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Jim Beauregard's Tasting Notes: A heavy Barolo and a NH hybrid


Today let's visit Italy's Piedmont region before turning our attention to local matters.

We didn't quite finish the 90+ lineup last week, so I wanted to wrap it up for time being in today's column.

90+ Barolo, DOCG, Italy, 14.5% abv, $32.99, the Wine Studio, Manchester. Those of you who love Italian wines know that Barolo has long carried the name "The king of wines and the wine of kings," and so it was in Piedmont, in the northwest of Italy, surrounded on three sides by the Alps.

This particular wine is from vineyards south of the city of Alba, made from the Nebbiolo grape, as Barolos are, and aged two years in oak, then two years in bottle before release. That means it's just come on the market. First of all, decant it for about an hour before trying it. If you dive in on opening you will get alcohol and intense tannin. These modulate to some extent with air and fall into more balance.

This particular Barolo is purple with definite ruby tones, and a clear rim, suggesting that it's still young. It has a medium intensity nose of fruit and flowers. After an hour of air in a decanter, the wine is dry on the palate, with medium-plus acidity, medium-plus tannin, medium-minus body, and medium flavor intensity of red berry, cherry, rose and a brief hint of leather on the palate toward the end. A good but not great Barolo – the drawback is the wine's weight. Barolo's are not typically heavy-duty full-bodied wine, though the flavor profile can be. This one was a little too light inweight to declare itself a classic Barolo. 84 points.

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The words "cold climate" might not have entered your mind during our recent high-heat days, but it's a cold-climate grape we're going to look at next.

I mentioned LaBelle vineyards last week, and the Dry Riesling we had there (the Dry Riesling is available only at the winery; the Riesling is available in stores).

Seyval Blanc is a French hybrid grape, made from the crossing of two Seibel hybrids. Albert Seibel created the hybrids around the turn of the 20th century. He's also responsible for some other grapes you'll find growing here in New Hampshire, including De Chaunac (Seibel 9549) and Chancellor (Seibel7053).

In order for a grape to be grown in cool regions (think New Hampshire, about mid-February) it has to have a relatively short growing season, that is, it ripens early, before the autumn frosts.

It has found a home in the northern United States, in Canada and in England. In the U.K., it's primarily a blending grape, and is used in the making of sparkling wine. In the U.S. it has appeared increasingly as a varietal; that is, wine made from just that grape.

Why all the hybrid fuss, you ask? Because it's making excellent wine in New Hampshire, that's why. Consider:

LaBelle Winery Seyval Blanc, 12% abv. Good clarity, lemon with hints of green, medium intensity nose of fruit, both apple and pear, with some peach hints, youthful. The palate is just off-dry, with medium acidity, medium alcohol that's well-integrated, medium body, with medium-plus flavor intensity including green apple, pear, peach, lemon peel. Drink now, for summer is upon us.

Contact local beer and wine writer Jim Beauregard at tastingnotesnh@aol.com.

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