Futronic and DoktaP came into town this weekend and my wife and I invited them over for a typical Piedmontese dinner on Friday night. Also present to welcome them to Chicago were Otis and Jcubed. My wife did a great job preparing the meal. Here is the menu:
~Artichoke, sopressata and cheese Crostini
~Fresh oysters and crab claws
~Blanched Asparagus with a lemon, tarragon and caper dipping sauce
~Mushroom Soup with Wild Rice
~Lemon Sorbet & Moscato d’Asti
~Bollito Misto (my wife substituted a chuck roast in place of the calf's head and beef tongue)
~Seasoned Celery and Carrots
Cheese Course- (all native Italian and Cow's milk)
~Gorgonzola Mountain Picante
Dessert (courtesy of Jcubed)-
~Pesche alla Piemontese
Thanks to everyone in attendance, the wine list was an excellent match for the dinner. Here are the wines:
1997 Banfi Brut Metedo Tradizioale Classico
2003 Michele Chiarlo Moscato d’Asti Nivole
2003 Broglia Gavi di Gavi La Meirana
1999 Dessilani Colline Novaresi Spanna Riserva
2000 Giuseppe Rainoldi "Inferno" Valtellina Superiore
1998 Conterno Fantino Langhe Rosso Mon Pra (Otis)
1990 Tenuta San Guido Bolgheri-Sassicaia Sassicaia (DoktaP)
1996 Carlo Giacosa Barbaresco Narin (Jcubed)
1964 Borgogno Barolo Riserva
1985 Ceretto Barolo Bricco Rocche Brunate (Futronic)
2000 La Loggia Barolo
2000 Armando Parusso Barolo Picole Vigne
1997 Chateau Guiraud Sauternes (Jcubed)
Nebbiolo is the great grape varietal of Northern Italy. It is more finicky than Pinot Noir. Outside of Piedmont and neighboring Lombardy, it is not successfully grown anywhere in the world. No other noble grape varietal can make this claim. Cabernet, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Grenache, Chardonnay and Riesling have all become “international” varietals. Only Sangiovese comes close to being a parochial varietal although even it is making in roads into California. This is a truly amazing fact when you consider that Nebbiolo based wines can reach the pinnacle of winemaking. Wine Spectator for example awarded 5 different Nebbiolo based wines 100 points in the 2000 vintage alone. If other regions could copy the success that Piedmontese winemakers have experienced with Nebbiolo (or just a part of it) they would. The fact that nobody has been able to copy this formula speaks volumes to the marriage between the Northeast Italian terrior and this grape as well as the skill of the winemakers and growers in the region. For this dinner, I tried to get a sample of the different styles of Nebbiolo found throughout Northeast Italy. The wines spanned 34 years and came from 5 different regions. There was a heavy emphasis on the regions of Barolo and Barbaresco where Nebbiolo does best.
History- The name of this grape is derived from the mists (nebbia) that are customary in the Piedmontese vineyards on cool mornings during the harvest period. This grape has been around since at least the year 1268. In the 15th century, the Bishop of Turin demanded payment of rents on Church property in casks of Nebbiolo.
Vintages- The vintages of Nebbiolo represented in this dinner (1964, 1985, 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000) are all held in high esteem.
Producers- Producers in the Barolo and Barbaresco regions have been put into 2 categories. Traditional and Modern. Estimates are that 90% of Barolo currently made is in the modern style. This is an oversimplification because there are no hard and fast rules. Often times producers combine both traditional and modern vinification techniques. However, a rule of thumb in determining who is in the “modern” camp and who is in the “traditional” camp is to look at aging (large wooden vats v. small oak casks). The use of modern vinification techniques, a richer color, riper fruit and higher alcohol are also indicative of the modern style. In the traditional camp are Borgogno, Marcarini, Conterno and Giacosa. In the modern camp you will find Parusso, Clerico, Grasso and Voerzio. Producers like Ceretto, Vietti and Einaudi fall in between these 2 styles. Although wines made in the modern style are much more accessible in their youth, many complain that they do not age as well as traditionally made Barolo and can fall apart.
Here are my notes on the Nebbiolo based wines served at this dinner. I will post notes on the whites and the Sassicaia seperately.
1999 Dessilani Colline Novaresi Spanna Riserva- Spanna is the local name for Nebbiolo in Northern Piedmont. This wine comes from the towns of Fara, Ghemme, and Sizzano near the Gattinara region. 100% Nebbiolo. I decanted this for 2 hours. It was a ruby red color. I picked up some vanilla oak notes in this medium bodied wine. I found it to be rather austere and lean. Lacking the complexity of the wines from the Langhe. Firm tannins and nice berry notes though. 86 points.
2000 Giuseppe Rainoldi "Inferno" Valtellina Superiore- This comes from the Lombardy region of Italy along the Swiss border and the grapes are grown on terraced hillside vineyards. This was the most unusual of the Nebbiolo wines. I found it to be much fruitier and riper than the other wines. Also decanted fore 2 hours. Round red fruit and cassis notes. 87-88 points.
1998 Conterno Fantino Langhe Rosso Mon Pra- This wine also presented ripe fruit notes. Dry tannins and finish. A little more complexity and body than the Spanna or Valtellina. 89 points.
1996 Carlo Giacosa Barbaresco Narin- This was the 2nd time I have had this with similar notes although I liked it a little better the first time. Earthy and smooth. Some pine notes were present this time around. Well balanced. 91 points.
1964 Borgogno Barolo Riserva- I bought this for $70 last year along with some other 1960 era Baroli. This was better than the 1967 Borgogno Barolo or 1961 Franco Fiorina Barolo that I have had. A clear light rose color with moderate sediment when I decanted it. Notes of mushroom and plum in this 41 year old wine. Surprisingly good fruit and acidity with decent structure in this wine although it was past its prime. I really enjoyed this wine. 90-91 points.
1985 Ceretto Barolo Bricco Rocche Brunate - My top wine of the evening although the experience of the 1964 Borgogno gave me more pleasure. A nice dark red color. I would say it is in its prime. Very lively with solid acidity. Notes of ripe red fruit, tobacco and plum. 93-94 points.
2000 La Loggia Barolo- Nothing special about this wine but it was pleasant. I bought it at Trader Joe's for $13 and my wife used most of it to make the Bollito Misto. I saved some though for everyone to try with dinner. Decanted for 7 hours. On the simple side. Bright cherry and raspberry notes. Moderate tannins. 87 points.
2000 Armando Parusso Barolo Picole Vigne- From a 375ml bottle. Decanted for 7.5 hours. A modern style Barolo from a top producer. This is from Wine Spectators 100 points 2000 Barolo vintage. This still needs time. It had a burst of fruit upfront but was tight overall. Notes of crushed grape skin, cedar, tobacco, raw meat and black fruit. Full bodied. 92 points.
It was good to see Otis, Jcubed and especially Futronic again and to meet DoktaP for the 1st time. My wife and I had a great time. Those 3:00am evenings are getting hard to do.