Poderi Colla Dardi de Rose Bussia Barolo 2007

A very happy new year to all. To celebrate 2013, I’m in County Durham in the UK visiting a friend who happens to be an exceptionally talented cook. In between hearty English meals, I am tasting the occasional wine. I like to shop for wine in supermarkets while here, and this particular bottle was procured at Costco.

Young Barolo can be a bit forbidding, and this is certainly a very structured wine at present. However, after a couple of days’ tasting, I think I have the measure of it. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem the most elegant example. The aroma was initially quite muted; a day’s air, though, sees it somewhat more expressive. There are some recognisable aromas, tea leaf and red fruits, though it’s far from coherent. More like a moderately crazy goldfish darting in and out of the strands of seaweed in its too-small tank.

The palate shows satisfyingly robust tannin and a set of flavours that provide more satisfaction than the nose. It’s bright and moderately intense, with a particularly clean middle palate. However, the elements never come close to expressing any sort of narrative, appearing to be placed randomly along the line. The tannins, too, while present, lack any sort of beauty of arrangement.

Will this come together? I’m not sure; for now, it offers only intermittent pleasures.

Poderi Colla
Price: £25
Closure: Cork
Source: Retail

Silvano Bolmida Barolo Bussia 2003

I often feel describing the textural experience of a wine is especially difficult. Whereas one can trot out a range of analogues when describing a wine’s flavour profile, capturing the nuances of a particular tannin profile, or the quality of a wine’s acid, strikes me as much harder. It’s especially frustrating when faced with a wine like this, whose tannins are very much a highlight and one of its chief pleasures.

Growing conditions leading up to the 2003 harvest in Piedmont were hot and dry, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from this wine. Happily, I found it excellent, showing no stressed flavours or unbalanced structure. In fact, it’s an elegant wine, with all the perfume one craves from this varietal.  The flavour profile is typical, with heady rose, citrus peel and red berries. There’s a wildness to the way this smells and tastes that recalls the sweetness of a field on a hot summer’s day.

Flavour aside, though, I just love the tannins here. From mid-palate onwards, texture starts creeping over the tongue, drying the mouth with a light but firm hand, becoming more noticeable as the line progresses. These are abundant tannins yet, somehow, they possess a lightness of touch, a delicacy, that allows them to remain in balance with the rest of the wine. I tasted this again and again, enjoying its rough hand caress my tongue.

What a sensual pleasure, this; as much about touch as taste.

Silvano Bolmida
Price: $A164 (wine list)
Closure: Cork
Source: Other

Le Rocche del Falletto di Serralunga d' Alba Barolo 1999

This bottle is a celebration: Mark and John, old friends of mine, signed a lease for an apartment in San Diego this afternoon, which means they’ll be leaving their home in Omaha in two weeks and moving in down the block from us. Fans of Italian wines that they are, they gave us this bottle many years ago – and now it’s time to share it back and celebrate their impending move.

First of all, I have no idea if I’ve titled this entry correctly. I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer when it comes to Italian wines, so I don’t know if I should simply say “Falletto Barolo” and leave it at that – or write out everything that’s on the label that doesn’t seem like a legal term. (Google tells me that “Giacosa Barolo Falletto” might be accurate as well.) I’m even so clueless that I had to ask Mark to remind me what grape is used in a Barolo. (Thanks, Mark!)

Anyhow: on to the wine. There was a bloom of fragrance released into the room immediately upon removing the cork (which, of course, was an ultralong, very healthy looking one). In the glass, it’s obviously an older wine at this point, smelling something like Hansen’s organic cola, albeit with notes of molasses, dark chocolate, and dried herbs. There’s also something subtly citrus – it reminds me (almost) of dried orange peel and thyme.

Tannins don’t appear to be fully resolved yet, which is surprising at first, but oh, what a lovely texture this wine has – it’s medium-bodied, smooth, almost slippery, but with a definite undercurrent of heavyweight tannin. The overall effect is very surprising to me: this doesn’t even remotely remind me of anything I’ve encountered before, which is probably not surprising given my limited exposure to Italian wines at all. There’s sort of a dried-cherry note here, but on the whole the fruit flavors, such as they are, are decidedly backgrounded in favor of other things, none of which I feel well equipped to describe. The overall effect is somewhat disorienting: it’s more reminiscent of a Hungarian herbal liqueur than what I know as “wine.” To be honest, the intense texturality of it throws me as well: it’s impossible to drink this wine and note be acutely aware of the tannins present, which suggests to me that it might be better to wait another ten years before having a whack at it.

Meanwhile, Mark’s just reheated some Chicago style pizza from Lefty’s, which might work extremely well with this; the tannins really seem to be demanding some kind of meat to counterbalance them. “Yum,” Mark just said, and I think the look on his face sums it up perfectly. According to Mark, the tannins really complement the meat on the pizza, and the combination is what makes this wine work so well for him.

Sadly, I overindulged at dinner earlier on, so I can’t really manage trying some with the pizza, but I’m finding the style more and more interesting the longer I spend with it. The finish certainly does stick around for a couple of minutes, and it reminds me, oddly enough, of something like a wassail bowl: citrus notes hovering around the edge of something sweetly dark.

If anything, this wine seems to be utterly itself, which is a rare enough thing. I fear I’m not well situated to say much more about it, though, given that I’m not knowledgeable about or experienced with Italian wines – and I’m also far to used to drinking wines on their own (rather than with food) to fully appreciate the style, as it really isn’t at all designed to be drunk on its own. Ultimately, though, the true mark of friendship is sharing things that you enjoy with your mates even if they’re not quite up to the task of appreciating it, and for that I am deeply, deeply grateful.

Welcome to San Diego, Mark and John!

Price: $NA
Closure: Cork