Vitivinicola “Dessilani” 2001 Colline Novaresi Spanna “Riserva” (Piedmont) – Very tight at first. After about a half-hour of air, strong dark fruit and somewhat heady floral notes emerge, with a biting layer of thick (but ripe) tannin that carries a lot of palate impact. Oak plays a supporting role, but it’s definitely noticeable, and ultimately this wine exhibits something of a fight between the traditional and modern styles, but it would seem to have the stuffing to age in either case.
Spanna is nebbiolo, according to local Piedmontese tradition, though the appellation Colline Novaresi is a relatively new invention. This has always been a solid value wine, though as recently as a decade ago it was decidedly more traditional. The introduction of barriques, for which Dessilani exhibits quite a bit of enthusiasm, has obviously changed all that, and while they haven’t yet let the wood get completely away from them in this wine, it’s easier to drink but ultimately less interesting than it was in the past. Alcohol: 12.5%. Closure: cork. Importer: Bedford International. Web: http://www.dessilani.it/.
Orlando Abrigo 2004 Barbera d’Alba Vigna Roreto (Piedmont) – Raspberry, red cherry and strawberry dressed up in ill-fitting finery and dragged against their will to some ultra-formal event, where they’re completely overwhelmed by their environment. The stink of toasty, caramelized mushrooms and vanilla fills the air as well, though I don’t know if this is from oak or just invasive winemaking. Worse, there’s nary an indication that this wine ever had much acid, which would seem to be a tragedy for a barbera, and while it’s perfectly acceptable as an anonymous anything-from-anywhere wine, it’s not much use as a barbera d’Alba.
Barbera can handle a certain amount of new wood, as various Californian versions (and even a few of the Piedmontese offerings) have demonstrated, but when it lacks acid, it lacks much purpose. The high-acid versions of yesteryear are almost a memory on international shelves, and that’s a shame, because while traditional barbera was never a cocktail wine, it served a very useful purpose at any table where food was well-acidified by tomatoes: marinara, red-sauce pizza, even a simple caprese. And what fills that gap now? Nothing. All we’ve got is wood, and slick international sheens, and unending oenological tedium. Alcohol: 13.5%. Closure: cork. Importer: Arborway. Web: http://www.orlandoabrigo.it/.