More Fun Than a Barolo Monkeys

Pennsylvania: land where great wine values and puritanical wine restrictions meet, clash, and sometimes get drunk together. Today I’m going to focus on values, because I recently managed to discover one that very nearly makes living in a control state worth it (and yes, it was a Chairman’s Selection. Bravo, “Chairman”): Bersano Nirvasco Barolo 2010, made from the inimitable Nebbiolo grape, my favorite variety from Italy and in general.

Grown in the Piedmont region, Nebbiolo earned its name from clouds of condensation that form on these grapes while they grow (in Italian, “nebbia” means fog). It boasts a somewhat mysterious – dare I say nebulous? – flavor profile, usually reminding me of orange peel and Twizzlers. (That’s right.) Barolo is said by many to be the finest expression of Nebbiolo, which, of course, means it doesn’t come cheap; in my experience, it’s quite unusual to find one for under $40. So, when I discovered the Bersano Barolo selling for $25 – a practical pittance – I leaped at the opportunity.

bersano-nirvascoBarolo is a wine that almost always benefits from some time to breathe, especially a juvenile like this, but, being young and impetuous myself, I had to try some right away. Ruby red in the glass, the wine gives off aromas of cherry and black pepper, which gradually evolve into notes of blackberry and leather. (My favorite wines often tend to smell like nice shoes, I find.)

On the palate, two things stand out: fruit and tannins. More cherry notes up front give way to strawberry, but the intensity never wanes: this wine is rich, luxurious even. The tannins, however, keep it from the dreaded mire of one-dimensionality: they grip hard and don’t let go, acting as the backbone for an impressively long finish with more pepper. As the wine breathes, the flavors develop further, with that lovely leather from the nose joining its friends.

Barolo lends itself especially well to food pairing. The first thing I reached for, oddly, was some Bugles – you know, those salty corn “chips” that you can almost fit over your fingertips, but not really, unless you’re a five-year-old, because nobody older than that is supposed to eat Bugles? Yeah, well, they paired shockingly well with this wine, serving as a fine reminder that sometimes it’s worth mixing elegant with trashy. I did also pair it with a raw milk Stilton, as well as a roast of eye round, but oddly enough neither one fared as well. So, drink this with Bugles, I guess.

All in all, this was a winner. My one regret is not buying a few more bottles before they all disappeared.

PLCB ($24.99)
Wine-Searcher ($40)

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