2012 Le Cantine di Indie Vino Rosso del Popolo

Hello friends. I was recently asked by Seattle Magazine to describe my best restaurant experience of the past year (for their Meet The Press section; I’ll have two articles in the November issue), and my answer was the degustazione tasting menu at Cascina Spinasse. It’s a wildly hedonistic prix-fixe that covers every single antipasto, primo and secondo on the menu, a veritable orgy of rustic, toothsome Piemontese food.

If I were to go back and do it all again, this is the bottle of wine I would bring:

Langhe Rosso is a killer category, and the only thing holding it back is the fact that the Piemontese drink most of it themselves. 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.

We offered the 2011 vintage last winter, and it was a surprise hit, a target of regular reorder requests. It’s been sold out in the Seattle market for awhile, so I was happy to see it reappear with a new vintage.

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.

The blend is 50% Nebbiolo and 30% Barbera from Bocchino’s estate vineyards, blended with 20% Dolcetto from a neighboring farmer. Like last year, the nose has been completely co-opted by the Nebbiolo, with its red cherry and leather spice, its streaks of tar and flower and citrus oil. The palate balances ripe cherry and grapey fruit from the Barbera and Dolcetto with balancing leafy Nebbiolo notes. It’s such an Italian glass of wine, with its citrus-pith acids and cherry-pit bitters. This project is a gift, a little marvel, bone-dry and deeply earthy.

It’s a bottle that screams “autumn” to me. Changing leaves, crisp nights, and a warming glass of Langhe nectar. First come first served up to 24 bottles, and the wine should arrive in about a week, at which point it will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

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