1993 Bricca Mira Langa Barolo
Do other hounds have opinions about this bottle of wine?
I opened it last night; it was my first barolo. Most of my limited wine experience has been with low and medium priced young California wines, so it was a departure for me. I'm not sure if the differences are a result of the age of this bottle or its origin. Probably both, right?
The first thing I noticed was color: the barolo was not a deep purple/red like the wines I'm used to. It was more transparent and had a burgundy/brown hue to it.
Taste-wise, it was much less jammy and slightly oaky. The tannins had definitely cooled off, and I could taste a few layers of flavor but can't describe them properly. The wine did have a bit of a zing, as it left an almost tingly feeling on my tongue after I was done.
Is this description normal for barolo, or did I get a bizarre bottle? I'm just trying to get a sense of what I'm looking for here.
The bottle was going for $30, which from what I can tell is a decent price for that winery.
Favorite Italian Wine I've had so far: the Allegrini La Grola (forget the year, 2003?). That was one delicious, fruity, full-bodied wine-I-want-to-chug.
The barolo was more a wine I wanted to have with food.
I have not tasted this wine but I believe the producer's name is Luigi Calissano. "Bricco Mira" would be the name of the vineyard or growth, bricco meaning the top of the hill in Piedmont dialect.
1993 was a fair to middling vintage and the wine should be approaching middle to late age of maturity. The nebbiolo grape is thin-skinned like pinot noir is and doesn't create a deeply colored opaque wine. As it ages, the color fades quite early turning an "onion skin" brownish-orange around the rim. In a blind tasting, when you see a wine with that color and you can tell from the nose that it's not dead yet, one of your best bets is that it's aged Barolo.
Because Barolo is described as the "King of Wines", most people are suprised that it's not bigger and bolder in appearance. Nebbiolo is one of the most tannic red grapes and very high in acidity as well. It's ferocious when young and from the Barolo zone needs a very long time to mature. That tannin/acid backbone is probably what gave you the zingy tingle on the tongue. Welcome to old world structure amplified in this grape variety.
The palate impression you've described is pretty much what I would expect at this point. The flavor profile is entirely outside our California reds. Two years ago I was sitting across the dinner table in Oakville with Mary Ewing Mulligan MW and the conversation turned to Barolo. We talked about how its character has changed in the last decade with more fruit expression. Mary said that she had never associated any fruit descriptors with Barolo until now. It was always about the exquisite length, structure, fragrance, and the complex of leather, tar, spice, violets, oolong, earth, mushroom, etc. but not fruit. I agree with her. If you focus in on those aspects, you will understand the traditional styles of Barolo.
But what about the aroma? Like pinot noir, nebbiolo is a wonderfully fragrant grape. I like to drink Barolo out of a Burgundy glass to highlight this character. Potpourri, violets, tar, anise, spice cake, sandalwood, truffles, dried rose petal, ginger --- these are all common to aged Barolo.
I'm not familiar with this specific wine but by your description it does sound like what you experienced had a lot to do with its age. Most people drink California reds (jammy, fruity, smooth or tannic) young and they like them that way. A 13 year old Barolo will not taste the same. Often older wines do take on a brownish color and lose some of their fruit. Barolos are made with the Nebbiolo grape which is generally a lighter grape than, say, Zin or CA cab. They can age well, buy the old ones also can easily cost over $100 so a $30 one may not be the best example of the style.
Like I said, I'm very much generalizing because I can't really afford nice Barolo and have never had this one. Hopefully, I was a little bit informative.
Oh, and Italian wines are almost always better with food, I think.