
You might also opt to bring geography more clearly into play by comparing wines from more disparate subzones of Piedmont. Choosing two Nebbiolo-based wines, one from the Langhe/Albese district and another from one of the zones in northeastern Piedmont such as Gattinara or Ghemme, would do the trick.
Things could get a bit more complicated if you opt for tasting two blended wines, as the rules governing blending (as well as the list of sanctioned grape varieties) vary widely from zone to zone within Piedmont. It’s doable though, and I might even allow a little bending of the rules. A Nebbiolo-dominated Langhe Rosso, for instance, might be paired up with something like this….
Coste della Sesia Rosso “Uvaggio,” Proprietà Sperino 2005
$36. 12.5% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Petit Pois, Moorestown, NJ.
Paolo DeMarchi, without question, is best known as a producer of fine Chianti Classico and of the Toscana Rosso IGT “Cepparello.” Both wines are produced at his beautiful estate Isole e Olena, named for the two hamlets his property more or less encompasses in the Tuscan district of Barberino Val d’Elsa.
When he purchased 25 acres of land in the hillsides of Lessona and the Coste della Sesia in northeastern Piedmont in 2000, I imagine he was initially viewed as something of an interloper. Paolo, though, traces his family’s history back to this area; he was simply pursuing his dream of returning to his roots. The fact that his son Luca, who had previously been uncertain as to whether he wanted to join the family business, fell in love with the property must have been icing on the cake. You’ll find both Paolo and Luca’s names on every bottle of wine from their new venture, Proprietà Sperino.
“Uvaggio” simply means “a blend of grapes.” One might ask an Italian producer about their uvaggio just as we might ask a French vigneron of his wine’s encépagement or an American winemaker of her chosen blend. As one of my friends and co-workers likes to say, it’s an utterly pedestrian name for an anything but pedestrian wine. In this case, the blend happens to be Nebbiolo, Croatina and Vespolina, something along the respective percentage lines of 65/25/10. 2005 marks its second vintage release.
One of the things I like and respect most about DeMarchi’s wines is that, even though they show a strong winemaking stamp, they always allow a sense of place to shine through.
On day one with “Uvaggio,” that winemaking stamp took the front seat, with a heady nose of oak-derived cedar and vanillin aromas rising from the first pour. It didn’t take too long for dark red fruited scents of raspberries and mulberries to work their way to the fore. However, the wine also seemed disjointed, like its gears weren’t yet in synch. The occasional whiff of paint and a glossier than anticipated mouthfeel weren’t helping matters.
The wine came more fully into its own on day two, as more characteristic traits of both Nebbiolo and the cool, high elevation Coste della Sesia emerged. Grappling hook tannins and snappy acidity were both clearer and better balanced than on day one, the oak influence much less prevalent and more harmonious. Aromas and flavors, too, were much more appealing, ranging from tar and rose petals to cinnamon and orange peel, along with that classic Nebbiolo stamp of red licorice. Sitting in the glass, the wine continued to become more and more aromatic, eventually bringing to mind sour red plums and cherries.
This definitely needs some time – ideally in the cellar or, if you can’t wait, in a decanter – to reveal its full charms.
By coincidence Sperino’s rosato, a direct descendent of “Uvaggio,” was my selected entry for WBW 47 last summer.
Whatever you choose from the wide array of options for “A Passion for Piedmont” – and whether or not you take on a bonus challenge – have fun with it. I’ll look forward to reading your reports next week.