Does Rosé Age? A Case Study with Vignelaure

outside roseWe often get asked, “Does rosé age?” And our answer: “no and yes!”

“No” because very, very, few pink wines are better at age four or five than they were on release. But “yes!” because almost all of the pink wine we buy gets better as it recovers from the shock of early spring bottling and shipment. I find that most good rosés peak somewhere between August and Thanksgiving and then hold nicely into the following year.

And if a pink wine has enough tannin and acid to protect it, it can keep right on improving for 24 months and is actually at its best in its second summer. The 93 point 2015 Vignelaure rosé is a perfect example.

Despite our eye-popping $9.98/ea by the case price (more on why that’s true later), this is not your typical, just-bottled and rushed to market rosé. But, then, Chateau Vignelaure is not your typical Provence wine estate.

A Top Site for Cabernet. Georges Brunet, owner of Third Growth Ch La Lagune in Bordeaux, discovered the Vignelaure site in the early 1960s. With soils perfectly suited to Cabernet and 1,300 feet of elevation moderating Provence’s intense sunshine, he planted the vineyard to Cabernet Sauvignon cuttings taken from La Lagune. By the mid-1970s, Vignelaure – meaning “the vineyard of the sacred spring” – had gained fame as one of Provence’s best, agreeable, and distinctive reds.

In his benchmark 1987 book on Rhone and Provence, Robert Parker called Vignelaure “one of the showpiece properties not only of Provence, but of France…Chateau Vignelaure specializes in red wine, capable of ageing 15-20 years, produced from a blend of two great wine grapes, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. Vignelaure’s wines are elegant expressions of Provencal wine-making at its best.”

ch Vignelaure bottleAdding a Rosé. Starting in 1993, Vignelaure added top-flight rosé to the portfolio, too. They blend 40% Grenache and 30% Syrah – the region’s classic rosé grapes – with 30% of their stunning Cabernet Sauvignon to create a wine with authentic Provençal character plus one extra notch of richness, power, and ability to age. The Grenache, Syrah, and most of the Cabernet ferment and age in tank while a little of the Cabernet rests in barrel.

The result is a rosé that was good when it landed here last summer but has only gotten better in the past 10 months or so. There’s been no dimming of the aromas and flavors of red berries, tangerine and crushed herb. But the texture is even better, round and plush and mouthfilling but still light and fresh. Delicious right now, but no rush: save a bottle or two for Thanksgiving!

A Note about the Price. This rosé released last year at a $20 price (we offered it at $16.98 last year). Why so much less this year? It’s a combination of factors. Start with Vignelaure’s fairly late arrival last year (we didn’t get any until late July) so that the importer didn’t sell all they had by the end of rosé season. Then add in America’s obsession with drinking only the youngest, just-released pink wines from the most recent harvest. Put those together with a wine that’s actually better than it was last year and you get one heck of a deal!

Advertisements

Not-So-Temperate Toro

ToroLook down on the gentle hills, Roman bridge, and sprawling vineyards from the hilltop town of Toro and you’ll find yourself thinking, “Really? They can grow good grapes here?”

This extreme western portion of the Spanish province of Castilla y Leon is hot, barren, and dry. With summer high temperatures reaching 100 degrees and only 14 inches of rain annually, it’s very nearly desert. And, the high altitude (most vineyards sit at 2,000-2,500 feet above sea level) means that even summer nights get cool and that winters are bitter with mid-winter lows in the teens.

And yet, wine grapes have been grown here for 1000 years or so. With so little rainfall, early farmers adopted a strategy of planting their vines far apart – as much as 10 feet in all directions can separate vines in the stoniest soils. With these ultra-low densities, each grape vine can spread its roots broadly and deeply to capture the all too scarce rainfall.

Over the centuries, a new mutation of Spain’s Tempranillo grape emerged, one that was best able to handle the extreme temperatures and dry conditions. The locals called it “Tinta de Toro,” and it remains the best red wine grape in the region today.

