Pio Cesare Barbaresco 2001
Piemonte (the Italian region), Nebbiolo (the noble grape), Barbaresco (both the village and the
wine); these words all have a ring. Pio Cesare, too, sounds evocative. It's difficult not to
wax romantic when these words trip off your tongue as you try to pronounce them with
elegance. The wine certain helps. The 2001 Barbaresco is just at the cusp of its date range of
drinkability; to be honest, the tannins tell me it needs a few more years, but there is so much
to explore in the here and now.
You can try to be scientific in ascribing notes to many wines, but it's just not the right thing to do with this Barbaresco, a wine that demands hedonic adjectives. To essay a few, gingerly, we might begin with “Old World,” add “elegant,” submit both “dignified” and “powerful” for consideration, and avoid “thoughtful” only because the wine is still a shade too young. The temptation is to call the wine “feminine” only you have an equal temptation to call it “masculine.” Perhaps in Italian, or the local dialect…
The $48 wine is a deep ruby with touches of both purple and garnet. The first whiff on decanting is earth, a lush earth within view of the Alps. There is a touch of alcoholic heat. There are truffles and wild forest mushrooms on this earth, decomposing leaves on the forest floor, smoke, sticks, twigs and a hint of thyme. The fruit is red currant, leading black cherry, plum and prune. Behind it, out of reach but present, speak black licorice and damp tobacco.
The tannins, already mentioned, do want to go back to bed and take a snooze; though insistent, they already have a silkiness that coordinates with the acidity, the fruit and the myriad other elements to yield a finish that is—the adjective, finally—“civilized.”
It remains to mention that there was a dinner involved, lovingly prepared it is true, but it is
the wine I remember.
Wine is the result of a product of the earth; a taste of earth is hence always reassuring.
James Beard Award Nominee Elliot Essman