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Beauty in a Bottle

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Right now is one of the most exciting times of the year for cork dorks. The holiest of Italian wines — Barolo, Barbaresco, and Brunello di Montalcino — are being released. These are some of the most sought-after wines in the world and are quickly snatched up, coveted, and salivated over.

Yes, they are expensive, but there is absolutely nothing that can match experiencing an aged Brunello or Barolo — and I do mean "experience." Describing the feeling a beautifully aged version of these wines gives goes far beyond flavor, aroma, or texture. It can affect your entire body, especially when served alongside a meal to enhance it.

What makes the wines so special is that they can only be crafted in certain parts of Italy. The grapes at the heart of these wines — Nebbiolo for Barolo and Barbaresco, Sangiovese Grosso for Brunello di Montalcino — have been planted elsewhere in the world, and they can produce good wine, but they are rarely, if ever, exhilarating to taste. Sometimes a grape doesn't want to leave its birthplace, and this is one of those instances.

While most Barolos, Barbarescos, and Brunellos can be enjoyed now (if you are a fan of big, rich, full-bodied, and darkly tannic wines), patience is rewarded with real pleasure. These wines are built for aging and don't truly express themselves and all their beauty until most are at least 10 years old. The current vintage for Barolo is 2004, and the current vintage for Brunello is 2003, so just a little bit of waiting is required.

These wines are released only after fanatical selection processes. Only the best barrels go into Brunello di Montalcino, for example, and whatever isn't up to the strictest of standards is set aside to be bottled as Rosso di Montalcino, a very good quality wine that is more approachable in its youth. That's another beautiful thing about this time of year. Wine buyers can come home with a bottle of Rosso di Montalcino and pop it open that night, satisfying their desire for Sangiovese Grosso while they proudly eye their awaiting Brunellos.

As I've stressed, these wines can be expensive. But when compared with how exceptional they are, it's practically a bargain — especially for wine drinkers who want a wine that is like no other. Napa Cabernets and Bordeaux are reaching near-stratospheric prices.

For a fraction of the cost of some so-called cult wines, you can own a truly honest expression of a unique and beautiful landscape. It's no contest, really. No other wines have ever brought tears to my eyes.

Recommended Wines

Conterno Fantino "Sori Ginestra" Barolo

2004, $122.99

Poderi Luigi Einaudi "Costa Grimaldi"

Barolo 2004, $101.99

Poderi Colla Dardi Le Rose Bussia Barolo

2004, $76.99

Uccelliera Brunello di Montalcino 2003,

$81.99

Le Potazzine Gorelli Brunello di

Montalcino 2003, $88.99

Fuligni Brunello di Montalcino 2003,

$91.99

Conti Costanti Rosso di Montalcino 2006,

$48.99

Lisini Rosso di Montalcino 2006, $49.99

Poggio Antico Rosso di Montalcino 2006,

$59.99

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