An astonishingly tight cork. Not a euphemism.
I’ve enjoyed several Olek Bondonio wines over the past few months, and have found them unified by a sense of simplicity and deliciousness that transcends their, at times, rustic demeanour. When one starts to get up towards $100, though, it’s interesting to contemplate how far this aesthetic extends, warped as one’s expectations might be by the idea of what a $100 wine should taste like.
None of which is especially rational or aesthetically coherent – a $100 wine has no more a “taste” than does one with a blue instead of yellow label. It seems pretty inescapable that received ideas of quality start to creep in as prices creep up. Yet how boring to believe that price accords linearly to some pre-defined increase in quality factors, like every dollar you spend should buy you a dollar’s more intensity, or complexity. I’m not so romantically inclined to believe that a “story” behind a wine is worth paying money for in and of itself (not that people don’t try), but at the same time wine pricing is so deeply non-sensical that I’m forced to concede there are other factors at play.
All of which is a long-winded way of saying that this, and the deeply charming Olek Bondonio’s other wines, don’t stand up especially well in terms of value for money. In most cases, better wines can be had for less. Yet I’ve enjoyed all of them very much and am happy to have purchased them, this Barbaresco included.
It’s a light wine even in the context of Nebbiolo’s tendency to deceive in terms of colour and body. Fragrance is immediately complex. There are all sorts of entirely savoury notes in the mix, including some sappy twig-like aromas, lamington, brown spice and tight red fruit. It wants a bit in expressiveness perhaps, and is very much a young wine in terms of how much one needs to coax it to the fore. I love how much is going on aromatically, though.
The palate is feather-weight and it’s here that one might start to frown. I’d never expect a fleshy wine, but I’ve had many Barbarescos with more impact, intensity and substance. This, by contrast, is a persistently light wine, its flavours existing in a high toned register that takes several leaps to its satisfyingly tannic structure. It’s not so much that there are gaps in its palate structure, but more that it’s a wine which remains resolutely at a certain level, rather than ranging wide across high, mid and bass notes. I’m not sure this lessens my enjoyment at all. For one thing, the flavours are so satisfying — vivid, complex, pretty. Very much what one wants from this variety. And the wine has plenty of structure that gives it, if not heft, then at least shape. I love how it licks my tongue through the after palate and places bright fruit flavours all the way along. Decent length, too.
I can imagine a bunch of folks ordering this wine at a restaurant, not knowing what to expect, and being quite disappointed given its price. However, as seems to be a pattern with this producer’s wines, I’m completely disarmed by how charming, flavoursome and delicious this is, even if it’s arguably an incomplete wine.