It's rare these days when you have to write about a wine in the future tense. Most wines are all they can be upon release with their Rubenesque charms right there for any palate to perceive. These wines don't require the encyclopedic knowledge of a Michael Broadbent to be put into perspective: Brittany Spears can handle the description on her way out of the limo. However, there may be some of you who are old enough remember when it was common to have wines that weren't as charming as they were ever going to be on the first day they hit the market. These were wines that excited you because of the riches you knew awaited you if you nurtured them through grouchy adolescence into majestic maturity.
Such a wine is the 2003 Cappellano Nebiolo d'Alba, a wine that will someday surpass many a Barolo in complexity and intellectual pleasure. This wine is no pleasure to drink now, however, in a decade or so it will bring pleasure hard to put into words in a commentary such as this: meaning that you're going to have to take my word for it. If you ever wondered what nebbiolo is all about this taught, tight and bracingly tannic wine is a good place to start. Cappellano wines teach everyone a lesson about tannin. That is that powerful, mouth-drying young tannins don't have to be green or brutally bitter. Tasting these streamlined, intense tannins teases and taunts you to wait for what only time can bring. While Cappellano Barolo itself is otherworldly and more complex than this wine, the Cappellano Nebiolo (yes they spell it with only one "b" at Cappellano) is an outstanding wine at a fraction of the price. Frankly, it's a far better wine than many wines sporting the name Barolo on their label and price tags. This is a buy as much as you can type of wine.
Another revelation for most drinkers will be the 2005 Cappellano Dolcetto d'Alba Gabutti. No purple glop here, but a real wine that will improve and develop for years. I never understood why so many wine guides refer to dolcetto as the Beaujolais of Italy and tasting this wine will make you wonder what the heck they were drinking. The Cappellano Dolcetto has zesty, bright fresh fruit, but it doesn't stop there like so many dolcetto wines these days. The brilliant fruit is layered with bitter tar, black truffle, rich porcini mushroom flavors and aromas that remind you more of nebbiolo than dolcetto. This is dolcetto at its best and most complex. Don't waste this on pizza, but save it for more elevated fare. I would seriously consider aging this wine for at least two more years. That's my plan with my remaining bottle.
The Cappellano wines are some of the finest examples of pure, classic winemaking coming out of Italy today. They are wines of place and variety that radiate purity of character. This means they are not wines for everyone and that you must age them to realize their greatness. You become part of the process that brings these wines to their finest. It's that personal involvement that adds an extra level of complexity to the enjoyment of such wines. As you carefully age them you become an integral part of the winemaking team and part of the process that makes that bottle extraordinary. There is nothing quite like opening a bottle you have kept for many years. The emotion and experience of opening such a wine can never be replaced by the simple hedonistic pleasures of a wine manufactured to be drunk the day the cork goes into the bottle. While there is nothing wrong with easy wines made to be drunk young, (after all, what would we drink while waiting for our best wines to mature or with cheeseburgers on a Tuesday night?) it's a waste when potentially great wines are emasculated by winemakers in the name of making them ready-to-drink beverages instead of reaching for the heights that could be achieved with bottle age.
As it becomes harder-and-harder to find wines designed to improve with age, producers like Cappellano become more-and-more something to be treasured.