Gaja Costa Russi Langhe 1997
$380?; 14.5% alcohol; cork; drunk 4MAY10; 94+++ points
The Gaia family bought this vineyard from Russi in the Langhe in 1967. It’s officially 95% Nebbiolo and 5% Barbera, and is classified Langhe rosso. But this wine reeked of juniper and the leaves of the nightshades, which had me suspicious about the presence of Cabernet sauvignon. The wine is cone-shaped: it starts with the most elegantly slender point of the gastronomy stiletto, and just gets wider and wider until you feel like Bacchus and Pan are trying to show you something that’s bigger than your infant sensories can handle. The initial aroma was estery, with a musk and banana fringe on the classic Nebbiolo medlar berries and raspberry. Then came those leafy vegetals, and by then we were in too far: black tea tin led to pure carbon blacks, the coal scuttle, and the boiler oven. The final mighty tannins are junipery, and are matched by astonishing natural acidity. A very very fine wine indeed. Royalty. Remember to wave as you go down!
Michael Dransfield wasn’t quite writing about Nebbiolo when he suggested:
… send the dream-transfusion out
on a voyage among your body machinery.
Hits you like sleep - sweet, illusory, fast,
with a semblance of forever.
For a while the fires die down in you
until you die down in the fires.
Once you have become a drug addict
You will never want to be anything else
But you get my drift, don’t you.
Pizzini King Valley Nebbiolo 2005
$35; 14.3% alcohol; cork; drunk 7-8MAY10; 79++ points
Hard to work out whether this one’s intense or just plain tense. It doesn’t exactly jump with raspberry. Instead, it seems more along the lines of harness leather and old tobacco pouches, and its tannins quickly move from velvet to dolomite, without floating on a cloud above the fruit palate. It seems therefore to be made in the SuperTuscan mould, rather than as a pure and simple Nebbiolo. It’s still good, almost grand wine. But it has a sullen, surly density that almost threatens me. Open for a whole day, it begins to show some fruit sinuousity, but those black tannins are still almost violently dominant. Silence is violence.