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Wine Tasting - Red Wines of Piedmont

In January, we held the second of what we expect will be an ongoing series of wine tastings. We started with a small group of just six couples interested in wine but with varying levels of wine knowledge -- it was more important that we would have fun that really be able to identify the wines. The group was formed with the following guidelines:

We will have a blind tasting and casual dinner roughly every other month so that we rotate through the entire group once a year. The host couple may, at their discretion, invite more people to join the fun. The evening's host selects the theme for the evening such as: "Napa Cabernet under $50", "Single vineyard Pinot Noir from Oregon", "'Second wines' of Bordeaux", "Australian Shiraz over $30", or whatever. Each couple brings one bottle that fits the theme. The labels are hidden with paper bags so that this becomes a blind tasting. Everyone tastes each wine before dinner and selects their top three wines so we can have a consensus favorite. At dinner, we can finish the tasting wines or raid the host's cellar assuming, of course, that the host consents. And we should have fun doing this.

Two books that we've used to guide our efforts are:

How to Taste: A Guide to Enjoying Wine by Jancis Robinson The Wine-Tasting Class Notebook: Expertise in 12 Tastings by Judy Ridgway

In our second gathering, we dug into the mysteries of red wines of Piedmont. The wines were opened roughly thirty minutes before tasting and were not decanted. The wines were tasted blind. We gave each member of the party a simple scorecard so that they could make notes on what they thought of each wine. We also asked everyone to list their #1 favorite, their #2 favorite, and their #3 favorite. The table below lists the wines in order of the consensus favorites. This was a fairly consistent tasting as two clear favorites were clearly separated from the rest.

Winery Vintage #1 #2 #3 Total Parker Comments
Prunotto Barolo Bussia Soprana 1996 4 2 1 17 92 Smooth, complex wine that is fruity and soft yet with tannins. It holds to a long finish.
Gaja Langhe Sperss 1997 3 3 1 16 99 Complex wine characterized as smooth, elegant, rich with notes of chocolate. Well integrated tannins didn't overwhelm the wine. One of us noted: "Better than a Dolcetto"
Alfredo e Giovanni Roagna Barolo La Rocca e La Pira 1993 1 2   7   Older wine, brownish tinge on the edge of the glass. Nice floral nose with tastes of cloves and raspberry
Luciano Sandrone Langhe Premo 1999   2 1 5   Fruity with strong notes of cherries noted by almost everyone.
Fairly low in tannins, this wine had a medium-long finish.
Icardi Suri di Mu Barbera 1997 1   1 4 86 Seemed more alcoholic. Thinner than the others. Low in tannins.
Bruno Rocca Dolcetto Vigna Trifole 1999     1 1   Nose was a bit musty with notes of toffee and caramel. Hints of licorice noted by most of us. Finishes well
Massolino Barolo "Margheria" 1996     1 1 89 Spicy, red peppers. A bit on the woody side.

The consensus ranking was determined by 3 points for each #1 listing, 2 points for #2, and 1 point for #3. Any ties are broken by the number of #1 votes, etc.

There are four red wines commonly made in Piedmont. So, to test people perceptions, we also asked everyone to guess the variety of each wine. As most of us had little experience with the wines of Piedmont so, as a guide, we included brief descriptions of each wine type on the scorecard that I compiled from Jancis Robinson's The Oxford Companion to Wine. It is also important to note that in recent years, some wines made outside of the Italian DOC rules have been made and are referred to as Langhe - we had two of these wines in our tasting. The correct number guesses are marked in bold red font in the table.


Guesses for wine types

Barolo Barbaresco Barbera Dolcetto Langhe
Luciano Sandrone Langhe Premo 1     2 1
Gaja Langhe Sperss 4   1    
Icardi Suri di Mu Barbera     5    
Bruno Rocca Dolcetto Vigna Trifole 2 1   4  
Massolino Barolo "Margheria" 3     1  
Alfredo e Giovanni Roagna Barolo La Rocca e La Pira 4   1    
Prunotto Barolo Bussia Soprana 2 1   1  

For the two Langhes from Gaja and Sandrone, it is hard not to give credit to the guesses to Barolo since the Nebbiolo grape forms such a significant part of the actual wine...

Following the tasting, we sat down to dinner with the remaining wine from the tasting. The dinner was coordinated around a somewhat traditional cuisine of Northern Italy in order to complement the wines. In addition to the wines from the tasting, we also opened a 1996 Stefano Farino Barbaresco from our cellar.

Dinner Menu

bulletAntipasto: Roasted peppers, tomato eggplant mozzarella, tostini with olives
bulletZuppa: Pappa al pomodoro (tomato bread soup)
bulletPasta: Pappardelle with portobello and chanterelle mushrooms
   Veal ala rosmarino
   Brocoletti al'olio e lemone
   Gnocchi alla crema e parmesano
   Green beans with roasted chestnuts
bulletDessert: Amareto di bella luna

Next tasting - Mature cabernet sauvignon from California

Click here to give us some ideas!


Other Wine Tastings

bulletDuckhorn Vertical from the 1980s
bulletWines from the Southern Rhone
bulletRed Wines of Piedmont
bulletMature California Cabernets -- 1990 and older
bulletCalifornia cabernet maturity comparisons
bulletSouth American Red Wines
bullet Red Wines of Washington State
bullet Anything with Sangiovese


Wine Enthusiast - Ultimate wine accessories site! The Wine Enthusiast is a great source of glassware, serving and preservation systems, in addition to self-contained wine cellars and other wine storage options. If you're not sure what you need, the company offers a list of 'Recommended' items that cover a wide range of needs through their home page.

Wine glasses, decanters and more: Many choices are available including Riedel and Spiegelau crystal stemware and decanters. Plus, there are many products to clean and care for your glassware.   


Serving and preserve your wine, from the most elegant decanters to chillers, coasters, drip savers and more. When we want wine by the glass (when we don't think we'll finish a bottle), we use the WineKeeper which automatically fills the bottle with nitrogen to preserve the wine.
Corkscrews Corkscrews and cork pullers are essential tools. Wine Enthusiast has a wide variety of devices including the traditional Laguiole corkscrew to the smooth Rabbit Corkscrew leverpull types. Storing your wine doesn't have to be difficult. Wine Enthusiast offers everything from free standing wine cellars to wine racks and cooling systems that can be installed in a closet or a corner of the basement.   
Finally, for great deals, don't forget to check out the clearance items and the Wine Cellar Outlet Store areas.


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