Sunday, June 23, 2013

Nerelo del Bastardo, 2006

This is a Trader Joe's wine I've been buying and  enjoying for several years now. With its gaudy red and black label and its low price tag (usually $5.99), it's a wine that often gets overlooked. And that's unfortunate because it's one of the best values available anywhere.

The label suggests that the grapes for this Italian wine come from declassified  Barolo and Barbaresco vineyards, where appellation rules are strict and excess grapes must go into table wine. My first taste of the 1999 Nerello del Bastardo years ago confirmed that this is indeed high quality Nebbiolo. I still have some of the 1999 as well as the 2000 and 2002, and they are aging nicely with all the varietal traits of Nebbiolo, perhaps blended with some Cabernet or Sangiovese. This 2006 is my least favorite Bastardo so far and the one that is less obviously Nebbiolo. The label has also changed: "Marchesi de Monte Cristo" (clearly a bogus estate) has been removed from the label, and "Nerello" is now spelled with only one "l." But the style of the label and the message on the back implying the use of Nebbiolo grapes indicate that this is the same wine.

Dark, purplish robe; could be mistaken for a Napa Cab as it is poured. Smells and flavors are similarly large scaled but very tannic at this stage. So tannic that the Nebbiolo heritage is not so obvious as in other vintages. Dark cherries and maybe some roses. The blend may have changed, incorporating more Sangiovese (although the back label still suggests excess Barolo grapes). The 2006 has undoubtedly been exposed to considerable new oak, probably barriques. It's more impressive, perhaps, but not as immediately charming as past vintages. But with some time, I think it will start releasing its usual subtle charms.

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