Ample sunshine and hot days Tinta de Toro to ripen to powerful levels, but the cool nights “fix” color and the bright acidity needed to balance massive fruit levels. By medieval times, Toro reds were some of Spain’s most famous, but the region faded from attention with the rise of Rioja (located closer to the all important rail line to Bordeaux) in the 1800s. By the mid-1990s, only 6 wineries remained in operation here, all producing ripe but rustic reds for bulk sales or local consumption.

A Toro Revival
Today there are more than 50 commercial wineries in Toro, and Finca Sobreño’s success is a big reason why. In the mid-1990s, current manager Roberto San Ildefonso and a group of Rioja winemakers created the Bodega to take advantage of the hundreds of acres of old-vine Tempranillo remaining in the region. They build one of the first modern wineries in the region, purchased 200 acres of prime vineyard and eventually locked up access to another 400 acres of old vines as well.

Over the past 20 years, Roberto San Ildefonso and his daughter Paloma have established Finca Sobreno as one of Toro’s most outstanding wineries. By the 2006 harvest, Wine Advocate already recognized Finca Sobreno as “an annual fixture in these pages for its superb value,” and wine writer Anthony Dias Blue was calling it “One of best new estates in Toro.”

I’ve admired Finca Sobreno for everyday value for years, but my visit to the winery two summers ago to taste the new releases was an eye-opener. Significant investments in farming and winemaking have taken quality here to new heights. The wines are as ripe, powerful, and explosive as ever, but there’s a new sophistication to the textures and better integration of oak. And – with a little help from importer Fran Kysela – the prices are the best they’ve been in years!

Thanksgiving Wine Strategies

Thanksgiving tableIf you are trying to find the very best wines to pair perfectly with your traditional Thanksgiving dinner, we have one piece of advice: Give up. If your family puts turkey, stuffing, sweat potatoes, gravy and cranberry sauce on the table all at once and just lets everyone dig in, then you simply cannot pick one wine that will “pair” – meaning enhance and be enhanced by – the huge range of flavors and textures on everyone’s plate.

There’s a certain freedom in knowing you’ve already “failed” to pick the perfect pairing wines for Thanksgiving: instead, you get to pick out what you want to drink! The only caution: traditional turkey day foods can make some wines taste bad, or at least a lot less good than they should. For the most part red Bordeaux varietals (Cabernet, Merlot, Malbec) and oaky wines in general (including Chardonnay) get a little beat up by cranberry sauce and sweet winter vegetable casseroles.

We’re here and ready to help you pick out wines that will make your Thanksgiving as tasty and fun as can be, so don’t hesitate to ask us for help. And, if you’re looking for a little general guidance, here are a few different wine strategies along with selections for each.

Light and Refreshing
If you feel Thanksgiving dinner is almost too much of a good thing, lighter, more zippy wines can help keep you refreshed and going strong through all the big flavors. Wines with good fruit but a bit less alcohol and a bit more acidity do the trick here. For whites consider a zippy Pinot Grigio or Riesling, perhaps with a little touch of sweetness from Germany or dry examples from Austria. For reds, cool-climate Pinot Noir will certainly shine, whether from France, Oregon, or even high-elevation coastal California sites. And, of course, Gamay from Beaujolais is a classic. See our Light and Refreshing Recommendations here.

Thanksgiving redGo Big or Go Home
You’ve got a lot of big flavors on the table, so why not put equally big flavors in your wine glass? While it’s best to avoid a lot of oak – trust me: oak and cranberry are not a happy match! – you can still find plenty of heavyweight choices that will go toe-to-toe with the food. For whites, Alsace or Oregon Pinot Gris are classic Thanksgiving choices, but we’ve had just as much fun with big, later-harvested Grüner Veltliner and even buttery Chardonnay. And rich, creamy, spicy Gewürztraminer is always fun.

