Monday, September 7, 2009

An Introduction to Nebbiolo

My mother is a great cook and so was her mother. My sisters went almost immediately into culinary careers; one as a chef and now a cheese expert, the other as a food stylist and now writer. I took a 25 year detour in packaging before finally landing in the wine biz. (OK, sometimes I'm clueless!) So when Mom invited us to dinner Saturday and said she was fixing veal shanks, well, I'm not THAT clueless. At least I knew what wine to bring!

I went straight for Barbaresco, the queen of Italy. Wines made from the Nebbiolo grape are a classic pairing for braised meats. They are rarely flamboyant, in-your-face wines. Subtle dried fruits are veiled behind floral, earthy perfumes and masked with acid and tannins. The flavors are complex, but once you find the key, the wine opens up like a painting.

However, I don't think either my wife or my parents have had much experience with these wines, so I chose the basic Barbaresco from the renowned cooperative, Produtorri del Barbaresco. The 2003 vintage was unusually hot, so there would be plenty of fruit to increase accessibility to the flavors. The extreme heat limited production, so fruit that normally went into their Riserva wines went into the basic cuvee, so there should be some complexity to the wine.
The evening was a great success! The Ossu Bucco melted in our mouths. The shanks yielded copious marrow. The rich meat squeezed the wine's fruits into a concentrated bubble that burst in the mouth with flavors of sweet dried cranberries that lingered on the palate.

25 years of boxes never yielded such pleasure.

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