Sunday, 26 June 2011

Piemonte: the good, the bad, & the ugly

I love Italian wine. Indigenous grape varieties, an array of idiosyncratic regions,  and not to mention probably the most food friendly wines in the world with their moreish acidity. Italian wines are unmatched by any other country for their character and diversity. 

However, I am a relative newcomer to Italy and her wines and thus far I have not ventured far from the well trodden path of Tuscany and Abruzzo. Until recently, I knew the wines of Piemonte only by reputation, and so I jumped at the chance to taste some of the best the region has to offer at the Decanter Piemonte Grand Tasting. Unexpectedly, there was one common theme running through most of the wines: oak. There was a clear distinction between those producers who aged their wines in the traditional botti and those who used the more modern bariques. To my taste, the former made wines with more balance where the oak complimented and lifted the fruit, while the latter made wines that were utterly lacking in fruit and perfume, having been swamped by new oak. Here are a few highlights as I have since lost my notes! 

The good...

Barbaresco, Produttori del Barbaresco, 2006
A beautiful brown colour and an enticingly perfumed nose. Very burgundian. A lovely, well balanced wine that, although young, is drinking well now.

For a co-operative, these are superb wines. Interestingly, they produce single vineyard wines too.  The website has some great photos and details on the individual vineyards themselves. 

Roero, Sudisfa’, Angelo Negro e Figli, 2008
100% Nebbiolo and aged in botti. Herbs on the nose,  a darker colour suggesting a heavier wine but it had a nice balance between ripe fruit and light, perfumed texture. In another two years this will be perfect!

Having never tried a wine from Roero, this was a fantastic introduction to the region. In geographic terms, Roero, is opposite Barolo, but in vinuous terms it is very close, being 100% Nebbiolo. What is more, Roero's wines represent value for money - this one is approximately £30 a bottle, which is half the price of many Barolos of similar quality (bear in mind this is Piemonte!).
Moscato d’Asti, La Rosa Selvatica, Icardi, 2010
So crisp & delicate that it barely touches the palette. The bubbles lift the sweet grapey fruit and release it as they pop in the mouth. At 5%, it's light in alcohol too.

The bad...
Cortese. I like indigenous grapes, but this one has very little to offer. Piemonte, stick to the reds and the sparkling wines, your whites do you no favours!

The ugly... 
Like a horrific creation, Enzo Boglietti's wines had more in common with Frankenstein, having been constructed with the incongruous 'limbs' of Nebbiolo and rampant new oak. The fruit was caged in the oak, making these wines unpleasant to drink.

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