For reds, Bordeaux varietals – Cabernet, Merlot, Malbec, etc. – don’t usually shine, but richer California Pinot Noirs will do well, as will Zinfandel, Spanish Priorat, and even Brunello di Montalcino. We’ve drunk all of those over the years, but Chateauneuf du Pape remains our favorite big wine for the big bird. See our Big and Bold Recommendations here.

Champagne Pink PourBring on the Bubbles
When in doubt, drink fizz! Especially sparkling wines that have a bit of richness or even nuttiness to complement the fine fruit and refreshing bubbles. Top-notch Cava and even sparkling Grüner Veltliner work great here, as do Champagnes with a little toasty oak or a bit of pink color. There are plenty of great choices here, but none better than Jean Vesselle Brut Oeil De Perdrix NV! See our Best Bubbly Recommendations here.

American Classics for the Classic American Meal
It’s an American holiday, so drinking American wines makes a lot of sense! For reds, Pinot Noir from California or warmer vintages/sites in Oregon is always a great choice, and Zinfandel is a classic Thanksgiving match. And, don’t forget “Rhone Ranger” blends featuring Syrah, Grenache and more! For whites, Oregon Pinot Gris certainly works, as does spicy Gewürztraminer and low or no-oak Chardonnay. And, don’t forget the bubbles! See our All-American Recommendations here.

Make Aunt Martha Happy
Most families have at least one person at the Thanksgiving table who is an infrequent wine drinker who can be challenged by some traditional Thanksgiving wine selections. Given them a glass of something soft, fruity, and possibly even a tad bit sweet and watch them smile! If you think they’d like something on the drier side, try a good value, no-oak, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Gamay or Pinot Noir. On the slightly sweeter side, German Riesling is often recommended, and it can work but can also be a tad too acidic for some. A richer Gewürztraminer is great, as are white blends that include a touch of viognier and/or muscat. And, it’s hard to go wrong with fizzy Moscato or the utterly addictive semi-sweet, semi-sparking, red Fracchia Voulet. See our Easygoing Recommendations here.

Save Your Money for Black Friday!
Maybe you’ve got quite a crowd for turkey day or perhaps you’re saving up for a bit of Black Friday binge shopping. Sometimes you need a bunch of delicious Thanksgiving-friendly bottles at a budget price. We’ve got you covered with everything from crisp Pinot Grigio to gutsy Cotes du Rhone and beyond. See our Best Value Thanksgiving Recommendations here.

Champagne, Cava, Cremant – What’s The Difference?

champagne glassesWe get lots of questions about the names and terms used for different sparkling wines, so here’s a quick primer for anyone who is feeling a touch confused.

The big name in the field is Champagne, a label that used to be applied to many different kinds of fizz. Today – after years of negotiation and some fairly aggressive litigation by the Champenoise – the “Champagne” name is restricted to wines that:

  • Come from the Champagne region of France
  • Are made from seven authorized grapes (but mainly Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and the red Pinot Menieur)
    Get their bubbles from a secondary fermentation that takes place in bottle
  • Rest on the lees – dead yeast cells – from that secondary fermentation for at least 15 months for non-vintage or 30 months for vintage dated wines

The story of how Champagne was first created and popularized is long and winding and full of myth (no, Dom Perignon did not “invent” Champagne – he tried to stop it from fizzing!), but it’s ended up with Champagne holding the title of, arguably, the best sparkling wine in the world and certainly the most expensive. So while drinking “real” Champagne is a treat – and something we all should do more often! – it’s not surprising that many other sparkling wines have emerged to try to slake our thirst for fine fizz at more reasonable prices.

Sparklers from Italy, Spain and the U.S. Many Americans start their sparkling wine adventure with crisp, fruity wines from Italy like Moscato di Asti or Prosecco. We love them both, but neither uses Champagne grapes or even the Champagne method to create fizz. These wines undergo secondary fermentation in a large tank and are then bottled with the fizz already in the wine. It’s a less expensive process that won’t give you the same texture or toasty flavors found in méthode champenoise wines.

