Saturday, April 18, 2015

Nerello del Bastardo Vino da Tavola Rosso, 2000; Gigi Rosso I tre Merli Barbaresco, 1999

This has always been one of my favorite wines from Trader Joe's, selling for $6 to $8 over the past 10 or 15 years. In the early days, the label hinted that the wine was declassified Barolo and Barbaresco, and the Nebbiolo traits were clearly apparent to me. Piedmont Nebbiolo for less than $10 a bottle? I was so impressed by the 1999 that I bought a case to see how it would age, then followed by buying a half case of the 2000. My buying slowed after that time, and bottles of recent vintages--now sold at World Market as well as Trader's Joe's--seem to be blends of other grapes such as Sangiovese, Cabernet and Montepulciano and not as interesting.

The 2000 Nerello tonight is showing well. The dark but orangish color clearly confirms that it is mostly, if not completely, Nebbiolo. And the trademark smells and flavors are there too--dark cherries, rose petals and dark licorice tones. For me, that combination is irresistible. Full bodied on the palate with lively acidity and some still firm tannins. The sweet fruit flows freely, though. Hedonistic is the term Robert Parker might use to describe this wine.

My experiment in aging was both successful and not so successful. The wine is well preserved. The orangish color is what you should expect from Piedmont Nebbiolo, and the aromas and flavors are well preserved. I still have a few bottles of both the 1999 and 2000, and I will be in no hurry to drink them. On the other hand, the wine has not changed appreciably from its early days, and I don't find any developing complexity or intensity. By comparison, for Easter dinner, I had a 1999 Barbaresco from Gigi Rosso--good vintage, good producer. By all appearances, this Barbaresco was much further along on its aging curve--lighter in color, more resolved tannins, more autumnal dried fruit smells and flavors. But the concentration, intensity and mystery of a great wine were there, and the acidity tells me this Barbaresco will only get better over the coming decade and more. I don't think the Nerello will ever come close.

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