2011 Le Cantine di Indie Vino Rosso del Popolo

Hello friends. We all know this: everything tastes better on vacation.

But why?

I suspect it’s largely due to the oddball effect, an idea I first encountered in a remarkable New Yorker profile of neuroscientist David Eagleman by Burkhard Bilger back in 2011. Bilger writes about the oddball effect via “an optical illusion that Eagleman had shown me in his lab. It consisted of a series of simple images flashing on a computer screen. Most of the time, the same picture was repeated again and again: a plain brown shoe. But every so often a flower would appear instead. To my mind, the change was a matter of timing as well as of content: the flower would stay onscreen much longer than the shoe. But Eagleman insisted that all the pictures appeared for the same length of time. The only difference was the degree of attention that I paid to them. The shoe, by its third or fourth appearance, barely made an impression. The flower, more rare, lingered and blossomed, like those childhood summers.”

This effect, according to Eagleman, explains why “Time is this rubbery thing. It stretches out when you really turn your brain resources on, and when you say, ‘Oh, I got this, everything is as expected,’ it shrinks up.” In other words, when your brain is experiencing new impulses, it slows your sense of time down, and you experience them more fully. You pay more attention to the fonduta con tartufi when you’re sitting in a restaurant in the Piedmont because the experience is utterly unfamiliar. The mac-and-cheese you make every Wednesday you barely notice anymore.

The oddball effect explains a lot, but it doesn’t explain it all. Sometimes things taste better on vacation because the locals keep the choicest parcels for themselves:

Langhe Rosso is not a category that shows up too frequently outside of, well, the Langhe itself. We get plenty of exports of Nebbiolo, Barbera, and Dolcetto, bottled varietally. But the declassified blends of the three grapes, the ones that are vinified unfussily and well-loved by the locals for their food-friendly rusticity and early-drinking character and easy-on-the-wallet price? Those stay home. Mostly.

Fortunately, the folks at Indie Wineries (a terrific importer of small-production, hand-crafted wines) managed to talk one of their Piedmont producers into bottling a Langhe Rosso just for them. They created a new label (Le Cantine di Indie) and called the wine Vino Rosso del Popolo: red wine of the people.

They don’t shout it, but if you look closely at the small print on the label, you can determine who is actually making this wine. The pertinent text: “Estate Bottled By: Eugenio Bocchino – La Morra – Italia.” Bocchino is a tiny producer who farms biodynamically and makes a full range of Barolos, Barberas, and Dolcettos. I’m not sure if a single American reviewer has written a word about Bocchino. He’s still well under the radar here, but not so much in Europe, where some high praise from no less than Jancis Robinson has put the Bocchino wines under a measure of sales pressure.

Here Bocchino blends 50% Nebbiolo from his estate vineyards, 30% Barbera also from his estate vineyards, and 20% Dolcetto purchased from a neighbor. The nose screams Nebbiolo, which is clearly dominating the aromatics of the other two varietals. It’s all fig and tar and rose and sweet spice. The palate is like a fleshier, more accessible Nebbiolo, and there is a helluva lot of stuffing here for a sub-$15 tariff. Black and purple fruit (thank you Dolcetto) dances with big earthy notes, angostura bitters, and a big tarry streak. Every time I get near this wine I want to cook Piemontese food: Tajarin al Sugo d’Arrosto (pasta with sauce made from the drippings of a roast) or Brasato al Barolo (beef braised in Barolo) or Tagliatele di Castagne con Ragù d’Anatra (chestnut tagliatelle with duck ragu). It drinks great now, but there is enough Barbera acidity and Nebbiolo tannic chew to suggest a few years in bottle wouldn’t hurt this at all. A remarkable value and a good way to make time slow down via the power of a new experience.

First come first served up to 12 bottles, and the wine should arrive in about a week, at which point it will be ready for pickup or shipping during the spring shipping window.

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