The best of Spain’s sparkling Cava wines can deliver much more Champagne quality at a fraction of the price. These wines are made using the méthode champenoise (although they’re not allowed to use that term on the label – nothing to suggest competition with Champagne is allowed!), and can show some of the creaminess and yeasty, toasty notes we love in Champagne. But Cava is usually made with different grapes – macabeu, parellada and xarel·lo are most common – which give the wines different flavors and often a nuttier, more oxidative character.

Most top-notch American sparkling wines are made with Champagne’s fermentation methods and Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes, and in many cases, the companies and even the same winemakers who make the best wines in Champagne create these American wines. But most grow in warmer climates and in richer soils than you find in Champagne, so they tend to be a bit heartier and seldom quite as finely textured as true Champagne.

France’s Cremant. So, what about Cremant? The term was originally used to denote wines from Champagne that had a little less fizz than regular Champagne, but that style and usage have fallen away today. Now the French use “Cremant” to designate sparkling wines made outside of Champagne using the Champagne method of secondary fermentation in bottle. You’ll find Cremant wines from all across France, many – like Cremant d’Alsace – using very different grapes from Champagne (e.g. Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, or even Riesling).

Cremant de Bourgogne. Which brings us to the Cremant wines of Burgundy: Cremant de Bourgogne. Sparkling wine in Burgundy dates from the mid-1820s when the brothers Petiot, who owned vineyards in the Cote Chalonnaise (Burgundy’s southern regions), hired a bright young winemaker from Champagne to make their still wines. Recognizing the grapes he’d seen grown at home (Pinot Noir and Chardonnay) and the same type of limestone-rich soils, he soon persuaded the Petiot brothers to let him try his hand at making fizzy Burgundy.

It was a hit, and over the next 150 years sparkling Burgundy became a popular wine with both consumers (who loved the fizz and savings) and winegrowers (who were able to make it using grapes that didn’t ripen well enough for still wines). Naturally, some Cremants were excellent wines made by meticulous winemakers, and some were utter plonk made by folks out to make a buck.

To control quality and help establish sparkling Burgundy’s brand, in 1975 the French government created the Cremant de Bourgogne appellation. To qualify as Cremant de Bourgogne, the wine must be made from legal Burgundy grapes (Beaujolais’ Gamay can be up to 20%) and undergo secondary fermentation in bottle. Critically, the rules require a minimum of one full year’s aging on the lees before release, ensuring that the wines have time to soften, gain depth, and add extra layers of flavors.

Cremant de Bourgogne used to be made from vineyards across Burgundy, including from grapes grown in what are now 1er and Grand Cru appelations in the Cote d’Or. With soaring demand and prices for grapes from these sites, today most Cremant comes from vineyards in the far north (Auxerre) or the far south (Cote Chalonnaise) of the region. As the Oxford Companion to Wine says, “Cremant made in the north is usually much lighter and crisper,” while “Cremant from southern Burgundy can be full and soft, a good-value alternative to bigger styles of Champagne.”

International Wine Review’s comment, “Good-value alternative to bigger styles of Champagne,” describes Cremant de Bourgogne, and especially Domaine Michel Sarrazin’s Cremant de Bourgogne to a “T’. Although at these special prices, “great-value” might be more accurate still!

Chablis: Home of Great Chardonnay Value

Great wines from Chardonnay’s home, the chalk and limestone hills of Burgundy, have never been cheap. But the combination of soaring global demand (think China) and brutally short crops – most producers have averaged 30+% losses the past few years – are making it harder than ever to find white Burgundy value.

Which is why the most savvy white Burgundy drinkers have been migrating north from the Meursault, Chassagne, and Puligny-Montrachet to the little village at the top of Burgundy, Chablis.

Chablis_Grand_Cru_vineyardsMigrating North. The wines from the chalk and Kimmeridgian clay (found also in Sancerre) in this northernmost outpost of Burgundy (only Champagne and Alsace are farther North) have historically be thought of as “steely,” “flinty,” and “saline” – brisk, high-acid, wines built for shellfish and lacking the richness, depth, and power found further south.

