Uva Rara and Vespolina are both red grapes that are indigenous to the Piedmont region of northern Italy. It would be reasonable to assume that Uva Rara is the rarer variety of the two, but that would be incorrect. Its name literally means ‘rare grape’ but this is a reference to the bunch size and not the total area planted. According to data from 2000, Vespolina had just under 300 acres planted while Uva Rara was around 1500 acres. Vespolina has fallen out of favor and many plantings have been replaced by Barbera because Barbera has higher yields and improved disease resistance. Both are older grapes that are used in blended wines with Nebbiolo and rarely comprise 100% of a wine. Vespolina adds spice to Nebbiolo, while Uva Rara softens the tannic Vespolina and Nebbiolo.
I chose to drink a bottle of Fara, DOC, one of the handful of areas with an appellation designation that produces Nebbiolo dominant blends containing the three grapes. It was from 2017 made by Il Chiosso. Nebbiolo containing wines, such as Barbareso and Barolo, benefit from prolonged periods of aging and being allowed to breath prior to being consumed. DOC wine law requires Fara wines to be aged in oak barrels for a minimum of 2 years of the total minimum aging period of 3 years. This means, after a 2 year barrel aging, it would then be bottled and cellar aged for at least one more year. Il Chiosso ages their Fara for 3 years in oak and 6 months in bottle prior to release. This accounts for the wine being a 2017 vintage. I poured my glass about an hour prior to tasting to ensure the volatile aromatics in the wine would be maximized when I was ready to begin tasting. This wine was a lighter ruby that transitioned into garnet around the rim and deposited some sediment around the sides of the bowl as the legs sank to the surface. This sediment is common in aged wines, especially reds. In addition to exposing the volatile aromatic compounds (phenols) to air, decanting aged red wines prior to consumption also allows the wine to be poured off the sediment, leaving the sediment behind. The bouquet contained bright red fruits such as red cherries, pomegranate, and cranberries. There were also aromas of licorice, tobacco leaves, and potpourri. This dry, heavier bodied wine had a significant level of acid to balance the heavy, gritty tannins and higher alcohol content. The palate added notes of red apples to fresh bing cherries and cranberries along with dried rose petals and licorice. The prolonged aging imparted hints of dark chocolate truffles and dried tobacco leaves. While I waited for the extended finish to dissipate, food pairings with meaty red sauces, like a good baked ziti or tagliatelle with ragu, sounded phenomenal.