In northwest Italy’s Piedmont region, great blankets of fog — or nebbia — settle in below many of the best hill-side vineyards growing the Nebbiolo grape. It’s that grape that produces world-class Barolo and Barbaresco — red wines lightly hued in the glass but huge on the palate.
The Demarie winery introduced me to my first Barolo and Barbaresco at a special tasting at Zeto in Greensboro in September. The three Nebbiolo-based wines sported a clarity reminiscent of a Pinot Noir, the color of garnet, and the tannin of a young Cabernet Sauvignon. There is among the plum, black cherry, anise and a bracing acidity with notes of tobacco, leather and cedar.
The 2013 Barolo ($61) was the bolder of the three, as might be expected in what Italians consider “the King of Wines.” Our wine guide called the 2015 Barbaresco ($52.75) “The Queen of Wines.” Demarie also produces a New World styled Roero Riserva ($52.75), also Nebbiolo but with more forward black fruit.
My wife knew my Social Security-qualifying birthday was arriving, so she bought all three for a retirement celebration.
A friend recently shared what was another first for me — a 2007 Boutari 1879 Legacy ($45-$55). This red wine, fashioned from the Xinomavro grape in northern Greece, is similar in flavor profile to Nebbiolo; the Greeks consider this their legitimate challenge to — wait for it — Italy’s Barolo.
Boutari enjoys a rich wine-making tradition in many parts of Greece. In the Naousa region, Xinomavro wines must be fashioned 100 percent from that grape.
The Barolo comparisons are abundant. This garnet-rimmed red has the same light color but is a massive mouthful of balanced acidity and tannin with aromas and flavors of dried plum, dried black cherry, tobacco, cedar and raisin.
Twelve years past harvest, this wine could easily remain cellared another 15 years. But at my age, that would be short-sighted.
It’s estimated there are more than 10,000 wine grape varieties around the globe. So many wines, so little time.
So I’m excited at the soon-to-be-opening Trader Joe’s. As anyone who has traded with Joe knows, the wine section is eclectic and so affordably-priced it invites experimentation.
Joe first introduced me to Aglianico, Nero d’ Avolo, Gruner Veltliner, and that white French Rhone blend that always sells out before I can get my fill.
Some recommendations for down-to-earth budgets:
- 2018 Matua Sauvignon Blanc ($11): New Zealand’s Marlborough region signature white grape. White grapefruit, lemon peel and mango.
- 2017 Columbia Crest Grand Estates Syrah ($11): Washington’s Columbia Valley produces a lot of value-based wines. This is one of them. Blackberry, sour cherry, leather and black licorice.
- 2018 Yalumba Viognier The Y Series ($13): Signature notes of honeysuckle and peach, there’s also hints of quava and pineapple in this Australian white.
- Riondo Prosecco ($14): Italy’s bright fizzy Prosecco’s are a great alternative to more steeply-priced bubblies. This shows citrus and green apple notes with a hint of breadiness.
- 2015 Castello di Gabbiano Chianti Classico ($15): Won’t find many chianti classicos this good at this price. Bright raspberry, black cherry, plum and tobacco.