Sometimes one tastes wines that seem to redefine what a particular grape from a particular place can do. Such was the wine I tasted tonight, the 1997 Pinot Bianco ‘Vorberg’ from Cantina Terlano. I bought a few bottles of this a number of years ago, and I’ve tried a bottle every year or two. Each time I opened a bottle, the wine was closed, but I could tell there was something special there; it was like having someone almost smack me in the face with a gold brick, but stop short. I could feel the rush of air that somehow implied the weight of the brick, but I knew I had to wait.
Tonight that waiting paid off. I grilled a beautiful piece of swordfish, put it on a bed of rapini with garlic and chile, and pulled out one of the last bottles of the Vorberg. When I opened it and decanted it, the first whiff told me its time had come: pronounced, mature, yet still vibrant aromas of wet wool, lime, grapefruit, pear, honey, and a hint of diesel. On the palate, the wine was dry, minerally, full-bodied, almost unctuous, with a creaminess that bespoke malolactic fermentation, yet still with fairly high acidity and excellent focus. The wine has a long, wonderfully complex finish, and keeps evolving in the glass — so much so that I’m sitting here two hours later not wanting to finish the bottle so I can keep enjoying it.
The producer, one of Italy’s top cantine sociali (or see cooperatives), obtains the fruit from member vineyards at 500-900 meters above sea level, with sandy, porphyrous soil. After temperature-controlled fermentation in large oak vats, the wine stays on its lees for one year, which explains the wine’s evident honeyed note. The winery itself suggests the Vorberg will last 8-10 years; usually I take these things with a grain of salt, but in this case they’re spot on.
The moral of the story? Some wines are worth the wait, and they’re not always the one’s you’d think. This not particularly expensive white has stood the test of more than a decade in bottle, and it just keeps getting better. Signing off now to go enjoy the last glass.