Posted by: tomciocco | October 2, 2008


Smoke ’em if you got ’em!

I’ve never understood the notion of hoarding wine. And when I say “hoarding” I don’t mean keeping a large drinking stock on hand, but rather compulsively buying case after case only to fill slots in a 5,000 cellar for its own sake.

There are the usual “collectors” that sack away the usual grossly overrated and overpriced wines, the names of which we all know, but to be fair, most of these guys (they’re almost ALWAYS guys, by the way) like to brag and show off to their friends and colleagues way too much, so they usually DO open them, but not with a special dinner with their nearest and dearest, but rather at their big Super Bowl parties. These are the same guys that decide to open that fourth, rare bottle because a buddy just topped him again with a naked waterskiing story, and because they’re waaaay too shitfaced to think better of it.  All this is bad enough, but believe it or not, there’s worse…

I once had a conversation with a customer during my days in selling wine in shops that consisted of this particular gentleman telling me that he had over 1,000 tip-top shelf bottles that he had no intention of either drinking or even selling off to make a few bucks. No sir, he proudly told me they were for bragging rights only – a way for him to rub his friends and colleagues noses in his abundant wealth and “good taste”. I stared blankly at him and thought “What an asshole.” Essentially, this man is “killing” scores of cases of great wine so he can look like a bigshot – something like a blind man collecting 60s Ferraris, or the swallowing up of racks of 50s electric guitars by someone who can’t play a note. Why bother?

I’ve said it somewhere before, and I’m sure that I’ll say it somewhere again because it bears repeating: If the wine is mature, you’ve prepared the right food to go with it, and have the people at table who can pick up what you’re laying down on one level or another, what the hell are you waiting for?! How many “perfect” or “magical” occasions can you expect in your life? A thousand bottle’s worth? Doubt it. Drink the goddamned wine, will you?! 

And for once, I took my own advice. The wine was an older Barolo, namely a wine made by a seriously underappreciated producer called SCARZELLO – more specifically a 1999 vintage Vigna Merenda – Scarzello’s top, single vineyard bottling. There are umpteen histories, reviews, maps, and analyses of the Barolo region and its wines, so I shan’t, turn down that path now, but what I will say is that Vigna Merenda is a particular little corner of the slightly better known Sarmassa vineyard, which if you ask local old-timers and conoscenti, produces wines very simliar to, and very favorably comparable to those emanating from the nearly mythical Cannubi vineyard…

I paired this beauty with a pot-roasted turkey breast with an orange-based sauce, and braised fennel bulbs. Dig it:

There are good food and wine matches, and truly great ones, and I gotta say that this one was closer to latter than former…The notes:

Scarzello Barolo Vigna Merenda 1999

Translucent, slightly browned rosey color with a blackish cast. Ever-evolving nose of worn leather, toasted fennel seed, dried cherries, shoe polish, walnuts, etc. The palate possesses a superbly balanced, deep, “transparent”, even, and velvety mouthfeel that supports woodsy flavors, strawberry preserves, pine tree oil, and tannins and notes reminiscent of fine black tea. The finsih lingers long. A very stately and well-bred wine.




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