Friday, August 15, 2014

Drinking Barolo and Eating Rose Petals

I've written before about how long to store and age wine (the question of "when to drink") and admitted that I often wait too long to drink wines, because I'm saving them for the perfect occasion.  Well, recently I opened a wine that I'd been saving, and I think I got the timing just about right (if not early), so I thought I'd share my experience.

I purchased a 2003 Prunotto Barolo about 6 years ago and had been storing it in a wine fridge.  A Barolo is a type of wine (DOCG level) from Piedmont in northern Italy which is made from the Nebbiolo grape.  Many Barolos can age and improve for decades.  They can be very expensive, but Prunotto is mid-range.  To decide when to drink my bottle, I did a little research online.  Some sites recommended aging this wine for a few more years to reach its peak, while quite a few of the personal reviews from those who had tasted the wine suggested it was time to drink now.  Since I had the right occasion coming up - the birthday of a friend who loves big, red wines - I decided to go ahead and open it.

The typical aromas of Barolo (and Nebbiolo) are roses and tar, and they usually have a lot of acid and tannin.  This Barolo had aromas of fresh and dried cherries, along with floral and earthy qualities.  The flavors basically matched the aromas, with an earthy, savory finish.  It tasted great.

As wines age, their characteristics change:
  • fresh fruit aromas/flavors turn to dried fruit
  • fruity aromas/flavors diminish, while non-fruit aromas become more prominent
  • acid levels diminish
  • tannin levels diminish (the tannin molecules join together and precipitate out of the wine, creating sediment)
So, did I drink this wine at the right time?  Yes and no.  I could have waited longer, because the wine still had lots of fruit aromas, lots of acid, lots of tannin, and surprisingly little sediment.  This tells me it could have aged longer and developed more complex aromas.  On the other hand, 11 years is a decent amount of bottle aging, the wine was delicious, and it was a good choice for the occasion.  I don't regret drinking it, but the next time I have a bottle of Barolo, I'll probably give it a few more years.

Here's what we drank it with:

Fresh bread and sharp cheese are always a good idea.  The espresso rind on this cheese made it especially good with the earthy flavors in the Barolo.

Sundried tomato tapenade and sausage are great options with Italian wines.

 Of course, cherries went well with the cherry aromas in the wine.

Because of the typical rose aroma, I thought it would be fun to smell/taste with actual, edible rose petals.  I bought these candied rose petals online, and they paired really well!  (The ingredients are just rose petals and sugar.)

Dark chocolate is usually good with big red wines.

We also had a few other cheeses, some wine crackers, and fresh tomatoes with balsamic vinegar.

The full spread:

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