And life gets more exciting with each passing day.
And love is either in your heart, or on its way.
These lyrics from the classic Frank Sinatra ballad are a perfect descriptor for the ageless wines from the historic region of Barolo, Italy. Together with the two other powerhouses of the Italian trifecta—the nearby Barbaresco and the Tuscany kingpin Brunello di Montalcino—these extraordinary wines constitute the three Big B’s of Italy. Italian native Mauro Cirilli recently returned to the San Francisco Wine Center to enlighten wine lovers on the captivating mysteries of the Big B’s. Previously working as a Sommelier at prestigious hotels and restaurants throughout Italy, Mauro is currently the Wine Director of Press Club in San Francisco and also heads the newly formed North American Sommelier Association. With the help of a marvelous lineup of wines including producers such as Gaja, Vietti, Poggio Antico, Mauro led the class on an enchanting exploration of these three regions and both the classic and modern styles that are produced there. Here’s a taste of what we learned…
Barolo presents the most dramatic and dense expressions of the Nebbiolo grape, known by their pronounced tannin and acidity, as well as a rich body and aromas of roses and tar. As some of the world’s most ageable wines, it can take upwards of 15 years or more before these can be pleasantly enjoyable to the human palate. What many found most intriguing in our lineup of wines was the 1990 Parusso Barolo Mariondino. Upon first opening the bottle and pouring a bit into a glass, a pungent and acerbic acidity radiated from the glass. At first whiff, it seemed like this wine was not only past its prime, but had already crossed into the afterlife of wine. Mauro then poured himself a small glass and put it up to his nose, swirled, smelled again, and proceded to taste. With a reassuing expression on his face, he told everyone to just let the wine breath for a few minutes and that all would soon be understood. After tasting through a large portion of the wines on the list, we finally met again with the patient Parusso. To our astonishment, that sharp acid was no longer but instead a flurry of earthy minerals and dried fruit aromas waltzed into our noses and onto our palates. It was as if this wine was not dead at all but very alive with maturity and supple grace. After seeing everyone’s expression while tasting this wine, Mauro looked pleased. In his attempt to explain this less than subtle phenomenon, he simply said, “See, he’s not dead… Just tired and needed a moment to wake up and express himself.” Bravo! We cried. After all, that begins with B too.