Sixty-eight wines – line ‘em up, knock ‘em down – this morning. Rush through lunch in the basement of a history-laden palazzo, a basement that I don’t think was ever designed for crowds of hungry wine dorks. Pile onto the bus. Drive, taste, repeat. Listen, listen, listen. Another sixteen wines are swirled, regarded, and (with one or two exceptions) expectorated. Teeth are nightshaded, eyes are lidded, enthusiasm is long past ebb and has now receded with the tidal undertow.
What am I in the mood for? Oh, definitely a walk-around tasting – three rooms’ worth – with more barbera. A lot more. And not just barbera, either. The producers are here, grinning (well, not all of them) behind their tables. I recognize this. I’ve done it a thousand times, or maybe more. But…why am I doing it now?
It must be a junket. I’m not here for me. And so, I plunge into the depths. Well, maybe not “plunge.” Wade. Tiptoe. I’ve the ability to taste a little more wine, but not a roomful. Certainly not three rooms’ full. Enthusiasm must be parceled. Metered.
As a result of this lack of exploratory energy, I will completely miss the presence of Oddero – one of my favorite traditionalist producers – in the ill-attended third room upstairs. Well, my fault. Though it seems few of us have the energy for the stairs anyway.
l’Armangia 2006 Monferrato Rosso “Pacifico” (Piedmont) – Nebbiolo, merlot, freisa, barbera, cabernet sauvignon, cat, ’81 Volvo, and bits of the last 15 prime ministers of Italy. (No, no. I’m just kidding. Send the lawyers home.) Thick and very tannic, with a chewy, leafy structure. Dull. (3/10)
l’Armangia 2007 Monferrato Rosso “Macchiaferro” (Piedmont) – Acidic strawberries. That’s all I’ve written, so there must not be much more than that. (3/10)
l’Armangia 2009 Moscato d’Asti “Il Giai” (Piedmont) – Very, very flowery. By-the-numbers moscato d’Asti. (3/10)
Crivelli 2009 Grignolino d’Asti (Piedmont) – A brittle shell of a light red wine, with cold tannin encasing sharp acidity. Very severe. (3/10)
Crivelli 2008 Ruché di Castagnole Monferrato (Piedmont) – Living up to ruché’s reputation as “red gewürztraminer” with its lurid aromatics and neon fatness. Cherry, pastille, and exotic weirdness. I wouldn’t want to drink it every night, but I kinda dig it. (3/10)
Crivelli 2007 Monferrato Rosso “Aghõghē” (Piedmont) – Ruché and syrah. That’s a first for me, I think, and I’m surprised to find that it works. Smooth and leathery, with blueberry and blackberry paired. Micro-bead structure and lingering tannin. Quite long. Muscular but impressive. (3/10)
Damilano 2005 Barolo Cannubi (Piedmont) – Laughing roses and the expected mass of structural tannin. Underneath, however, there’s a swell of New Worldish concentration that pretties this wine up a little more than is good for it. The finish returns to the hard, hard road Barolo often travels. There’s a good wine in here somewhere, but I don’t think it’s been dealt with as well as it might have been. (3/10)
Damilano 2005 Barolo Brunate Cannubi (Piedmont) – Even more muscular than the Cannubi, with a wallop of angular tannin, but better-balanced. Yet again there’s some syrup marking the midpalate, after which it finishes hard. Steroidal, and then dressed in designer duds. Will this ever be drinkable? And why the sheen in the meantime? (3/10)
Damilano 2005 Barolo Liste (Piedmont) – Roses – a surplus of them – with absolutely brutal tannin. There’s fruit, too: red cherry and strawberry. Also, bark and a cheese rind texture (not the spoilage or refermentation aroma, just a texture). Probably balanced in its idiom, but the twenty or so years likely required to bring the tannin down to something manageable…I just don’t know. I doubt there’s the complexity or fruit persistence to sustain that sort of timeframe. I guess we’ll see. (3/10)
Cantina Sant’Agata 2008 Grignolino d’Asti “Miravalle” (Piedmont) – Bones and chilled fruit soup with a spicy midpalate and a flat finish. Very high acidity. Minor oxidation as well? Perhaps a bit. It’s fun, though. (3/10)
Cantina Sant’Agata 2008 Ruché di Castagnole Monferrato “’Na Vota” (Piedmont) – Papaya, guava, and lurid pomegranate…all of them in neon light. Finishes short but prettily. Surrealistically enjoyable. (3/10)
