Content of this post:
- I Participants
- II Nebbiolo Wines
- III Nebbiolo Grape (Wikipedia)
- IV The charms of lesser Nebbiolo wines, Washington Post
Alfonso Sanchez, Jairo Sanchez, Carlos Paldao, Miguel Segovia, Orlando Mason, Orlando Reos, Cecilio-Augusto Berndsen, Wilson Moreira and Mario Aguilar.
Wines presentation by Jairo Sanchez and Orlando Mason
The menu to be served:
- 1. Entrada: Mejillones en salsa de vino blanco, ajo y limón
- 2. Ensalada: Rucola, queso de cabra, tomates “cherry’ y nueces, con aliño de aceite de oliva y limón
- 3. Pasta: Penne y ragú de ternera
- 4. Plato Principal: New York steak con salsa de reducción de vino tinto y hongos shiitake, acompañado de papas horneadas y espinacas
- 5. Postre: Selección del menú.
II Nebbiolo Wines to be Tasted
Vieti Barolo Castiglione 2007, Terre Del Barolo Barbaresco 2006, Travalini Gattinara 2005, & Gavi di Tassarolo La Fornace 2010
> Vieti Barolo Castiglione 2007
Designation: estate-bottled, Barolo DOCG , Region: Barolo, Piedmont, Italy, Grapes: 100% Nebbiolo , Alcohol: 14,50 %, Acidity: 5,4 g/l. Total dry extract: 32,9 g/L. Production: Bottles: 43.170, Magnum 200; US $ 45 MacArthur Liquor Store
Winemaking: The grapes are selected from vineyards located in Castiglione Falletto, Monforte, Barolo and Novello where the vines are planed an average of 4.800 vines per hectare. The vines are 7 to 35 years old with yields of 35 hl/ha, grown using the Guyot system. After harvesting, the grapes are gently pressed. Fermentation in stainless steel occurs over 15 days, with daily cap submersion for extraction of flavor and color.
Aging: The wine is then aged for 24 months in casks. The wine was blended in stainless steel tanks 8 months before bottling. Description: “The 2007 Barolo Castiglione deftly balances the open, radiant personality of the vintage with considerable underlying structure. Warm, dense and full-bodied, the 2007 Barolo Castiglione flows effortlessly across the palate with generous fruit and fabulous overall balance. The wine was even better when I tasted it from bottle a few months later. It is another overachieving wine from Vietti and a bottle that is exceedingly fairly priced”. (Antonio Galloni – The Wine advocate – February 2011).
Food Pairings: Hearty stew, wild game, roasted red meats and cheeses.
The Vietti family first began growing grapes within the part of Piedmont that gives birth to Barolo in the middle of the 19th century. However, it wasn’t until 1919 that patriarch Mario Vietti began releasing wines made from the family grapes under the Vietti name. Originally a varied family farm (with olives and agriculture as well as grapes), Mario Vietti oversaw a transformation of the land on which the Vietti family worked, so that by the time of succession, the Vietti family were only involved in grape growing and wine production.
Run by Alfredo Currado from 1952 (Luciana Vietti’s husband – only deceased in 2010), Vietti began to build a reputation for high quality and was one of only two producers to rescue the grape “Arneis” during the 1970s. Since 1990, Luca Currado (Alfredo’s son) took on an increasing role in the Vietti winery and has remained the senior winemaker since his father’s death.
Despite the fact that the Vietti winery became widely known as a result of the work undertaken with the Arneis grape, it has always been the range of Vietti Barolos that has formed the pinnacle of the Vietti range of wines. Today owning 35 hectares of vineyards, the Vietti winery is the only producer of Barolo to own land in all eleven of the communes permitted for Barolo production. Producing no fewer than five different Vietti Barolos (the Vietti Barolo Castiglione, the Vietti Barolo Rocche, the Vietti Barolo Lazzarito, the Vietti Barolo Brunate and the Vietti Barolo Riserva Villero), this Vietti Barolo Castiglione represents the entry point to a substantial range of Vietti Barolo.
100% Nebbiolo (as is required of all Barolo by Italian law) this Vietti Barolo Castiglione is a blend of grapes selected from family owned Vietti vineyards in Castiglione Falletto, Monforte d’Alba, Barolo and Novello. The Vietti Nebbiolo vines in these vineyards are seven to thirty five years of age.
