Tar and Roses – A Band or Barolo?

It can be intimidating to walk through the Italian section of a wine shop. There are so many choices and bottle types that appear to make no real sense unless you have spent some time learning about Italian wine and grapes.

Today we are focused on Barolo – a classic wine from northern Italy known for long aging and pairing well with food (anything, really). This is an approachable wine that doesn’t always require years of cellaring to enjoy, and it’s a perfect choice for a dinner party or a night in at home. And, yes, you CAN smell tar and roses in this wine, as the title says!


Great Wines

This is one of the best wineries in Barolo that is highly regarded but still affordable. While the family has been involved in wine since the 1800s, Aldo Vaira started making wine in 1968 at the age of fifteen. The wine is called Vajra due to a printing error on the label that was too expensive to fix.

The winery is certified organic and was a pioneer in the area in organic practices. Their wine is made in a mostly traditional style (check out the Nebbiolo article to understand more about this).

The Vajra Barolo is a blend of different estate vineyards and was harvested later in the season which is key to better grape ripening. Newer technology was used in the fermentation process with vertical tanks. Malolactic fermentation took place in steel tanks, but the wine was aged in traditional Slavonian oak botti for almost 36 months.

This powerful wine with a garnet red color hits the nose right away. Roses, dry herbs like rosemary and mint, black cherries, and tar combine to create a typical Barolo aroma. The palate is similar with a strong sense of tart raspberries, dried flowers, and more mint.

The wine is dry with high acidity but with finer elegant tannins that keep everything in check. If you can avoid opening it, this is one to pick up right now and keep for a few years.

Italian food, Beef stew, Impressing the boss

Ellena Giuseppe is owned by father, Giuseppe Ellena, and son, Mateo Ellena. They started the winery in 2009 after Mateo spent time with very exclusive Barolo producers learning their techniques. The teams almost 12 acre vineyard in the commune of La Morra is organic and has fairly low yields of grapes.

Mateo follows a mostly traditional path to making wine. The grapes are fermented in tanks at higher temperatures and the wine has 60 day contact with the skins.  This long period of time helps the wine to take on color and tannins.  They use no chemical processes or filtration to alter the final wine which provides a pure expression of the Barolo terroir.

The wine we tasted was fermented with wild yeast and aged in a combination of botti and smaller barrels for 30 months.

This wine is a beautifully intense deep garnet in the glass and the aromas dance on the nose as soon as it is poured. This is a beautiful expression of Barolo. The scents of raspberries, cherries, tar, and dried flowers are fairly pronounced and are inviting to the palate which has a similar profile.

This is a dinner wine for sure, so pop this in a decanter, grab some rustic cheeses or grilled or smoked meats and enjoy the bottle.

Smoked meat, Farm style cheese

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