Giovanni Canonica 'Paiagallo' Barolo 2011
Wine: Giovanni Canonica 'Paiagallo'
Region: Barolo, Piedmonte
When I think of nebbiolo gems, Barolo isn't typically what I reach for; they are expensive wines made in relatively small lots. I'd be more inclined to point you in the direction of a Langhe nebbiolo, what some call a baby Barolo. Oh, but this wine! This wine is the Tahitian black pearl of Barolo. And like those rare gems, Canonica's single vineyard bottling, Paiagallo, is extremely difficult to obtain. Apologies in advance for the tease.
I had the incredible fortune of tasting it at Hopper's Carte des Vins just before Christmas when generous proprietor Ric Hopper opened a bottle to share with a few sales reps, a visiting winemaker, and a couple of hanger-ons like myself. Ric poured this in my glass, looked me in the eye, and said, You've never had Barolo before. Indeed, it is the purest expression of fruit I may have ever tasted. Fermented low and slow with native yeasts in fiberglass tanks, then aged in Slavonian oak casts allows the wine to make itself, to the extent that it could. The Giovanni Canonica 'Paiagallo' Barolo 2011 was feminine and elegant, subtle yet commanding, with bright violets on the nose, a perfume so intoxicating one must remember it's a wine not a beautiful woman. Dried cherry on the palate with surprisingly soft tannins. Nebbiolo can produce gripping, chewy beasts in their youth, but not this one. This one sets the bar, the elusive experience we look for over and over again, like a perfect first kiss. Yes, I may have fallen in love with Paiagallo. Damn!
Podcast creator and host of I'll Drink to That, Levi Dalton, wrote about the 2008 on his blog so you want to be a sommelier a few years ago, after a walk through Canonica's tiny 1.5 hectare plot and a visit to the winery. He shared some great photos of the cellar and a craft nearly extinct, including a hand-labeling tool. Seriously small production, seriously real wine. If you can track down a bottle, congratulations.