But the combination of climate change (warmer weather) and rapid improvement in viticulture (lower yields and waiting for ripeness) mean that modern Chablis has elevated its quality to new heights even as its style has come to more closely resemble Chassagne or Puligny-Montrachet of old. And, while the quality has soared, Chablis continues to mature earlier than wines of the South – no bad thing for folks who don’t want to cellar wines for decades are who worry about premature oxidization. So, while most casual white Burgundy drinkers have stayed focused on the more famous Chardonnay villages of the Cote d’Or, more and more experienced Burgundy lovers have headed North for great white Burgundy at surprising value prices.

Your Window Is Closing. Now’s the time for you to discover the great Chardonnay values of Chablis – before they are gone forever. Because the dreadfully short Burgundy harvests of 2011, 2012 and 2013 means that almost everyone who loves white Burgundy is starting to look to Chablis.

Allen Meadows QuoteAs Antonio Galloni, former Wine Advocate Italian and Burgundy critic, explains:

“We are about to see a massive lack of supply of high-end white Burgundy that will last for at least several years. Most of that void is going to be filled by Chablis, where weather has also presented its share of challenges over the last few vintages, but nothing like we have seen in the Côte de Beaune. My advice to Chablis lovers is simple. If you see a wine you like, buy it. There are not going to be too many second chances given the global shortage of fine white Burgundy we will soon witness. This is especially true for the 2012s, the best of which are fabulous and will be in the market when the lack of top-notch white Burgundy will be at its most pronounced.”

Malandes: Wines You Need to Try.  Domaine des Malandes has been in the Tremblay family for generations and has been run by Lyne Marchive since 1972. The wines have always been “solid”, but as winemaker Guénolé Breteaudeau has asserted himself since joining the Domaine in 2006, the wines have moved up the scale to “outstanding”! As Allen Meadows, who writes as Burghound, said after tasting the Domaine’s 2011s, “Marchive and Breteaudeau continue to drive the quality of the Malandes wines to new heights and 2011 represents the best that I have ever seen from them at least when taken as a whole. Readers who are not familiar with the wines owe it to themselves to try a few bottles.”

The 2012s are better still. Owner Lyne Marchive and her winemaker/cellar master Guénolé Breteaudeau had to work hard to triumph over the extraordinarily difficult 2012 growing season. Frost in April, a long, unsettled, flowering (Marchive called it “lousy”), hail in May, and then a few baking hot weeks in August all conspired to drive down yields and deprive vineyard workers of sleep. But a moderate, sunny, September allowed the harvest to slide to September 21 when the grapes had fully ripened without losing acidity or building up too much sugar.

The results are pretty, delicious, wines with plenty of Chablis character – green fruit, mouthwatering acidity, and loads of salty stone and mineral notes – married with some of the richness normally found further South in Puligny or Chassagne-Montrachet. As Allan Meadows (Burghound”) said after tasting the Malandes 2012s, anyone “not familiar with the wines owe it to themselves to try a few bottles,” and added, “moreover the prices are reasonable and thus the wines offer excellent price/quality ratios.” We couldn’t agree more – especially at these mix/match case price savings. Get ‘em while you can!

Burgundy’s 2012 Roller Coaster

roller coasterMuch has already been written about Burgundy’s wild and difficult 2012 growing season and much more is still to come. In a nutshell, three main factors shaped the harvest in the Cotes du Nuits:

1) Poor fruit set – Winter and early spring warmth got the vines going early, late frost damaged some, and then rain during June flowering beat up the fragile bunches and led to fewer grapes being formed, and many of those that did set were smaller and thicker skinned, delivering less juice than usual.

2) Summer heat and rain – Cloudy weather and lots of rain created rot and mildew pressure and then – just as many growers finished pulling leaves to get their grapes whatever dry air and sunshine might be found – a heat spike sunburned many grapes. Once these grapes were removed, the crop got smaller still.

3) A Saving September – Good weather at last prevented gray rot from setting in and allowed those grapes that had survived the season – as few and small as they were – to ripen skins, seeds and stems perfectly at relatively low sugar levels and with vibrant acids.

