jamie goode's wine blog: Nebbiolo: what a crazy, wonderful grape

Monday, November 30, 2009

Nebbiolo: what a crazy, wonderful grape

I've decided that I love Nebbiolo. It's so uncommercial, making wines that are pale in colour, brutally tannic, high in acid, complex in flavour, and generally hard to get.

It's also wildly difficult to do well. Especially outside Piedmont. It's like Pinot Noir, in many ways, just more awkward.

But when it's great, it is the sort of wine that is without parallel. I don't know how many truly great examples I've had, but I've had a few really good examples that have convinced me that this is one of the best red varieties out there.

Two that prompted this post:

Rivella Serafino Montestefano Barbaresco 2004 Piedmont, Italy
Complex, earthy, spicy nose leads to a drying palate with intensely savoury, fine spicy notes and some focused red cherry fruit (but not too much). There are some subtle floral notes. A dense, structured wine that's tannic and complex. Nebbiolo at its most awkward best. 92/100 (36 BBR)

Cascina Fontana Langhe Nebbiolo 2007 Piedmont, Italy
Fresh, bright cherry nose with spicy, earthy, herbal character. The palate is fresh and sappy with nice savoury complexity. Firm but appropriate tannins and good acidity underpin this elegantly expressive Nebbiolo. 89/100 (20 BBR)

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At 3:29 AM, Blogger Martin said...

I am a little confused. Over the last few months I have been to several Nebbiolo tastings and the bottle shops suggest trade is good, and even better then most high priced wine. Some complain that supply doesn't keep up with demand. Doesn't this make it the most commercial of wine? I think you mean it is not wine like THEY drink. You should say it is not prol wine, 'cause we all know we are better then them prols, and their dirty little fruit bombs.

At 12:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh come on, Martin! Surely we all understand that what is meant by "commercial" is that it sells well in a mass market sense, eg supermarket wine? And under that definition, there's little doubt that Nebbiolo is not "commercial", whether what there is of it sells well or not.

At 1:09 PM, Anonymous Mark Roper said...

I love nebbiolo, but can only really buy the lower end. Do you think these wines are reaching peak, or need more time?

At 2:22 PM, Blogger Andrew Halliwell said...

When I was in Australia 2003-04 I particularly enjoyed Coriole Nebbiolo (McClaren Vale). One of the main reasons I liked it was due to its non-crowd-pleasing high acid and seemingly high tannins (it also had an orangey colour). I seem to remember someone down there commenting that it has a hard sell...I wonder how its going these days..?

At 3:34 PM, Anonymous Ian S said...

Definitely some Aussie fans of homegrown Nebbiolo, though the leading critic James Halliday is completely nonplussed by Nebbiolo, which probably isn't helping sales.

Likewise I worry that the prices of Aussie Nebbiolos, by the time they've reached UK or US shores, will be more expensive than some very fine Barolo/Barbaresco with a proven track record. e.g. Pizzini at Aus$56 and Primo at Aus$75. On a pure exchange rate conversion that's ~ 30 and 40 respectively.

Still 20 for a Langhe Nebbiolo isn't cheap!



At 6:13 PM, Blogger jrmarion said...

Last week I opened a bottle of 1978Spanna by Piedmontese (Novarese) producer Vallana (100% Nebbiolo) to celebrate my 31st year on this planet. Cork degradation and much ullage made me feel old... Beyond the expected oxidative character, colorless, tannic, astringent, and mouth puckering acid are all I remember. All that said, there is something terribly exciting about driking a wine as old as yourself. Cheers!

At 7:03 AM, Anonymous glenn said...

I've only had 3 Nebbiolo wines so far. All were Italian and all 3 were great... love it


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