Life is better on the corner, the place where great wines meet reasonable prices!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Quality And Value In Piemonte Reds

"...happiness is given to [people] who were born where good wines are grown…” Leonardo da Vinci

Some of the finest wines in the world are born among the hills in Piemonte (Piedmont), embraced by the open arms of the Alps. It is here that the Grimaldi family has made its home, forging its reputation for fine wines that will not break the bank. 


In 1957 Giacomo Grimaldi began selling grapes and by the early ‘60s he had progressed to the production of jug wines. By the ‘90s the present owners, Bruna Grimaldi and Franco Fiorino, had begun the winery's transformation, pursuing contemporary and sustainable farming and elevating the quality of the wines.  The result can be seen in four wines I recently tasted: 2011 Barbera d’Alba Superiore Scassa; 2011 Nebbiolo d’Alba Briccola; 2010 Camilla Barolo; 2009 Badarina Barolo. Each one pleases the nose and the palate at a price point that will not hurt the wallet. 

Samples kindly shared by Massanois Fine Wines
Barbera d’Alba is a lovely representation of the Barbera varietal. It's wine which are characteristically Italian, bright, juicy with red fruit and plum and very approachable while young.  They also demand a lower price than their more revered nebbiolo-derived neighbors, Barolo. Their youthful accessibility, food friendly character and price also make them a great choice for restaurant food pairing.

In their 2011 Barbera d’Alba Superiore Scassa – Bruna and Franco provide a delightfully disheveled wine, nonchalantly lacking in sharp edges. The Barbera displays a bright red fruit and plum overlaid like a coulis on mushrooms, herbs and game. A truly worthy effort, lifted by ample acidity and revealing hints of clove and orange zest on the finish. This one made me hungry - so I ran to the fridge for some cheese to enjoy with it.  $20-25/btl. Drink now.  88 points.

Bruna and Franco make a wonderful range of Nebbiolo-based wines, the pinnacle of which are their Barolo. 

Barolo finds its genesis in the Nebbiolo grape of Piemonte generating translucent, light colored and light body, tannic wines with high acidity. Made well, a Barolo is a bright, textured and age-worthy wine that yield characteristics of rose petal, cherries, spice and even tar in their aromatics and on the palate.  Their tannic structure can make them difficult to approach in their youth but provides a spine upon which great evolutionary trajectories can be built.  If you do not have the patience or do not want to spend the requisite $40-400/bottle, Nebbiolo d’Alba provides an entry point for beautiful energetic, food friendly wines from the Nebbiolo grape at a fraction of the cost ($20-40).

2011 Nebbiolo d’Alba Briccola - Nose shows wonderful ripe red currants, cherries and herbs, sweet oaky vanilla and spice.  The front of palate is supple and light, displaying lots of the ripe red currant fruit without cloying. The mid-palate opens up to a broad open knit swathe of juicy, herby energy finishing long with a nice combination of red fruit, plum skin, spice and forest floor/garni, overlaid on crushed stone tannin. It’s a  lovely wine with an open affect. Delicious!  Did anyone say Prosciutto and dried fruit?  $20-25/btl. Drink now and over the incoming few years. 89 points.

2010 Camilla Barolo - Bricked translucent crimson in the glass, the nose was initially reticent.  However, with 30+ minutes of air it opened to reveal a wealth of subtle fresh aromas - violets and rose petals, anise, Christmas spice and leather cherries/raspberries/dried cranberries. The palate is layered with fresh cherries, strawberries, raspberry compote and dried cranberries. Candied, spiced oranges, earthy herb and hints of cola round out the play list. Everything harmonizes with excessive volume from any one instrument. The Camilla is supple, lithe, and light on its feet. It skips across your palate, touching every nook and cranny. Fine-grained acidity leaves the same sensation one gets after biting into a granny smith apple and offers up a tinge of minerality on the finish. It pairs wonderfully with a rustic Fettuccine carbonara, laced with shards of crispy bacon. $30-35/btl. Drink over the next 5-10 years. 90-91 points

This is a delight. The Camilla brings to mind childhood memories of sitting on the beaches of Co. Down in N. Ireland, eating fresh-picked summer fruit with my sister, wrapped in a blanket against the wind, warm sun sneaking out from behind the clouds to chase a salty drop of sea water down my cheek to my mouth.  Camilla finishes well, with dried cherries, chased by herbs, a kick of salinity and tangy spice-infused acidity.   BTW – if you have never been to Ireland, put it on your bucket list.

2009 Badarina Barolo – The Badarina is dark crimson in color and wonderfully translucent against the page. I opened it, let it breathe for an hour and poured without decanting. The nose is beautiful, displaying notes of cherry, dried red fruit, rose petals, anise and cloves. On the palate, fruit and spice are elevated by an incisive acidity. Once again, red fruit, herb, clove predominate in an ample finish edged by licorice and fennel and the savory minerality of cured meats. The Badarina is well balanced, mid-weight and energetic.

Everything about this wine says enjoy with food – outside on a warm spring afternoon. Unfortunately, the rain was also pouring tonight but we made the best of it. We enjoyed the wine with fresh-baked crusty bread and a plate of great Salumi, Prosciutto and Pastrami with Toscano, Chèvre and Stilton cheese. It was served family-style and I sipped it contentedly with our kids around our feet, devouring some brick-oven pizza. 

Wine, cheese and cured meat - the great taste of a Saturday night.

Summary - Early maturing, the Badarina emerged wonderfully over 3 hours, with the fruit intensifying over time. It also performed very well with the flavors, saltiness and fat content in these foods. The Badarina was a delight and will drink well over the next 10+ years but you don’t have to wait that long.  You need only be a little patient. Let it breathe, and enjoy it with food that complements – not competes. At around $50/btl, I will buy some more. It is absolutely worth the price of admission. Drink over the next 10-15 years, although with a little air, one need not wait too long. 90-92 points

After all is said and done - this is a wonderful collection of wines from Bruna Grimaldi. I would be happy to see any of them on my wine list in the near future.

Buon appetito!

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Frankie Cook said...

I'm hungry and thirst after reading that - great post!

Cheers, @frankstero

Andy McCallion said...

Thanks Frank - it was great food wine.

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