AR. PE. PE. Tasting at Morrell

Yesterday’s tasting at Morrell & Company with Isabella Pelizzatti Perego of AR.PE.PE was absolutely eye-opening. The steep, South-facing slopes of the long and narrow Valtelina DOCG can only be compared to the vertigo-inducing slopes of the Mosel. This is truly a mountain-wine. We had the opportunity to taste four different vintages side by side, 2007 to 2005 and the excellent 2002, as well as discuss the merits of each vineyard, vintage and wine. Isabella’s insights allowed us to really see the depth and potential of these gems. While all the wines were delicious, my two favorites were the Sassella Riserva Vigna Regina and the Sassella Riserva Rocce Rosse from the marvelous 2007 vintage. Wines of ARPEPE, especially the singe vineyards, spend between three and five years in 5000L chestnut botti, and then three years or more in the bottle. Thus, when they are released, these wines are more immediately enjoyable than many of the current release Nebbiolos. That is not to say that these wines are mature or anywhere close to peak. All the wines we tasted, including the 17-year-old 2002, were fresh, vibrant and quite young. 

We began with the Grumello Riserva Buon Consiglio 2007 and 2005. The 2007 showed loads of dark cherry on the nose, along with hints of roses and tar, the mid was ripe with juicy black cherry, pepper and savory herbs. It got more tannic toward the back palate, leading to a spicy, refreshing finish. The 2005 followed suit, but with softer, earthier tones, more rustic on the palate, with sage and chewy, tart red fruit. Cranberry notes became entangled with the riper pomegranate and cherry, leading to a fresh, bright finish. The wine is lighter than the 07, but more lifted, with exotic notes and spices. 

We then moved on to my two favorite wines of the day, if one has to choose. The 2007 Sassella Riserva Vigna Regina and Sassella Riserva Rocce Rosse were both the epitome of what I would consider mountain-Nebbiolo - floral, mineral, with a rustic, earthy touch. The steep slopes of Vigna Regina are home to some of the oldest vines, and that shows in the complexity of the wine. Notes of blue and red flowers mix with crushed rock and cherry on the nose. The palate is rustic, with iron, ripe black cherry and a smoky, earthy feel. This is a powerful, dark and brooding wine. The Rocce Rosse plays the other side of the equation, more mineral-driven, lighter, with sour cherry tones and redder fruit. It turns toward the sweeter, exotic tones only toward the finish, bringing sweet cherry and cinnamon to the party. Both of the wines could use some more time in the cellar, but given a few hours in the decanter, I cannot imagine saying no to either. 

We finished with the 2002 Rocce Rosse and the 2006 Ultimi Raggi, two very different wines indeed. The 2002 Rocce Rosse was in a lovely place last night, showing signs of maturity in the rose petal, earth and forest floor nose. The wine was a pleasure to sniff, the perfume of flowers changing by the minute, showing darker tones and then lighter, redder notes again. The palate is earthier, with mint, pipe tobacco and earthy tones along with dark cherry. Lighter than the 2005s and 2007s, it shows an elegant side of the grape. The 2006 Ultimi Raggi is a very different animal indeed - think Amarone out of Nebbiolo, but these grapes are dried on the vine (unlike the traditional Sforzato), picked in mid to late November. The result is a plusher, sweeter cherry but with a laser-like acidity. The 2006 clearly needs more time, but last night it showed brandied cherry, sweet herbs, licorice and clove. I can see this aging gracefully over the next decade, giving up some of the lush fruit in order to gain the elegance and minerality that are currently hidden away. 

I wanted to thank Isabella Pelizzatti Perego, Grand Cru Selection and, of course, Morrell & Co for this excellent tasting and educational opportunity. And for those still seeking out their first taste of Mountain-Nebbiolo - look no further!

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