The Best Things Come To Those Who Wait
We know, we know. Let your wine age. Let it sit. Let it collect dust and forget about it. Then one day in, oh, let's say, 15 years time, go find that bottle and open it up to enjoy the magic of what time does to that wonderful fermented grape juice.
But who has that kind of patience? We are trying, but it sure is difficult to stay the course.
One of our favorite varietals, Nebbiolo (the grape Barolo and Barbaresco wines are made from), happens to benefit extremely well from time in the bottle. Lots of time in the bottle. It's basically a sin to open up one of these wines before they are about 10 years old, so we are told. Many producers even suggest waiting multiple decades before opening their wines.
About two and a half years ago, we bought 10 bottles of a single-vineyard Barbaresco wine from Last Bottle, a 2013 Cascina Luisin Barbaresco, Rabajà. This vineyard is one of the prized sites in the Barbaresco area and this flash sale was too good to resist - something like 65% off.
After receiving our wines, we decided to wait just a few months and give one a try at our Thanksgiving Dinner in 2018. Special day, special wine. We let the wine decant for an hour or so, and then eagerly awaited the reactions from our family members as they sipped this prized juice from this revered vineyard.
Alas, they weren't impressed, and neither were we. Even after an hour long decant, this wine was tight. Astringent, austere, grippy, and even unpleasant. It was not at all ready for consumption. What a disappointment. It's a good thing we had 9 more bottles back at home.....yikes.
At the very least, the upshot of having those other 9 bottles is that we can check in on them every now and again to see how the wine is evolving. Hopefully in a good way. What can we say, we are glass half full people!
Another year and change passes and we open another bottle on New Year's Day, 2020. Our notes from that bottle read, "4 hour decant, grippy tannins, still not ready. Wait." Oof, what is going on with this wine?!?!
Almost another year passes and we decided to check in once more on this wine, which is now about 7 years old - still just a baby in Barbaresco terms. After a 2 hour decant, this wine knocked us out right from the first whiff of the glass - this is what we have been waiting for! The aromas were expressive and full, showing both fruit and those quintessential Nebbiolo notes of tar and roses. Where this wine was once incredibly direct and grippy, there is now a smoother, more round mouthfeel. There are still plenty of tannins and acidity in this wine - it hasn't gone soft at all! The backbone and structure is still present in this wine, suggesting that it's still got LOTS of life left and can age for many more years to come. Thankfully, we have another 7 bottles resting and waiting for their opportunity to show what time brings to the glass.
Patience. We are trying. For all you Barolo and Barbaresco lovers out there, we are with you. If you are like us, and you need a Nebbiolo fix every now and again, we suggest turning to the more generally labeled Langhe Nebbiolo wines. They are considered to be "baby-Barolo" or "baby-Barbaresco" wines that are more easily consumed in their youth. These wines are a minimum of 85% Nebbiolo (but often 100%) and can be absolutely fabulous. Not only will it satisfy that Nebbiolo itch, but it will also be a little friendlier to your wallet.
Sure, "the best things come to those who wait," but can you wait too long? You sure can. Does every wine have the staying power and structure to go the distance? Nope. Do you have to wait 10 years for every wine to be ready for public consumption? Nope. We'll save that more broad topic for another day. In the meantime, cheers!