After picking, the Nebbiolo grapes that make up this 2007 Vietti Barolo Castiglione were gently pressed, before being passed into stainless steel tanks where a fermentation of 15 days in duration occurred. After fermentation of this 2007 Vietti Barolo Castiglione was complete, this 2007 Vietti Barolo Castiglione was then passed into oak casks for 24 months aging (prior to the 2010 vintage all Barolo must have received 24 months in oak prior to release, after the 2010 vintage this legal requirement for Barolo was reduced to 18 months). Following this time, this 2007 Vietti Barolo Castiglione was added back into stainless steel tanks for blending for around 8 months prior to bottling.
With Nebbiolo a slow ripening grape and one which can be particularly susceptible to climatic conditions during the growing season, the weather experienced by the south and south-western areas of the Barolo DOCG zone of production (from which the grapes for this 2007 Vietti Barolo Castiglione are drawn) will have been key in determining the quality of this 2007 Vietti Barolo Castiglione. As it happened, 2007 was an extremely unusual vintage in Barolo, with the growing season starting significantly earlier than normal (around four weeks early in most parts), but with grapes spending around 3 weeks longer than average on the vines before picking.
In relation to this 2007 Vietti Barolo Castiglione, the commune of Barolo (from which a portion of this 2007 Vietti Barolo Castiglione is drawn) typically produces elegant and approachable wines (even when young) although this will likely be balanced by the portion of this 2007 Vietti Barolo Castiglione that hails from Monforte a’Alba that is known for producing more structured expressions of Barolo. How the Vietti winery dealt with a late, but heavy series of hailstorms that affected the south of the Barolo zone of production will also have been key to how this Vietti Barolo Castiglione from the 2007 vintage fares.
Examining the bottle of this 2007 Vietti Barolo Castiglione, one can certainly say that it is particularly aesthetically pleasing. An embossed, weighty and low-shouldered bottle is adorned with a brightly coloured label. The cork of this 2007 Vietti Barolo Castiglione is real and appears tightly grained and of good quality. Barolo is known as a wine that can be capable of extended of aging (although perhaps the 2007 vintage of Barolo should not be considered quite as age-worthy as some other recent vintages) although this cork looks as if it would withstand extended cellaring should one desire to put a few bottles away in good conditions.
In the glass, this 2007 Vietti Barolo Castiglione is clear (i.e. non-faulty), and shows a garnet hue of moderate intensity. The Nebbiolo grape is known for the discolouration that occurs with bottle and oak aging and this 2007 Vietti Barolo Castiglione certainly shows a significant degree of rusticity at the rim of the wine as a result of two years in oak and subsequent bottle age. The alcohol content of this 2007 Vietti Barolo Castiglione is relatively easy to spot, with the legs of this 2007 Vietti Barolo Castiglione prominent on the side of the glass when swirled. The quoted abv of this 2007 Vietti Barolo Castiglione is 14.5%. Most Barolo in the 2007 vintage showed 14-14.5% abv.
On the nose, this 2007 Vietti Barolo Castiglione is clean (i.e. non-faulty) and pronounced in its fragrance. Red fruit is the prominent aroma of this 2007 Vietti Barolo Castiglione (red cherry and a little redcurrant), although oak derived vanilla notes, notes of candied fruit (raisins and prune) and aromas of roses all add complexity and interest. A comparatively fragrant nose hints at both the 2007 Barolo vintage’s initial warmth and the inclusion of a parcel of fruit from the commune of Barolo in this 2007 Vietti Barolo Castiglione.
In the mouth, this 2007 Vietti Barolo Castiglione is dry, full-bodied and long. Red fruit and oak characteristics are particularly well balanced (something which cannot be said of all wines in the 2007 Barolo vintage – which has seen the fruit of some wines overpowered by cedar notes and gripping oak derived tannins). Those candied fruit notes from the nose of this 2007 Vietti Barolo Castiglione overlay the red fruit and oak as they pass on a structured but elegant journey through the palate over well resolved tannins and a good level of acidity that nonetheless remains in balance. For sure this 2007 Vietti Barolo Castiglione is a wine with an obvious structure, however it never overpowers the fruit notes it is there to support.
Overall, this 2007 Vietti Barolo Castiglione is a particularly accomplished Barolo. In a Barolo vintage that many winemakers have referred to as difficult and even unique, Vietti have created a Barolo in the form of this 2007 Vietti Barolo Castiglione that has retained balance and elegance and have crafted a Barolo that is also suitable for drinking earlier than many wines from within this zone of production and vintage. Traditionalists may find the oak influence of this 2007 Vietti Barolo Castiglione a little sweet, however it is this very characteristic (along with the delicacy of those candied fruit notes) that makes this 2007 Vietti Barolo Castiglione so approachable and enjoyable in the first place. Often approachability comes at the cost of complexity, although this is not the case when it comes to this 2007 Vietti Barolo Castiglione.
