Sometimes dreams do come true, and, about a month ago, Mike Foulk and I were tasting with Mario Roagna from Val del Prete his bevy of goods. Mario is a biodynamic farmer with more wild flowers between the vines than flies on horse shit. The horse shit is from the winery’s horse named Barrique; it serves as fertilizer in the vineyard. Horse’s name is important later.
More than bio-super, he a very good taster and most excellent, most thoughtful buongustaio. One of those rarer and rarer creatures nowadays that actually likes to have a conversation where each side listens and responds to what the other person said.
We (and it seems you too!) dig his Arneis and Barbera in steel. Fresh pure wholesome fruit with just the right structure from acidity and tannins. The native yeasts on the Arneis give such a complex nose of dried flowers and, as Micali astutely noted, a vermouth-like cut. Yet, when we got to the Nebbiolo wines, our excitement dimmed as some oak obscured that freshness and complexity we so loved with the other wines (although none of the wines was crazily over-oaked).
I told Mario this. He then proceeded to grumble and think at the same time. He then responded with a question as we started to head for the car: Would we like to drink a magnum of ’83 that was fermented in cement? Shut the car door and line up them glasses. His wife scurried to a hidden cantina down the road and brought the goods. Lots of folks get excited about old wine, because it’s old. Lots of old wines are a throw of the dice, but once in a while you hit the time machine under the usher of Michael J. Fox. Or, as my friend and Roero-guru Mark reminded me recently of something Terry Theise recently wrote:
“Old wine offers us flavors we cannot taste any other way, in any other form, and in that sense it extends the very essence of what we can know about flavor itself. Also, old wine is uniquely evocative and atmospheric and fascinating; it’s like music in that respect. It makes you feel most deeply and fundamentally human. It can also show you otherwise elusive things about the nature of time.”
How was the ’83 Nebbiolo in cement? Pure, etches of time with nothing muted and that class icily more ‘profumato’ nose of Roero Nebbiolo. Mario is fermenting his 2012 in cement. I hope you be there to try it with us in 2041.