Some cliches are truly cliches for a reason.
It is already quite well established that most people’s typical wine journey goes from New World Californian/Australian wines to Bordeaux, then Burgundy. If you have enough money, you can stay here for a very long time, otherwise you will need to move on to other wine regions that are producing relatively affordable wines, namely Loire, Rhone, Jura for the geekier ones and of course, Piedmont.
Why make the move to Italy? Piedmont has the same sort of history and clear expression of terroir. Judging from Galloni’s notes of the wines from the region throughout the years, the region has clearly risen in quality overall and worldwide distribution of the wines better than ever before. Nebbiolo makes wines that have fantastic acidity, depth but are quite tannic in its youth. Increasingly, more modern wineries are creating more easily approachable wines. This is all well said and done, yet this is something repeated verbatim from critics or read from the internet and nothing that I personally understood at the time.
Then finally, I got it. Like damn, I had a palpable eureka moment that pushed the momentum forward, which was Giuseppe Mascarello e Figlio Barolo Villero 2012. It was at another company’s portfolio tasting and I was walking through the typical regions of Bordeaux and Burgundy. Frustrated by the lines, I turned towards the Italians. Not expecting anything about the name of the producer or the vineyard, the wine blew me away. The fruit is exceptionally rich and layered, starting with ripe strawberry notes that fade into sweet red plum and then intense black plum. There is a hint of mushroom and barnyard that gives way to the tobacco, chocolate and spice of the oak. All of it blends seamlessly back and forth with the fruit, created infinite dimension, layer and complexity in the nose and mouth. I distinctly remember the smooth and incredibly lush texture of the wines most poignantly and the finish goes on forever. The acidity was evident and the structure secure, however it was surprisingly easy to drink. Thinking it was all a fluke, I revisited the wine later as the cork was freshly pulled. POP! The wine replicated its magic in the second bottle.
Again as they say, the rest is history. Reading back on the wine now, it is still surprising that this bottle of all bottles, was the one that flipped the switch. Giuseppe Mascarello e Figlio is certainly a key representative producer of the region but 2012 was not a great vintage per se for Barolos. Villero, while a great single vineyard, is not its top cuvée Monprivato. Nevertheless it is truly a freakin’ spectacular one that makes the books as one of the best wines I’ve tasted this year (and there were many greats).
Find this if you can — it’s definitely worth the money and cheaper than Burgundy!