£30 for a bottle certainly does not make this 2007 Vietti Barolo Castiglione an inexpensive purchase, however in the context of the majority of Barolo, this 2007 Vietti Barolo Castiglione is less expensive than much of the competition. Not only that, but this 2007 Vietti Barolo Castiglione offers quality over and above what might normally be seen at this price level in Barolo.
Traditional food pairings for this 2007 Vietti Barolo Castiglione include hard cheeses, rich stews and game.
> Terre Del Barolo Barbaresco 2006 Riserva
Designation: Barbatesco 2006 DOCG Riserva, Region: Langhe, Piedmont, Italy , Grapes: 100% Nebbiolo , Winemaker: Terre de Barolo. Bottled by Cantina Terre del Barolo Soc. Coop. Agr. Castiglione Falleto, Alcohol: 14.5%, US $ 24, MacArthur Liquor Store
Barbaresco wine is made from Nebbiolo grapes grown in the hillsides of 4 villages in Langhe, around Alba. Ageing 12 months in oak cask highlights its finer, more refined qualities, and great elegance and appeal make it a very versatile match for a wide range of dishes. An ageing period of not less than four years can give the wine a specification of “riserva.”
Ruby-garnet in the glass with aromas of black fruit, rose petals, spice and sandalwood. This is a dry, very approachable Barbaresco with soft texture, good balance and silky tannins. Very well priced. A delight with lamb or pasta with a mushroom sauce. (VINTAGES panel, Nov. 2010)
Drinking window: Drink between 2011 and 2015
Tasted by Rubious on 11/26/2011. Rated 90 points: Opened for 3hrs then decanter for an hour before drinking. On the nose is very smooth and aromatic with tones of roses. The decanting opened this very nicely. Could spend a few years in the cellar. Score: 4.5/5 Released:Sep 03, 2011
A light and easy drinking Barbaresco that is a bit darker ruby than one would expect from the nebbiolo-based wine.
Medium bodied with sharp tannins, this wine is still a little tight and can use a few more years in the cellar. After 2 hours in a decanter, subtle spice and floral notes dominate the palate with berrylike undertones that produce a tangy and medium finish. A good wine for its value (approx. $25), but for a few dollars more, there are better options out there. Score: 87
> Travaglini Gattinara 2005
Region: Gratina, Piedmont, Italy, Grapes: Nebiolo, Alcohol: 13.0% US $ 25
This wine is from Italy, Piedmont region, Gattinara sub-region. Grapes are grown in Piedmont’s Gattinara D.O.C.G., in vineyards planted on steep slopes at an elevation of 900 – 1,300 feet. The soil is rich in iron and trace quantities of carbonate, calcium and magnesium. These unique soils combine with an ideal microclimate to yield high quality nebbiolo grapes.
90 points Parker’s Wine Advocate: “The 2005 Gattinara is a pretty, mid-weight Nebbiolo. Sweet cherries, tobacco, herbs and crushed flowers are some of the notes that emerge from this classy, refined red. The Gattinara is a somewhat fleeting, ethereal wine, but it has the freshness and firmness to age well for at least another decade. This entry-level Gattinara possesses tons of varietal character in a translucent, weightless expression that is typical of the appellation. Anticipated maturity: 2010-2020.”
The wine shows a deep ruby red with garnet reflections. On the nose, aromas of red fruit, blackberry, plum and licorice with hints of vanilla and leather, which lead to a taste which is full-bodied, with intense flavors of cherry, raspberry and spice culminating in a long and smooth finish.
Tasting Notes: Full-bodied, dry and deep flavour with a fruity accent underlined by a slight sapidity. Long and persistent aftertaste. This wine is outstanding with red meat, game and hard cheeses.
Travaglini is a family-owned wine estate in the tiny Gattinara appellation within north Italy’s renowned Piedmont region. Established in the 1920s by Clemente Travaglini, the winery is Gattinara’s most esteemed producer of traditional, limited-production wines from the nebbiolo grape (known locally as spanna). The family’s passion for winemaking has not diminished through the generations; Cinzia Travaglini, a great-granddaughter of Clemente, manages day-to-day operations at winery. Her husband Massimo Collauto is chief winemaker, a role he inherited from his late father-in-law and beloved mentor, Giancarlo Travaglini (winemaker at Travaglini for 45 years). Giancarlo’s wife, Lilliana, oversees vineyard operations.
