Lifestyle

An Astounding Barbaresco


The 2004 Giuseppe Cortese Barbaresco Rabajà is a marvelous wine. Rich yet elegant, intense but far from heavy. Buy it if you can find it

One of the greatest surprises that await the first-time visitor to Italy is the realization that after traveling a mere hundred kilometers he or she is confronted with a wholly new and different cuisine.

Each region has its own particular cucina, especially when it comes to pasta, and in Langhe, south of Alba in Piedmont, it is tajarin, a thin, yellow tagliatelle made with up to twice the number of eggs as the conventional kind. It's yellow from all those extra egg yolks, and incredibly rich… yum!

A Memorable Meal

On a recent visit to explore the wines of the region—Barbaresco and Barolo—I found myself eating it every day. This certainly wasn't hardship rations, at least for a short time, and the best example I encountered was served at the unpretentious Trattoria Antica Torre in the hilltop village of Barbaresco. It came with a simple topping of ground veal and diced tomatoes, and a bottle of the wonderful Giuseppe Cortese Barbaresco Rabajà 2004 ($45), Rabajà being a single, and highly esteemed, vineyard of which the Cortese family owns a part.

Thanks to the almost 60-year-old vines and Cortese's traditional, restrained approach to winemaking—he uses large botti rather than the currently fashionable smaller, new-oak bariques to age his wines—the results are astounding. Rich yet elegant, concentrated and intense but far from heavy, the Rabajà is redolent of red fruit and floral aromas at the moment, and went as well with the preceding vitello tonnato and the subsequent rabbit wrapped in pancetta (it was one of those Italian lunches) as it did with the tajarin.

With time, as it evolves and deepens, it will develop darker, earthier tones, and be more appropriate for roast meats and stews, but for me it will always remain a memorable wine from a memorable meal in that memorable hilltop village.

WOW Rating:

When to Drink: Now, and for the next 10 years.

Breathing/Decanting: Needs one hour breathing.

Food Pairing: See the above text.

Grapes: 100% nebbiolo

Appellation: Barbaresco

Region: Piedmont

Country: Italy

Price: $45

Availability: Limited

See more wines at www.nickonwine.com.

Nick Passmore is an independent wine writer and consultant based in New York. For five years he contributed a widely read monthly wine column to Forbes.com, in addition to which his work has appeared in such publications as Forbes, Discover, Town Country, the Robb Report, the Wine Enthusiast, Saveur, Sky, and Golf Connoisseur. He is currently Artisanal Editor for Four Seasons magazine and contributes the Nick Passmore: Wine of the Week column to BusinessWeek.com. He is also a judge at the widely respected annual Critics' Challenge wine competition.

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