Last night I decided it was time to celebrate – time to celebrate none other than my oldest bottle of Barolo. And man, was she in a good mood!
I acquired her at my first visit to Paolo Scavino in October of 2006.† (I’m a little embarrassed to admit how young she is but I only started collecting Piemontese wine in 2005 so I will give myself a little slack here.)
I cut the foil, inserted the corkscrew, twisted, and pulled. Self-inflicted wine dork anxiety took hold… “What if the cork is soaked though? What if it cracks in half? What if the wine is corked? What if it’s just plain bad?” I pulled the cork all the way out; it looked great. I poured some of the wine into my new Schott Zwiesel glass, swirled a little, and smelled…
Paolo Scavino Bric dël Fiasc 1999. Barolo DOCG. The aroma gave me visions of eating cherries covered in Venchi milk chocolate while sitting next to a fire burning in a fireplace on my left, and a freshly cut and decorated (Why not? It’s my imagination.) Christmas tree on my right. I took a sip… It tasted spicy, with stewed berries, and was framed by a lush velveteen texture, sweet tobacco, with cocoa powder, all wrapped up in cologne, pine resin, more tobacco, autumn spice, and rhubarb pie. Amazing. ★★★
Simultaneous feelings of doom and elation took over me. The following thoughts went through my head. “Ma donna! This is what all wine should taste like… Wait, is this my problem? Has no wine has tasted good lately because I am now comparing every wine to eleven year old Barolo? Every wine will come up short in x amount of ways… Am I now expecting every wine to taste and smell like this!?!? Man, I’m in trouble… Oh wow, this is amazing…”
Well, amazing for the first half hour and then she closed up. There wasn’t so much after that. Maybe it was the food?
I made a “pizza” with sautéed kale, roasted butternut squash, Pecorino, Tomme Savoia cheese, egg, fresh thyme, and black pepper. I thought it would be simple enough to let the wine show. But something weird happened and she just kind of lost it after a few minutes.
I know sealed bottles can go through an up and down evolution but I never experienced it so much with wine in the glass. Usually it’s either up or down. But it’s not so surprising here since a well-made Nebbiolo will transform and many new aromas emerge during the course of drinking one glass. Because of such quick changes in my Fiasc, I decided that checking in with her tomorrow would be a good idea. Luckily Jeff and I weren’t really in the mood to finish the bottle off. So I managed to save half for today. I like doing this since it gives me a clue as to how the wine could still age.
Low and behold, today she’s amazing again. Smokey in the nose! With a lush texture still, bright acidity, pomegranate, rhubarb pie again, finishing with dark autumn spices, citrus and cream, and a hint of a slight bitterness.
With my Francese bread, three month aged Manchego, and Cugnà,‡ a gift from Sandrone, I am asking myself if I even need anything else for dinner. (Maybe Jeff will forget there was anything left in the bottle!)
† I remember being so mesmerized by this wine when I had it for the first time. I was struck by the intense flavors of mint so I asked Elisa about it and she told me that there is, in fact, mint growing wild in this vineyard in Castiglione Falletto. I chose this wine over the Carboric 2000 Barolo and the Rocche del Annunziata 1999 Barolo I also tasted that day.
‡ My favorite Cugnà is made by Luciana at Le Viole. (Of course it is!). It resembles a jam but it’s not exactly one. She always places it away from her other homemade jams on the breakfast table. It has certainly been one of my favorite things but I never knew what it really was. Davide, her son, explained it to me this year (in Italian). He told me it is like a jam made of apple and pear but also wine grapes, hazelnuts, and some other stuff (he didn’t really know the details). It’s really common in Piemonte but everyone makes it a little differently. I got to try some made by Renato Corino’s mother. That one was good too. When I visited Sandrone, Barbara Sandrone gave me a jar as a gift because I went on and on about how much I loved the stuff. I got that one home safely and it is wonderful too. I found this recipe in Italian. (Google will translate for you, if you need it to.)
I should probably try making this myself. I could eat it by the cupful.