Despite what the statistics suggest, that better than 87% of fine wine made today is meant to be consumed within one to two years of bottling, frequently the stars align to create a wine that really benefits from continued time in the bottle. My students know that I am a huge proponent of aging wine, including those bottles that do not demand to be aged. I espouse the many benefits of this practice: from allowing a wine time to improve; to the educational value of tasting a wine throughout its life and thereby fully understanding the mystery of wine; to the often jaw-dropping impact of pulling an unavailable gem from the dark reaches of one’s cellar to share with the best of friends.
In my usual perusal of the various wine shop circulars that arrive in my mailbox, my attention was piqued by an “older” wine – a 2005 Barbera del Monferrato from Cantine Valpane, their Perlydia bottling. Now 2005 isn’t particularly old at 10 years, but Barbera is not known to make long-aging wine. I eyed the tasting note from the store and decided that more research was warranted.
Cantine Valpane is a historic winery located in the Monferrato wine making region of Piedmont in northwest Italy. The winery website states that the present owners, the Arditi family have owned the property for over 100 years and during that time have sought to maintain the highest quality, while creating wines, specifically Barbera-based that exemplify the unique character of the Monferrato region. The Valpane vineyards, unlike those in Alba and Asti, the two bastions of Barbera in Piedmont, are planted in soils heavy in limestone and clay, which imparts an earthy minerality often not found in Barbera. Additionally, the DOC rules for Barbera del Monferrato allow for the inclusion of the Friesa grape to the blend, which contributes lively, fragrant touches to the wine.
When one examines how the Cantine Valpane Barbera is produced, it is no surprise that the wine can age and frankly, should age to present its best version of itself. From the Kermit Lynch website:
The grapes are late-harvested from vines that average 5 – 10 years in age. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel and cement tanks and lasts 21-23 days. Following fermentation the wine is further aged 2-5 years in stainless steel and cement tanks before bottling. To ensure optimal smoothness, the wine is aged another year in bottle before its release. No Friesa is used in the blend of the “Perlydia” bottling.(“Perlydia” translates to: “for Lydia,” who is Pietro’s aunt who ran the estate before him.)
My own analysis, 10 years after the wine was made? Simply magnificent. The wine is smooth, mellow and possesses layered complexity with soft fruit, fragrant floral and rustic earthy notes. The wine is clearly Barbera in nature, with bright cherry flavors and a slight bite of acid that gives the wine impressive structure.
The most impressive thing about the wine… the price… at $17.99 per bottle before a discount, this wine is a steal. Very rarely do you get to possess a wine with 10 years of age that shows improvement and the longevity to continue to improve for this price. Where did I find the wine? At my friends at The Wine & Cheese Cask in Somerville, MA – it’s in their July-August Newsletter!