In the end, perfect grapes … but not many
As the grapes came into the wineries in mid- to late-September, the hardworking vigneron found themselves at once depressed and elated. Depressed because their cellars had 30-40% less wine in them than normal. Elated because the grapes they did harvest were in perfect conditions and the young wines showed fantastic promise and classic style.

Tasting young 2012 reds at Domaine Guillon in January 2013 left me excited at the promise of the vintage. And, as various Burgundy experts have weighed in, that optimism seems well justified. Here are few comments from Allen Meadows (aka Burghound) about the best 2012 Cotes du Nuits reds:

The 2012s are concentrated wines with ripe and moderately firm supporting tannins, good freshness and enough acidity to maintain the proper balance. One of the more endearing characteristics of the vintage is that it produced very high phenolic maturities yet the sugars were only average. This is important because often when a vintage has high phenolic maturities the accompanying alcohols are above 13% and often even 14%. In 2012 the average range is between 12% and 13% which contributes to the heightened senses of freshness and drinkability.

2012 produced many really lovely wines that should provide for delicious drinking early on yet be capable of amply rewarding mid-term cellaring… Moreover there is fine transparency to the wines such that the underlying terroir is very much on display.   

All-in-all, an excellent vintage, writes Meadows, but with one big problem: Price. 

[T]here really isn’t much not to like about the vintage other than the tiny yields and what will almost inevitably be the high prices that accompany small quantities. … The key challenges for us as consumers will be twofold: the first is simply to find them and the second will be paying for them as they will not, indeed cannot, be inexpensive.

In a vintage where many consumers and retailers face skyrocketing prices and slashed allocations, we (and you!) benefit from a long-term relationship with Burgundy’s Jean-Michel Guillon through his hardworking US importer, Olivier Daubresse. Our allocation of Jean-Michel’s top wines (arriving this fall) was outstanding, and both Jean-Michel and Olivier held price increases down to the minimum level possible – even though Jean-Michel has orders for at least twice as much wine as he has to sell.

You’ll taste all the glorious results of Jean-Michel Guillon’s 2012 Bourgogne Rouge from his ‘Les Gravier’ vineyard –  at much less than you’d expect from other winemakers.

A ‘Primer’ on Barolo

A ‘Primer’ on Barolo

Our recent offering of Vietti’s latest vintage of Castiglione, a 95 point blend of two single-vineyard Barolo, got us thinking about Barolo’s history, how it grew to be more like Burgundy, along with questions about aging and the 2010 vintage, so it seemed like a good time to offer a little ‘primer’ on the subject!

Vietti Estate

Vietti was a pioneer in developing ‘Cru’ Barolo.

Italy’s Burgundy? Barolo, like Burgundy, are vineyard-driven wines, mostly due to the work of Vietti. Italy’s Barolo region and its classic Nebbiolo grape have a lot in common with red Burgundy. While the structure and flavors differ, both Barolo and Burgundy are all about perfume and complexity.

The best wines start with a core of ripe primary red fruit and then add on layers of floral, earth, and spice complexity. And both get even more complex and compelling with age, becoming wines you linger over and sometimes just smell for minutes before you even take your first sip.

Today, at their best, both Burgundy and Barolo are vineyard-driven wines that producers offer in various levels of specificity. Most Barolo producers start their line-up with a straight Nebbiolo di Langhe (their Bourgogne) based on fruit from just outside the important Barolo villages or young vines from within. Next, Barolo Normale (like a Village Burgundy), often a blend of fruit from lesser vineyards within Barolo. Then, the single-Cru Barolo (a 1er Cru Burgundy) made from grapes grown entirely in a single vineyard recognized for quality over the years. Last – Barolo’s Grand Cru – one or two Riserva Barolos from the very best vineyards and with extra time in cellar.

