Having dug out of the early January cyclone bomb, we bundled up and shuffled out. Some disheartening grumbles and groans later, our still-frozen car started, and we drove to the store for fresh pasta. It was about time to open the jars of truffles brought home from Italy. For this occasion, the pasta had to be fresh, not boxed. And, seeing as my pasta would be all dressed up, I needed a wine to match.
What I needed, was Barolo, a bold, red wine fitting for cold weather, short days, and, mos certainly, for truffles.
Fortunately, I found a beautiful half-bottle waiting for me on the shelf at the local wine store.
B is for Barolo. N is for Nebbiolo.
Barolo is an Italian wine from a region in the country’s northwest, just across the Alps from France. Fog, or nebbia, commonly blankets the undulating landscape. Named after this fog is Nebbiolo, one of the most famous Piedmontese grapes, and the one behind the blockbuster Barolo. Nebbiolo is a thick-skinned grape requiring a long season to ripen. With characteristically high tannins and acids, the wines of Nebbiolo are long-lived. You might not have heard of Nebbiolo, 1) because the wines are generally named by the region, i.e. Barolo, Barbaresco, Gattinara, and 2) because it isn’t rarely grown outside of the Piedmont.
In many parts of Europe, the varieties and traditions are so deeply rooted (pun intended), wines are named by region, not by variety. Wine lovers are expected to know that a Barolo is from the Piedmont and is made from Nebbiolo, just as red Burgundy is from Burgundy, France, and is made from Pinot Noir. Unlike Pinot Noir, which is also grown widely outside of France, Nebbiolo vines are rarely seen outside of Italy.
What you need to know is:
- Barolo is the wine and the region.
- Nebbiolo is the grape variety.
- Barolo wine has high levels of tannin and acid, structuring it for longevity.
- Characteristic descriptors include tar, roses, and leather.
T is for Together with Truffles
Home to truffles (fungi) and Nebbiolo, Piedmont is a gourmand’s garden of Eden. Truffles and nebbiolo are a prime example of the vinophile’s adage, What grows together, goes together. Greek white wines and seafood. Sherry and paella. Sancerre and goat cheese. Wines evolve as integral parts of traditional cuisines, rooted in geography and in culture. With fresh pasta, a half-bottle of Barolo, and truffles in a variety of forms – cream, sauce, oil, salt – I brought the Piedmont to me.
V is for Very, Very Good Vintage
Overall, the 2013 Barolo vintage earned rave reviews. Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate gives it 94 points. Skurnik, the importer of this wine at hand, calls the vintage “one for the ages” in its company blog. Stephen Brook, writing for Decanter, says “the wines, while structured, are marked more by perfume and finesse than power. The tannins, undoubtedly present, are nonetheless delicate and fine-grained”.
After 45 minutes uncorked, and a bit more time in the glass, the 2013 Barolo at hand was insanely drinkable and delicious. I adored it. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been so surprised. As critic Antonio Galloni writes, “the 2013s are Barolos that speak to finesse above all else”.
The Wine at Hand: Mauro Molino Barolo 2013
Classic aromatics of roses and tar, plus exotic incense. Tastes of sweet leather in the forefront, with red fruits.
I sip it alongside my pasta dish, dressed with truffles and tossed in plenty of olive oil. The truffles and the wine have similarly intense flavors, and the oil plays foil the wine’s structure, softening the tannins. Against the truffles, funky in their own right, the wine’s fruit bursts on my palate. This funk-fruit interplay is intense, exhilarating, and addicting. Therein, at my dinner table, enjoying truffles and Barolo, I find the synergy of opposites.