Cantina Sant’Agata 2008 Barbera d’Asti “Baby” (Piedmont) – Made for the American market, and despite all the talk here about “the Americans” wanting oaked-up, tarted-up, plastic surgery wines, here’s someone who understands that there’s another American market…one that might like a barbera done exclusively in stainless steel and that actually tastes like the grape. Fresh cherry, acid, and a little dirt. Classic and bright, with that acidity lingering. Varietal character, where have you been all day? Nice to meet you. Finally. (3/10)
Cantina Sant’Agata 2007 Barbera d’Asti Superiore “Altea” (Piedmont) – Barbera in botte. Smooth red fruit, dominated by strawberry, with roundness and persistence. Good tannin with hints of the graphite texture for which I’m nearly always a sucker. Not bad at all. (3/10)
Cantina Sant’Agata 2007 Barbera d’Asti Superiore “Cavalè” (Piedmont) – Barbera in barrique. Very concentrated fruit with big structure. Tries to finish clamped down-upon by its tannin, but then there’s a reemergence of sweetness. In this style, quite decent. (3/10)
Cantina Sant’Agata 2007 Monferrato Rosso “Monterovere” (Piedmont) – Barbera, cabernet sauvignon, and nebbiolo. Very tannic and yet soupy, with leather, wood, and candy all fighting for supremacy. Overworked. Not at all my sort of wine. (3/10)
Bologna “Serra dei Fiore” 2009 Langhe “Il Fiore” (Piedmont) – Chardonnay and nascetta. Possibly some other grapes; it’s a little unclear amidst the din of a crowded room. Very aromatic – citrus flowers, apples (with skin intact) – and a pleasant hint of fatness. Well-formed. (3/10)
Bologna “Serra dei Fiore” 2008 Langhe Riesling Renano “Re di Fiore” (Piedmont) – Very ferric, austere, and long. One must like drinking both iron and steel, though. Interesting. (3/10)
Bologna “Serra dei Fiore” 2008 Langhe Chardonnay “Asso di Fiore” (Piedmont) – Peach and citrus rinds. Straightforward. Nice. Hey, it’s only chardonnay, what more do you want? (3/10)
Bologna “Braida” 2009 Barbera del Monferrato Frizzante “la Monella” (Piedmont) – Raspberry, apple skin, and needles. Short but fun. The aggressive acidity of barbera is utilized to excellent effect in a wine like this, even if this particular bottle is no more than middle-of-the-road. (3/10)
Bologna “Braida” 2008 Barbera d’Asti Montebruna (Piedmont) – Red fruit (mostly raspberry), clean and crisp. Long. Great purity of expression. This is the large Slavonian oak bottling, and it shows. (3/10)
Bologna “Braida” 2008 Monferrato Rosso “il Bacialé” (Piedmont) – Barbera with pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon, and merlot. Structured, very young, and completely dominated by dill, green coconut, and oak tannin. Yuck. (3/10)
Bologna “Braida” 2007 Barbera d’Asti Bricco dell’Uccellone (Piedmont) – 15.5% alcohol, but not showing it except in overall size. Big fruit offset by apple and walnut skins. Very spicy. Not at all bad in its style. (3/10)
Bologna “Braida” 2007 Barbera d’Asti Bricco della Bigotta (Piedmont) – Big, with an intense core of fruit nearly obscured by layers of spiced coconut and vanilla. Radiates sophistication, but all that polish comes at a very woody price. Anyone have some Pledge? (3/10)
Bologna “Braida” 2007 Barbera d’Asti “Ai Suma” (Piedmont) – Late-harvest barbera (that is to say, made from grapes that have desiccated on the vine). Dark. Heavy. Licorice-infused fruit, and a lot of it. Very Amarone-like in style, for sure, though the organoleptics are – aside from the licorice – different. I guess if one must have something like this, it’s a good example. (3/10)
Bologna “Braida” 2009 Brachetto d’Acqui (Piedmont) – Pure strawberry, sour cherry, watermelon Jolly Rancher™. Fine acidity balances the light sweetness. Very nice. (3/10)
Disclosure: all wine, food, lodging, and all transportation paid for by various interested parties. See http://barbera2010.com/ for details on the people and entities involved. My tasting notes have not been influenced in any way, nor has my work on this blog and/or my own site, but the content of any work appearing only on the official Barbera Meeting 2010 blog may (or may not) have been edited for content.