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05.24.2004

1995 Ovello Barbaresco Riserva, Piemonte, Italy

This is the secret forgotten wine. The frozen man of wine, stuck in a glacier and thawed out in someones backyard. Or filed away in an importers warehouse, like the Ark of the Covenant in Indiana Jones and Raiders of the Lost Ark.

But then what happens when the importer goes out of business ? People who know people get to scoop up amazing values and interesting wines that should have been off the marketplace years ago.

Of course, I'm making it sound like an exclusive thing, which its not (you can get it various places on the Internet) but it was surprising to me to come across a wine this old on the market for what amounts to peanuts.

I am a big fan of Italian wine, and in particular the wines of Piedmont, Barbaresco and Barolo. Barbaresco technically comes only from the small village of the same name, which is a sub-appellation to the Piemonte region. Many wines called Barbaresco are made in a small radius of this town by names both big and small. If you're interested in learning more about Barbaresco, check out this fabulous history of the wine compiled by an Italian Enology professor at the University of Alba, as well as the english language regulations of the DOCG on how Barbaresco must be made in order to receive its designation.

One of the main producers in the region is actually a collective known as Produttori del Barbaresco, which makes small quantities of single vineyard designate wines named simply after the vineyards: Asili, Pora, Rabaja, Ovello, Mocagatta and Rio Sordo. The wines made from these producers range in price from good values in the $30 range to the creme-de-la-creme Rabaja which in good years can run upwards of $100.

Other than the oversight which led to my acquisition of this wine for next to nothing, I don't know too much about it. However, given the strict rules of the appellation around production, and an understanding that the 1995 vintage in Piedmont was above average to excellent, we can get somewhat of an understanding of this wine.

What I would really like to know, and my research so far has been unable to yield, is exactly where this vineyard is and what is its story. I am prepared to live with the mystery however, and simply relish the result.

Tasting Notes:
This wine is clearly old, displaying a solid brick red in color, but one that shows hints of having arrived there recently. The nose is a classic one for an aged Niebbolo: caramel and cassis, with slight Madiera and burnt sugar notes. On the palate it is velvety with flavors of redcurrant, smoke, rasberry, and toasted oak. I love the way the tannins in Barbaresco age into the depth of the wine, and give it a mysterious sultry, Sophia Loren quality. That having been said, this wine did not have as deep a resonance as it could have, and while it was clearly aging well and will keep for several years, I think I would have enjoyed it more about 3 or 4 years ago. I intend to drink the rest of my stock in the next 6 months.

Food Pairing:
I find that these wines go well with roasted meats as well as tomato and eggplant based dishes. We drank it with some friends who had prepared a vegetable moussaka.

Overall Score: 8

How Much?: Incredibly, you can buy this wine for under $20 if you look hard enough. It retails for $40 to $60 ordinarily.

Where to find it? I got mine from the folks at Wine Expo in Santa Monica, but they quickly blew through the amount they had. Try K&L online. Wine.Com had some for a while.

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