Call me crazy, but I think the wines speak to us.
It all starts when we look at the label, and try to find out something about that bottle before deciding to take it home. When it’s time to enjoy it (and each bottle is ready at a different moment, because wine is a living thing, and each is different from the next, much the way people mature and grow at different rates), anyway - when it’s time to enjoy and experience it, we look at it in the decanter or glass. What does it look like? What does that tell us? Color, viscosity, clarity - what do we learn? And then the aromas and flavors tell us about the wine, as does the texture. Is it simple or complex? Is it youthful or mature? Has it been tampered with, or is it freely telling us about its terroir, its own identity - are the grapes permitted to speak for themselves, mature on their own, and reach their full potential, to become the best wine they can be?
Well, when I think of the more masculine wines, the ones that are big reds with stronger traits and characteristics, I feel like in my life/wine rack Cabernet and Nebbiolo have vied for that top spot, and Malbec has sort of been the “other guy” - Cabernet and Nebbiolo based wines are quite solid and tend to mature well, while Malbec just recently burst onto the scene these past few years, grabbing everyone’s attention with its rich sunkissed fruitiness, dark coloring, and interesting labels, from a New World wine region - more modern and youthful.
Cabernet based wines, those of the Left Bank of Bordeaux and from California, are often ageworthy - depending on acidity, tannin, etc. They’re very much like a person, in that they mature over time, and have the potential for great success, as we wait in hope and with great expectations for these wines. Sometimes we’re disappointed and sometimes the wines develop into something truly amazing. If we’re patient and we wait, they might just mature into something great.
And then there’s Nebbiolo - the grape from the Piemonte region in Italy that is used for making the highly regarded Barolo and Barbaresco wines. Out of the fog come these young wines. They’re so tannic and not quite enjoyable in their youth, and their aromas and flavors are reminiscent of tar. The point is, we need to wait for them to mature, because they’re not only ageworthy, or capable of aging well in the bottle - they’re intended for aging. We can’t really enjoy them when they’re so young, because they’re off-balance due to such high tannin, and it takes years for the wines to come into focus and become all they were intended to be.
|Barolo - Nebbiolo - showing its brickish rim|
And then one day, we can sense the bottle of Nebbiolo is ready - much the way a sophisticated, attractive gentleman may catch my eye when before that he may have looked like any other guy. The Nebbiolo wine is opened, and into the decanter he goes. He’s not that normal color of a youthful wine. No, he’s light in color with a bright orange rim - quite flashy and attractive actually, like a very good looking man with the touch of grey. We might not even recognize him, since the last time anyone saw him, he was so different in appearance, and hadn’t grown into his features yet. He’s not that wildly youthful spirit like Malbec, or fortunate to be looking and feeling so good like Cabernet at a similar age. No, Nebbiolo is at his very best when he’s aged. He’s seasoned now, after all those years. He’s complex, with so many layers to discover, from years of maturing. The fruits, spices, flowers, herbs, and the earthiness, and the perfect balance of characteristics and textures make this quite a wonderful wine. This wine is definitely best when aged. I think it is then, when Nebbiolo is showing its radiant color, and its sophistication and complexity, after aging and maturing, that it tells me, “I’m no longer a boy. I’m a man now. I’ve reached my full potential. I’m mature, seasoned, and fully prepared to show you a great experience, in a way that only I know how. This is what I was intended for.”
|Fairly young Barolo - Nebbiolo|
|Aging Barbaresco - Nebbiolo|
I suppose I shouldn’t wonder why the man with the touch of grey, the man who has good taste, good sense, and is fully aware of himself is so attractive and irresistible. I think to myself, there’s no need for pushing a wine, or a person, or anything else, to maturity, before the right time. They make these tools for aging the wine in a matter of moments. What sense does that make? It’s like expecting the dashing grey hair and worldliness from a teenager, instead of someone much older. It doesn’t make sense to me.
Yes, the youthfulness of a ripe flavorful wine like Malbec can be fun. Yes, it can be exciting to watch and wait for Cabernet to mature fully and see how it turns out. But what is it about Nebbiolo that’s so wonderful? To me, it’s that Nebbiolo was intended to be the most exciting one at such an age, and that it usually comes through on its promise. It’s the flashiest, most beautiful and complex red wine at that age. And when Nebbiolo - upon maturity - comes calling, of course I answer yes. I love it when Nebbiolo speaks to me.