Wine Notes – Raising the Bar
Managing your expectations is an essential task in ensuring happiness and pleasure.
If you set the bar too high, you will be constantly disappointed by the outcomes. In general, I have learned to set the bar a bit lower because I enjoy being happy … except when it comes to wine. I can’t help myself. I expect every glass I drink to bring with it a feeling of enjoyment and the acknowledgement that I have made a good selection. I don’t expect to have an “Oh my God!” moment with every wine I choose, like the first time I experienced the complexity of a fantastic Napa cabernet sauvignon, or the structure and finish of a top-notch Barolo, or the flowery bouquet of a great sauvignon blanc from the Marlborough region of New Zealand. I do, however, expect that I will enjoy every wine I choose more than a mass-produced beer or a margarita. Finding new wines takes a lot of time, so I turn to the area’s wine retailers for direction, and they recommend wine that is available locally.
Recently I asked Andrea Lewis, the wine and store manager at Andover Classic Wines, to point me down a new path. She suggested that I try white wine from the Piedmont region of Italy. The Piedmont is located in northwest Italy in the foothills of the Swiss and French Alps. The region is famous for the production of nebbiolo wine from Barolo and Barbaresco, as well as barbera and dolcetto wines. I had never tasted a chardonnay from the Piedmont, never heard of arneis, and had traditionally shunned moscato for its sweetness. Lewis helped me by selecting seven bottles of these white varietals from her Piedmont collection, but had to place an order for one more that she said was the best of the region.
My sister-in-law’s 60th birthday party was that weekend, so I hosted a tasting in her honor, knowing that I would have adequate participants to consume all that wine. We opened all seven bottles at the same time and sampled each. I encourage you to open multiple bottles when you have suitable company. It’s a great study in contrasts, and also serves to introduce new people to the joys of wine tasting.
It turns out that the Piedmont region produces crisp and refreshing white wines. We settled on three favorites, but there was no “Oh my God!” moment. Have I mentioned that I’m a bit of a wine snob? Since I mostly drink red wine, the bar is set very high for a white that excites me, and I was seriously looking forward to the Roero arneis produced by Bruno Giacosa that Lewis told me was the best in the region.
Arneis is a white grape that originated in the Piedmont. Its name means “little rascal,” which gives you a sense of how difficult it is to cultivate. Arneis is naturally low in acidity, which isn’t good for white wines. It also oxidizes quickly and is prone to infection by powdery mildew. Such qualities brought this varietal to the edge of extinction, but the grape’s popularity has grown despite them. Only two producers bothered with it in the 1970s. Today, multiple producers make over a million gallons of wine from it annually.
Bruno Giacosa’s Roero arneis is among the finest white wines I have tasted. The nose is fragrant with notes of pineapples, melons and pears, and it exhibits a good balance of acidity. This translates to a crisp, clean finish and a drink that pairs well with seafood and rich buttery dishes. To be fair, the other selections I tried ranged in price from $15.99 to $26.99. This wine will set you back $33.99. In my opinion, it’s well worth the added expense. The 2016 vintage was bottled on Valentine’s Day, so it would be fitting to share a bottle with your white wine lover this year instead of chocolate … or maybe in addition to chocolate.
Bruno Giacosa passed away last January. His daughter Bruna Giacosa, a fourth-generation winemaker, has been at the company’s helm since 2006, after her father suffered a stroke. The 2016 Roero arneis is her creation, so I am looking forward to tasting her Barolo and Barbaresco offerings even though they will set me back about $100 per bottle. Some people spend their money on boats or golf. My hobby is seeking out and drinking great wine.
Find purveyors of fine wine that you can trust and are able to guide you through the different stages of your personal wine journey. Don’t be afraid to raise the bar or to open your wallet for special opportunities. Doing so, you will discover wines that will excite your palate — plus, you might make new friends to travel with along the way. Salute!
Andover Classic Wines