Cascina Ca'Rossa Langhe Nebbiolo DOC 2006
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Cascina Ca'Rossa Langhe Nebbiolo DOC 2006 Tasting Notes

The relatively new Langhe appellation in Italy's Piemonte encompasses the famous Barolo and Barbaresco appellations and some considerable outlying areas. Unlike Barolo or Barbaresco, qualification for the appellation is not particularly strict, especially regarding grape varietal. You expect wide variances in quality and you get it. Nevertheless, good Langhe Nebbiolos are often considered the poor man's Barolo. They might on occasion even be Barolos that for one reason or another have been downgraded into a wider appellation. The existence of Langhe allows producers to hand pick the best Nebbiolo for their top wines, knowing they still will have a DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) rather than an IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica) for the remains. Not only do you pay much less, you also save on the real estate you need to cellar your Barolos, and on the inheritance tax your survivors will pay on the wine if the long-aging Barolo survives you. To say Langhe is pop and pour would be going to extremes here, however. This is the formidable Nebbiolo, so it is pop, aerate two hours, then pour and enjoy.

Cascina Ca'Rossa is an Azienda Agricola, a term referring to an estate that buys in neither grapes nor wine; those that do either are counted under the term Azienda Vinicola. This $20 estate bottled wine is 100% Nebbiolo from grapes grown at 200-250 meters in altitude on south and southeastern facing hills with limestone clay soils. The wine is vinified in stainless steel and given three months bottle aging before coming to market. You would never find such direct handling with a Barolo, but it is not useful to compare this wine with its close neighbor, despite the Nebbiolo connection. This wine works in its own rather sensuous way.

The wine is a medium intensity ruby with good transparency and clarity. Warm red and black berries with baking spice meet the nose at first swirl; the nose also has a rose-like floral element.

On the palate, this dry wine comes on with some immediate personality. The acidity is medium level, the tannins light yet pervasive. (Remember there is no wood contact to add wood tannins.) Blackberries, raspberries, blackcurrant and red plum are the major fruit notes. The clove and especially the nutmeg synergize the fruit, lending a spicy bitterness that melds well with the wine's overriding fragrant warmth. The finish, though less than long, leaves the satisfying tang of the fruit, some tannic drying, and a mature back-taste of the nutmeg. This is a wine that is ready to drink now. Combine it with some good solid meat protein with sauces derived from thickened pan juices or with meat antipasti. Though not a wine of particular length, it presents admirable mouth-filling breadth, and it is priced to enjoy without waiting for that special occasion.

Verdict: Personality and verve
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Nebbiolo, Italian for formidable.

food writer Elliot Essman James Beard Foundation Journalism Award
James Beard Award Nominee Elliot Essman

food writer Elliot Essman James Beard Foundation Journalism Award

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