I am, as you are all aware, never ever prone to hyperbole, strange allegory or even sarcasm, but I do believe I’ve found the Wine That Saved Christmas.
Deep in the hills of Piedmont, Barbera has always played Robin to Nebbiolo’s Batman, relegated to the slopes deemed unworthy of its nobler half-brother. Indeed, there’s Barbera planted all over the hills of Barolo and Barbaresco, but a wine made from that grape in those villages can never be called by those village names for the same reason Jon Snow could never be a Stark. In many iterations Barbera owns that sidecar, when grown as an afterthought it can be jammy and juicy, shallow and weak, not something you’d age or talk about, except for…
The hills of Nizza Monferrato in Asti (a UNESCO site) are the upside-down kingdom where Barbera rules the world and makes bold, legendary wines. Here, Barbera gets the best vineyards, like Tenuta Aluffi in the south that lays on deep sand and gives concentrated fruit in minuscule quantities. In the middle of that estate sits the world’s best Cru for Barbera, producing wines that match or surpass the arc, intensity and frame of many Barolos: La Court.
Michele Chiarlo’s 2015 La Court Barbera Riserva is fireworks in a bottle, Barbera’s natural zing is tempered by fruit weight and the silky layers that years in spicy Slovenian casks can bring. Black cherries, violets and dark chocolate on the nose, a full, dense body in the mouth but the finish is weightless, electric and persistent. This can go a decade standing on its head but is in glorious balance now, an assertion you can confirm when we open it on Saturday at 3pm in the River District Vintage Room.
How does this wine “Save Christmas”? Two reasons: First, I was exaggerating. Second, La Court has the perfect mix of attributes to roll with the culinary punches that the Holiday season can throw. It’s bold and full without being heavy or lugubrious, it can duet with appies, steaks, chestnuts, cheeses, fondues and even those little quiches that have no legitimate reason to exist. It has the structure to handle proteins but not enough to drink all fuzzy without them. It has the acidity to match most foods but not so much that food is necessary: it pairs with itself nicely. It has a great rating (for those guests who clandestinely Vivino your wine while you’re preoccupied – you know who they are) without the price tag to match. Having La Court on hand is like dating a party planner: you are ready for anything.
I shoulda bought more of it.
Michele Chiarlo "La Court" Nizza Riserva DOCG 2015. 95 points Wine Enthusiast, 10 6-packs available, $64.99 +tax
Back in a couple days with brand new, exclusive Oregon Pinots!! Until then,