Friday, February 09, 2007

Velours Monferrato Rosso DOC: A new wine from Tenuta I Quaranta, and a Very Pleasant Surprise

Italians have always blended grapes to produce a sum greater than the parts -- the most obvious examples that come to mind are Chianti, traditionally a blend of Sangiovese and Canaiolo, with other lesser varietals including Colorino and Mammolo (now one often finds French varietals as well), and Valpolicella, which traditionally consists of Corvina Veronese, Rondinella, and Molinara (no longer required), with other lesser varietals.
And people blend in Piemonte too; in Langa the traditional combination was Barbera, for lively acidity and aromas, and Nebbiolo, for backbone and grace. And a nice combination it is, but what to do outside of Langa, where the Barbera grows very well but Nebbiolo fizzles?
Annalisa, whose Tenuta I Quaranta is in the Astigiano, decided to combine her Barbera with Cabernet Sauvignon, and I must say I was impressed.

The 2004 vintage of Velours (lot 01 06) is deep, black cherry ruby, and has an elegant nose with bright, rich lively acidity mingled with ripe slightly sour cherries and currants, with deft slightly greenish vegetal notes that provide contrast and definition (Cabernet's contribution), and nice oak that bolsters but doesn't overshadow. A lot going on, and quite nice. The palate reflects the nose; it's lively and elegant, with a very nice balance between acidity and structure, with lively sour Barbera fruit complemented by shadowy greenish notes from the Cabernet, sweet rich tannins that have slight savory accents, and all flowing into a clean long finish with some bitterness and graphite.

As I said, impressive, in a clean international key -- Leonardo Romanelli, whom I tasted it with, nodded and said it was nice to encounter a well-made modern style wine -- it has a pleasingly rich gracefulness, and is well worth seeking out to enjoy with grilled red meats, or light stews. It is quite drinkable now, but I would give it another year.
2 stars

Bottom line: A wine that works very well, and, I hope, gives others ideas. Barbera does complement Cabernet nicely, and I'd like to see more examples of this blend.

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