Other Older Italian Wines

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Most of these wines are made from Nebbiolo, and are primarily from eastern Piedmont - closer to Milano than to Barolo. They don't have the structure and depth of good Barolo / Barbaresco, but they do live a very long time, and they have the potential to provide a lot of drinking pleasure - and the thrill of tasting a good old wine at a low price. There are some other interesting, even curious wines from other parts of Italy included in the list below.

We admire the handy carrying-case the magnums in the photo above were sold in, and also the funky, hand-made squat bottles. Ciro, as you may know, is from Calabria, at the southern tip of Italy; the grape used is Gaglioppo, which is quite distinctive, and which has something of the tannic structure of Nebbiolo. A recent tasting of old vintages of Ciro proved that it can also live into old age. It has long been rumored that in the past some wine from southern Italy would be added to Nebbiolo - in violation of the law. This was mostly to give some color to Nebbiolo, which can be very pale, and also some fruit and richness, especially in leaner vintages. I've certainly tasted old Barolo that was clearly fortified with some other kind of wine - at least Barbera, if not Gaglioppo, Primitivo, etc. It's usually pretty obvious - those wines have all been good, but lack the typicity of the real thing. Even in our time, I have heard mutterings about tanker trucks 'from the south' arriving in the night.This might just be gossip, as it seems hard to credit that anyone would take such risks, but then again, look at Montalcino. With this in mind, I find the bottles in the photo above particularly interesting: it shows Ciro (from Calabria) and Ghemme (from Piedmont) as bottled and marketed by Bertolo, a wine merchant from Torino. It was very common in the past for merchants to buy wine in bulk and bottle it for retail sale. This is the only example I've seen of a southern wine being bottled in the north - and clearly labeled as such... Jamie Wolff

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