Gaja Sito Moresco 2006 (Langhe, Italy)
Cork, $36 (375ml)
Like all wine geeks, I like the odd wine experiment. Unusual blends, bizarre wine and food matches or sticking wines in the cellar to see if something interesting will happen - these are all the activities of the wine obsessed. This experience didn't start off as a wine experiment, but after Day 2 it seemed only natural. On day 1 this wine was so closed down that I just naturally stuck it back in the decanter, waiting for something to happen. A day turned into 7, with some interesting, if challenging (for me) results.
My experience with Nebbiolo and blends is somewhat limited - I have been lucky to have scored an invite to a handful of Nebbiolo mega tastings over the years and confess a love for this capricious variety. But my exposure then has been limited to a couple of icons, all with age on them (Vietti, Roberto Voerzio, La Spinetta) and the best that Australia has to offer (Arrivo, Protero, Pizzini, Bowe Lees, Luke Lambert etc). However there remains a whole swathe of Barolos & Barbarescos that are uncharted waters. Hence the reason for trying this.
The wine itself is a blend of 35% Nebbiolo, 35% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, built in a modern style, crafted by the master Angelo Gaja, with the aim perhaps to make a wine that is far more approachable wine in its youth than the typical straight Neb (at an approachable price to boot). Which this wine definitely isn't.
The colour this was a mid red, darkened thanks to the Merlot and Cab Sauv components. The colour didn't move over the week.
On Day 1: The nose has obvious pencil shavings, leather & old oak, with hidden depths of ripe, meaty, slightly stewed fruit laying below the surface - Its largely closed for business.
On the palate it starts very gently with a sensation of lightness that always reminds me of Bordeaux. It then builds and builds and builds in structure finishing in dry, lip coating classic tannins. Its dry, cedary and all structure, no fruit to speak of, but potential plus. Back in the decanter it goes.
Day 2 and the nose is showing some volatility to match the sawdust & leather, the palate is softer, but with still just structure to speak of. No fruit. Softer tannins. Starting to question whether this might be a bad bottle. Quite undrinkable today.
Day 3 and its more open on the nose - there is even the tiniest hint of fruit! Preserved cherries, leather, sawdust. The palate is softer and the tannins integrated. Still no fruit, but with a t bone, this would probably drink ok. Still very dry and very hard work.
Day 4: The nose is more volatile today, more cedar even a hint of formic. Old wood nose, but more integrated than previous days - its getting looser and more oxidised. The palate again is quite drinkable, no fruit, but quite a nice nuttiness that feels oak derived, but is surprisingly not intrusive. I don't mind it today and with red meat it could work. It does feel a little oak driven however - as if oak tannins & flavours are whats holding it together.
Day 5: There is some oxidation showing on the nose now, The nose is becoming sweaty, gamey and I'd even say that there is some oxidised fruit. The palate is similarly tiring, its now meaty, and definitely held together by oak, the acidity is rearing up on the palate. It no longer a pleasant drink. The end nears.....
Day 6: Oxidised... fruit! Its distinctly oxidised red fruit on the nose today, on a weak, oxidised palate. Done. Largely undrinkable but not fetid.
Day 7: Gone.
Conclusions: I really struggled with this wine. I struggled to find any meat on them there bones and further struggled to resolve this with my own wine experiences. It lacked the beautiful tannins of the Piedmont's finest Nebbiolos or the interest of the Australian examples. It similarly lacked the flesh and beauty of the finest Tuscan blends. In the end I just found it a most challenging wine to drink and enjoy at any stage of the week I spent with this wine.