Travaglini wines are easily recognized by their distinctive bottle shape, featuring a unique curve that fits naturally in the palm of the hand and serves to catch sediment during decanting. Specially designed to celebrate Travaglini’s excellent 1952 vintage, the bottle was so well received that family decided to keep it as their trademark.
PIEDMONT Piedmont has more DOCG titles (15 as of early 2011) than any other Italian wine region – a statistic which strongly supports its status as Italy’s finest wine region. The first Piedmont wine to be granted DOCG status was Barolo, followed just a few months later by its neighbor Barbaresco. Barolo was one of the first DOCG wines in Italy, promoted to this newly created classification on the same day as Tuscany’s Brunello di Montalcino, on 1 July 1980.
Barolo and Barbaresco remained alone as Piedmont DOCGs until joined by Gattinara (also a Nebbiolo-based red) in 1990 and the sweet, sparkling whites of Asti (both Moscato d’Asti and Asti Spumante) in 1993. Three very different wines earned DOCG badges during the later 1990s: aromatic, sparkling red Brachetto d’Acqui in 1996, Ghemme (a fourth Nebbiolo DOCG) in 1997 and dry white Cortese di Gavi in 1998.
In 2005 even Dolcetto, far from Piedmont’s most glamorous grape, was given its own DOCG –Dolcetto di Dogliani Superiore (Dogliani for short) – later joined by Dolcetto di Diano d’Alba (Diano d’Alba for short) in August 2010, a week before Erbaluce di Caluso (Caluso for short). It was not until 2008 that wines made from Barbera grapes were recognized as DOCGs, when Barbera d’Asti andBarbera del Monferrato Superiore were elevated to this highest rank of Italian wine classification.
The variety of wine styles included among Piedmont’s DOCGs is impressive. Dry, sweet and sparkling styles are all on the list, and each have both red and white representatives. Crowd pleasers such as Moscato are made alongside stubborn, tannic Nebbiolo reds, while familiar varieties such as Barbera hold equal rank with obscurities such as Erbaluce and Ruche.
Piedmont DOCGs are concentrated mostly to the south of Alba and Asti, at the meeting point of the Alps and the Apennines. The majority are found within a few miles of the Tanaro river which bisects Piedmont, leaving only Ghemme and Gattinara (up near Lake Maggiore and the border withLombardy) to fly the flag for the region’s north – though in 2010 they gained an ally in the form of Caluso.
There will no doubt be new additions to the list of Piedmont DOCGs in the coming decade, particularly given Italy’s apparent determination to claw backs its share of the world wine market. Thanks to the economic advantages of a DOCG label, there will be no shortage of candidates vying for promotion.
> Gavi di Tassarolo La Fornace, 2010
Productor and Region: Azienda Agricola Cinzia Bergaglio, Tassarolo, Piemonte, White Wine, Grape: Cortese, Alcohol: 12.5% about US $ 15
A great Gavi with a complex nose and palate of almond, blossom and hints of
vanilla. The limited oaking lends weight rather than a woody flavour, giving the wine good body and some length.
Expert’s View View Vincent Honorat’s Profile
“Here’s an excellent take on this ever popular Italian white wine, made from the classic Cortese grape, the native variety of Alessandria in Piedmont. Cortese has been so successful in producing world-class wines in Gavi (which is located in the south of Piedmont close to Liguria) that it is today known locally as Cortese di Gavi.”
Frequently compared to Chablis due to its crisp, lean fruit and aromatic complexity, Gavi is a lovely food wine. This delightfully floral expression is perfect for fish and seafood, as well as lighter chicken dishes. Squid has a natural affinity with this wine, especially when seared with garlic and a touch of chilli, or stuffed and chargrilled.
Located just outside of Tassarolo in the province of Alessandria, south Piedmont, L’Azienda Bergaglio is a family-run winery of over four generation. They have five hectares of vineyards across Gavi and Tassarolo, and use strict green harvesting and low-impact farming methods to create healthy vines and intensely flavored grapes.
Our Tasting Notes
Pale lemony yellow with a delicious inviting bouquet of quince, lemon, white scented flowers and some softer honey and blanched almond notes. On the palate it is light and fresh, with a pleasant, cleansing mouth feel and flavors of grapefruit, apple and wild herbs mingling together. The finish is refreshing and fragrant.
