Lunchtime at a bustling Houston-area Tex-Mex restaurant isn’t exactly the ideal place to taste Barolo.
But that’s where the Josetta Saffirio sales team was on Friday last week when I had a free hour to meet.
The venue was dimly lit and extremely crowded and loud when I sat down with young Marco Serra, the winery’s new “supplier rep,” as we call them in the trade. The aroma of sizzling chicken fajitas and hard-shell tacos filled with unctuous ground beef wafted through the air, adding, layer by layer, to the joint’s patina.
But where there is Nebbiolo to taste, professionals like me and Marco always seem to rise to the occasion.
Despite some challenges growers faced that year, the 2013 harvest in Langa (where Barolo and Barbaresco are made) is expected to be a classic crop, with good acidity and great aging potential. Many of the wines I’ve tasted so far are still “tight,” parsimonious with their fruit, with tannin that continues to eclipse the brighter flavors the wines will ultimately develop over time. But the 2013 Josetta Saffirio Barolo was already showing nicely, with some of the fruit flavor emerging against the winery’s signature earthiness and savory character.
I ascribe the early drinkability in part to fact that the wine had been open all morning. But it’s also owed to the winery’s style. In my experience, its wines tend to land on the approachable side of the modern vs. traditional dialectic. But they also remain faithful to the umami flavors that east-side Barolo (grown in ancient Serravallian — not Helvetian — soils, the latter being the term that too many Barolisti still erroneously use when referring to the pedological classification. (If you don’t believe me, look it up.)
The Saffirio 2013 Barolo may not be a wine for the ages but it will reward the drinker (and perhaps most importantly, the impatient restaurant drinker) with good balance, lovely fruit, classic earthiness, and a more than reasonable price.
Dulcis in fundo, Marco, who is in his first post-grad year in the work force, is an ex-student of mine from the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Piedmont, where he studied “wine writing in the digital era” with me. That’s Marco below (and be sure to check out his blog posts about the trip, his first time ever in the U.S.).
Nothing could fill me with more pride than to know that he is gainfully employed and doing a great job.
And nothing could fill me with more wondrous joy than to think of this young, bright, and talented dude, on his first trip to America to sell wine. It’s the beginning of what will surely be a long and rich adventure in the wine trade.
Marco, thanks for coming to Texas and bringing great wine with you!