The Weekly Wino: April 5th, 2006
I cannot put it off any longer. I always intended to talk about food and wine (2 of my favorite things in the world) more, but I am not cooking lately and I haven't had any exceptional wines since I've been back.
So I am going to go ahead and start my weekly wine discussion even though this one will be a little more on the negative side. Why pay a lot for a not-so-great bottle of wine and be disappointed when I can clearly do that for you?
Another friend has a wine bar called Vinarium (that would be Chinese for wine bar), but it is owned by the same group of guys as Berevino.
They have a full menu and a detailed selection of wines, but I'll get right to the point. After a bit if debating over what to order, it was decided that we would drink Barolo. Expecting more of an aglianico (native red grape of Campania) evening, I was pleasantly surprised. Just in case you don't know, Barolo is a wine from Piedmont--not just any wine--the "King of Italian wines." It's made from the nebbiolo grape that is grown in a strictly delineated zone surrounding the village that gave the wine it's name, Barolo.
(Barbaresco is also made from nebbiolo, but its zone is that surrounding its namesake village, Barbaresco. The same grape that is grown in 2 different zones exhibits its territorial character in 2 very unique ways! BUT, the dork in me digresses...)
The Barolo that was chosen was Michele Chiarlo 2001. Some of you out there may say, "Tracie, that wine needs to age longer, you fool!" But I have no cellar, and the wine was on the table.
Let me just start by telling you what I expect from a glass of Barolo. I expect 21 layers of scent to jump out of the glass. I expect to be slapped on the tongue with a chameleon-like flavor profile that enters as one thing and finishes as quite another. I EXPECT the complexity of dried cherries, (not fresh!) old leather, and earth all executed with the wisdom and sophistication that the Piemontese winemakers so often deliver.
This time, I was disappointed. The Barolo of Michele Chiarlo was flat, uninteresting, and completely one-dimensional. The bottle was neither corked nor oxidized, nor did it have the excuse of having been mistreated with undesirable storage conditions. This is, however, my very unprofessional opinion, and if any of you out there disagree, feel free to leave a comment. I am always open for a little wine debate.
Despite the not-so-great Barolo, I had a great time, ate a good plate of bucatini with fresh tomatoes, and a mean slice of steak with sauteed scarola (escarole). Vinarium is as welcoming a wine bar as any, with a typical, warm ambience and a loyal local clientele.
(I am not anti-Michele Chiarlo and I cannot leave you without telling you that he makes a lively Moscato d'Asti called "Nivoli," that makes a perfect bubbly acidic foil to the rich, silky texture of strawberry panna cotta or creme brulee.)
Go out and try a Barolo, it's well worth the expense, and if you choose the right one you will understand (if you are not yet convinced) why for some people wine is poetry, an enthusiastic pursuit of greater knowledge, passion, and an eternal celebration of such a capable little fruit.