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Noble Barolo

Northside Staff Tasters: Dave Pohl, ed., Dana Malley, Jason Wentworth, Kelley O'Neill, Bill Winston

Most of the world's finest wine grape varieties are planted around the world, and produce excellent wine in various locales. An exception to this state of affairs is the finicky Nebbiolo grape of Italy's northwestern Piedmont region. Here, it is responsible for some of Italy's greatest and most complex wines. However, outside its home turf, with few exceptions, it has a tendency to produce wines that are undistinguished.

It is generally accepted that the finest Nebbiolo wines are produced in the Piedmontese districts of Barolo and Barbaresco. These wines are, at their best, full of memorable scents and flavors that hint at cherries, strawberries, darker fruits, roses, truffles, anise, and wood smoke. They are wines to linger over during a special meal.

Most producers of these wines will typically bottle a wine labeled simply "Barolo" or "Barbaresco." They might also produce several others based on the production of single named vineyard sites. Recent years have witnessed a proliferation of single vineyard wines, and some feel the quality of basic Barolo and Barbaresco has suffered.

The staff at Northside Wine and Spirits recently blind tasted nine basic Barolos with no vineyard designation, and found the overall quality to be quite high. Tasting notes were replete with adjectives, as the wines did demonstrate the complex array of flavors and scents typical of good Barolo.

The first place wine was the 2003 Luigi Pira Barolo, priced at $37 per bottle [Sku 6061].* The wine has a lovely nose of cherry, vanilla, anise, truffle, and a hint of rose petal. Richly flavored, it possesses a very long finish supported by mouth coating fine tannins typical of young Nebbiolo wine. Interestingly, the wine was quite closed up when first poured, but blossomed with aeration. When serving a young Barolo, it is a good idea to decant it ahead of time to give it a chance to develop its aroma.

Serve this very fine wine with robustly flavored food. It will go well with most braised meat dishes, pastas with meat sauces, game, or hard cheese. It would also make an outstanding accompaniment to a mushroom risotto. Try it. It's worth the splurge!

"Top Wine Picks" as seen in The Ithaca Journal 4/14/2008.

*To Purchase this wine, simply type its "Sku" into the "Find" field at the top of the page, then click "Go."

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