It was bound to happen eventually. This time around SWIG favored the wines that the price tags and prestige of area designations dictated we ought to. We could credit it to the Italian system of classifying wines, but are a little too worldly-wise to believe that about Italy. However it happened we tasted two good Lange DOC Nebbiolos, a very good DOCG Barbaresco, and an excellent DOCG Barolo. At any rate the wine gods smiled on us, and we are thankful.
The food was, appropriate to the tarry-flowery-tannic aggression of Nebbiolo, grilled New York strip steaks, sided with grilled asparagus and portabella mushrooms drizzled with truffle oil, plated on a bed of arugula. Thanks to the forum community at cellartracker.com for suggesting pairings. Now on with the SWIG notes!
(4th Place) Cantina Del Pino 2006 Nebbiolo Langhe DOC, $22. This respectable wine got out-classed by more serious bottles. Fruit forward and acidic, the Cantina Del Pino was loaded with bright strawberry and raspberry rounded out with a little clove spice and mineral. Still clearly Nebbiolo with some characteristic grippiness, it was the lightest, shortest and simplest of the bunch -- not at all bad but a bit like riding a rollercoaster without any big initial drop. We stood in line for Nebbiolo, thanks very much.
(3rd Place) Filippo Gallino 2007 Nebbiolo Langhe DOC, $20. A very nice bottle of wine, one taster (the one typing at the moment) ranked this a closely contested first place. Consensus was very clear though that Filippo Gallino made the night’s third best wine. Bright crimson, sparkling clear and somewhat more (big California) Pinot like than the two wines that followed, we enjoyed aromas of sugary cherries, raspberry, roses, tar, vanilla, cedar and warm spice. In the mouth it was a little short and a little hot, but, to an extent, it lengthened and tempered with some air. It tasted earthier than it smelled and finished with a not unpleasant touch of citrus rind.
(2nd Place) Giribaldi 2005 Barbaresco DOCG, $30. The Nebbiolo cup runner up went to our wine representing the Barbaresco region. Nearly perfectly typical of the high quality wines of its DOC, the Giribaldi was softer than the (upcoming) Barolo, loaded with tar, flowers and candied fruit on the nose. A little Chinese spice and vanilla also kept things interesting. It drank fruity and finished mid-long and tannic, with the right dose of acid to keep harmonic balanced. When the votes were tallied this wine got a first, three seconds and a third, showing that it clearly deserved its place toward the top. Please also note that when SWIG got down to eating this was the best food wine of the bunch, though the top three all worked just fine with the steaks.
(Wine of the Night) Principiano 2001 Barolo DOCG, $55. We’ll award a wine of the night this time around because most tasters called the Principiano number one and those that didn’t ranked it second. That’s clear enough for SWIG to break out the WOTN award. The king of Nebbiolos, it is said, comes from the Barolo region. We don’t know about regal but this Barolo was certainly powerful! Showing considerable bricking from its long barrel aging, the nose was deeply layered with blackberry, saddle leather, musty earth, potpourri, savory herbs, mushroom, tea, and sandalwood. On the palate it was lighter-bodied and smoother than one might expect, but mightily grippy and tarry. This is a wine with not only a long finish but (seemingly) a long start and mid-mouth too, stretching its distinct aromatic aspects across your palate and back again. A lovely and powerful Barolo, and if not cheap certainly more than willing to stand up and give you something for your hard earned dollars.