How do you celebrate a great week of vacation and an easy car ride home? With a bottle of wine! (clearly)
After unpacking the car and taking care of everything that has to be done when you get back from vacation, I decided I wanted to make a new purchase rather than go through the bottles I have in my cellar. Plus I had to buy my dad some beer since there was none in the house after being gone for the week. Thankfully my local wine store, Berkeley Wine Company, has a great selection of Barolos (and Brunellos and various other Italian selections), both new vintages and older offerings. After looking over my choices, I “settled” upon the Rocce dei Manzoni Barolo Big’d Big 2004. I had no prior knowledge of Rocce dei Manzoni, so in some ways this was a fairly “blind” tasting.
The bottle immediately went into my cellar for the afternoon. As the evening approached I opened the bottle and poured a glass, but left the glass to decant in the cellar for about an hour. After putting the girls to sleep it was time to sample my new purchase.
- In the glass, the wine was a fairly dense garnet, firmly in the medium plus range.
- The nose was still youthful, showing a moderate level of intensity. There was a sense of brooding and darkness to the cherry and cedar aromas. It was as if there was a weightiness to them. Layered on the fruit and wood were strong vanilla and licorice aromas.
- On the palate, the acidity was moderately high, as were the tannins. The tannins were smooth, but had an overall consistency of cotton in how they filled the mouth. The body and alcohol were medium plus, which matched the intensity level of the flavors. The wine bubbled over with vanilla and black cherry, reminiscent of Black Cherry Vanilla Breyer’s ice cream. Caramel, coffee and pomegranate flavors also swirled through the mouth. The finish was quite long.
I revisited the Rocce dei Manzoni the next afternoon, after recorking and recellaring the bottle overnight. The second tasting was in the afternoon, after only letting the wine breathe for about 15 minutes. The prominent oakiness from the day before faded, leaving more cherry and herbal notes in its wake. The wine also picked up a flavor of aging wood which I find sometimes in older, developed wines.
Overall, the 2004 Rocce dei Manzoni Big’d Big was a very pleasant wine. Big fruit and oak were definitely the stars, but the flavors were integrated quite nicely at this point in the wine’s life. The oakiness and sweet fruit certainly highlighted a Modernist approach to winemaking. But while the wine exhibited modern characteristics, the Nebbiolo characteristics still flourished. The Big’d Big 2004 was not contrived and forced. Instead, the wine firmly said “I am modern, but I am Nebbiolo”.
After my two tastings of the Big’ Big 2004, I searched for information on Rocce dei Manzoni. Not solely because that is part of what I am doing with In Pursuit of Winefulness, but because I wanted to see if my read of the wine lined up with what others thought. Sometimes its good to compare notes with other tasters to make sure your palate is not wildly off. Plus, I wanted to understand how the wine was able to seemingly straddle some traditional characteristics while still being quite modern.
Rocce dei Manzoni was greatly influenced by owners Valentino and Jolanda Migliorini. Valentino was a former restaurant owner who found a passion for winemaking. Beginning in 1974, when the Migliorini’s purchased what was to become Rocce dei Manzoni, Valentino brought a more Modernist approach to winemaking. His modern techniques, including the use of barriques in the aging process, were born in large part from his travels to and love of France. Prior to his death in 2007, Valentino firmly stamped his mark on the wines of Rocce dei Manzoni.
The Big’d Big is a single vineyard wine, with grapes sourced from the Mosconi cru in the southern part of Monforte d’Alba. Wines from the Mosconi cru typically display powerful structure and concentration, aligned with a sense of boldness. These “big” characteristics largely stem from the Helvetian soil found on the eastern side of the Barolo region. The Big’d Big spends 3 weeks fermenting with the grape skins, a length of time typically seen in more traditional approaches to vinification. Following the fermentation, the wine receives a great deal of its modernism from being aged for 3 years in French oak, followed by another year in bottle prior to release.
After searching out some more information on Rocce dei Manzoni and the Big’d Big, it is clear to me that the wine is able to retain its Nebbiolo-ness through a marriage of traditional and modernist approaches to winemaking. The wine certainly highlights some characteristics of a modern approach, with its oak flavors and the level of opulence on the palate. But these aspects couple with a deep sense of Nebbiolo. The 2004 Rocce dei Manzoni Big’d Big can be nothing but Nebbiolo, even if it was not made in a purely traditional manner. Perhaps it is the Monforte d’Alba grapes, which can potentially bear a modern approach better (and less obviously) then wines from Barolo or La Morra (maybe this will become more defined as I taste through more examples). Or perhaps its the fermentation time, which uses a more traditional timeline, that allows the Nebbiolo to shine through. Likely it is a combination of these and many other factors, but the result is one I certainly would not mind having again.