‘Cru’ Barolo. Vietti and its long-time head Alfredo Currado were largely responsible for this modern-day Burgundy parallel. When he started making wine, virtually all Barolo was bottled as a blend of vineyards. Alfredo was one of the first producers to assert that Barolo vineyards have as much to say as their Burgundy counterparts, and the first to bottle a line of unblended, single-vineyard “Cru” Barolo.

Today, Vietti’s Barolo from Lazzarito, Brunate, Rocche, and Vilero routinely top critics ratings (Galloni awarded Vietti’s top 2010s ratings of 99 and 100 points!) and, unfortunately, sell at prices in line with the very best of Burgundy. Having established the single-cru principal, Alfredo was less sure what to do with the family’s smaller vineyard holdings in the outstanding Crus of Bussia, Ravera, Bricco del Fiasco, Fossati, and Ciabot Berton.” His success with single-vineyard wines convinced him that he didn’t want to make a “normale” Barolo, but his vineyards in these Crus were too small to be bottled on their own. Alfredo’s compromise was to introduce his “Barolo Castiglione” – a blend of his smaller Cru vineyards made to drink young and introduce customers to the “house style.”

Castiglione Moves Up! Alfredo’s son, Luca, was never comfortable seeing fruit from some of Barolo’s best and most famous vineyards end up in what was a delicious, but “easy” wine. So, starting in 1999, Luca began using only the very best Nebbiolo from the most successful of his smaller Cru holdings in Castiglione, with the rest of the fruit going into a value-priced Langhe Nebbiolo he called “Perbacco”.

It took Luca a few years to find the right approach for Castiglione, but in 2004, he seemed to figure it out. As Wine Advocate reported, “With this [the 2004] effort, the Castiglione bottling takes an important step in Currado’s plan to make this wine much closer in quality to his single-vineyard offerings.” And, a few vintages later, the Advocate said, “Barolo is never inexpensive, but the Castiglione is as good a wine as readers will find for the money.” We’ve been fans of Vietti, the Currado family, and – especially – Castiglione for years, and last year’s 2009 seemed to us to be the very best Castiglione yet. The 2010 is simply better. Here you’ll find all the ripe fruit and power we loved in the luscious 2009, but with more grace, purity and length. It’s a stunner, folks, one that you will struggle to keep your hands off of from the moment the first bottle crosses your threshold at home.

How Long Do I Wait? Barolo is one of those wines we talk about cellaring for years and enjoying for decades – but there’s no need to wait even a day to enjoy the very best of modern-day Barolo like Vietti’s 2010 Castiglione. In the old days, Barolo’s Nebbiolo grape was usually harvested with searing acidity and masses of tough, chewy, tannin that needed at least a decade of cellar time before delivering any pleasure at all. After some unfortunate experiments with manipulation in the winery – small oak barrels, roto-fermenters, cultured yeasts and more – the best Barolo growers now know that the secret to creating long-lived Nebbiolo wines that still deliver pleasure young is simple – grow ripe grapes.

As Antonio Galloni explains: “As structured as the 2010s are, these aren’t your father’s (or mother’s) Barolos. In other words, the wines won’t take decades to become approachable. Significant strides in viticulture and winemaking have made today’s young Barolos more approachable than they have ever been. For example, the 2008 Barolos, wines from another cool, late-maturing vintage, are surprisingly open today. Those wines may close down at some point in the future, but the days of needing to cellar Barolos for decades before they drink well is largely a thing of the past. The last vintage I can remember with truly forbidding youthful tannins is 1999.”

Fellow critic James Suckling agrees, especially in 2010. “‘Crowd pleaser’ is the way I like to describe it in view of most of the wines’ early drinkability. You can pull the cork and drink most of them, especially if you decant them an hour or two before serving.”

By all means, try to hold on to some of your 2010 Vietti Castiglione and let it develop the extra gear of aroma and complexity that only cellar aging can provide. But, if you’ve got a meal of richly flavored food – perhaps a roast with some mushroom risotto – pop a bottle of this and splash it in a decanter for a couple of hours and then dig in. You will not be disappointed!