Gavi – Cortese di Gavi wine region
The Gavi, or Cortese di Gavi, DOCG is situated in the southern part of Piedmont, in north-westernItaly. Its name derives from the town of Gavi, which is at the centre of the production zone, and the indigenous white grape variety from which it is made. Due to its close proximity with Liguria, its winemaking and gastronomic traditions are more Ligurian than Piemontese, which could explain the light and fruity style of this white wine.
Despite being more closely linked in style with its neighboring region’s wines, Gavi is still considered Piedmont’s white jewel in the crown. It gained DOCG status in 1998 and its vineyards are mainly found in the hills of 13 communes in the province of Alessandria
Gavi was Italy’s first white wine to gain international repute and is still considered one of the top-ranking Italian whites today. Made exclusively from the Cortese grape, a variety which has a heritage dating back to the 1600s, this is a wine that reflects its terroir. It is noted for its bone-dry character and crisp, flinty and fresh acidity, coming from the mineral-rich soils of the area. The bouquet is particularly floral, offering delicate aromas reminiscent of white flowers, lemons, green apples and honeydew. It is a well-balanced wine, distinctly fruit driven with underlying hints of almonds on the finish. It may not display great potential alcohol but it is certainly an age-worthy wine. Gavi is generally considered an excellent partner to seafood.
Those wines that state Gavi di Gavi on their label can do so only if their fruit comes from vineyards in the township of Gavi.
III Nebbiolo Grape (Wikipedia)
Nebbiolo (Italian), or Nebieul (Piedmontese) is a red Italian wine grape variety predominately associated with the Piedmont region where it makes the Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) wines of Barolo, Barbaresco, Gattinara and Ghemme. Nebbiolo is thought to derive its name from the Italian word nebbia which means “fog.” During harvest, which generally takes place late in October, a deep, intense fog sets into the Langhe region where many Nebbiolo vineyards are located. Alternative explanations refers to the fog-like milky veil that forms over the berries as they reach maturity or that perhaps the name is derived instead from the Italian word nobile, meaning noble. Nebbiolo produces lightly colored red wines, which can be highly tannic in youth with scents of tar and roses. As they age, the wines take on a characteristic brick-orange hue at the rim of the glass and mature to reveal other aromas and flavors such as violets, tar, wild herbs, cherries, raspberries, truffles, tobacco, and prunes. Nebbiolo wines can require years of aging to balance the tannins with other characteristics.
Ampelographers believe that Nebbiolo is indigenous to the Piedmont region though some DNA evidence suggest that it may have originated in Lombardy. In the 1st century AD, Pliny the Elder noted the exceptional quality of the wine produced in Pollenzo region located northwest of what is now the Barolo DOCG zone. While Pliny does not explicitly name the grape responsible for these Pollenzo wines, his description of the wine bears similarities to later descriptions of Nebbiolo-based wines, making this potentially the first notation of wine made from Nebbiolo in the Piedmont region. The first explicit mention of Nebbiolo dates to 1268 where a wine known as “nibiol” was growing in Rivoli near Turin.[This was followed by a 1303 account of a producer in the Roero district described as having a barrel of “nebiolo” (sic). In the 1304 treatise Liber Ruralium Commodorum, the Italian jurist Pietro Crescenzi described wine made from “nubiola” (sic) as being of excellent quality. In the 15th century, statutes in the region of La Morra (in what is now the Barolo zone) demonstrated the high esteem that the Nebbiolo vine had in the area. According to these laws, the penalties for cutting down a Nebbiolo vine ranged from a heavy fine to having the right hand cut off or hanging for repeat offenders.
The grape first captured attention outside of Piedmont in the 18th century, when the British were looking for alternative wine sources to Bordeaux due to prolonged political conflicts with the French. However the lack of easy transport from Piedmont to London would keep the Piedmontese wine from having the enduring relationship with British connoisseurship that is associated with Bordeaux, Port and Sherry. Nonetheless, plantings of Nebbiolo continued to grow during the 19th century until the phylloxera epidemic hit. With vast swaths of vineyards devastated by the louse, some vineyard owners decided to replant with different grape varieties with Barbera being a significant beneficiary. Today, Nebbiolo covers less than 6% of Piedmont vineyards.
Relationships with other varieties
In 2004, research at the University of California-Davis and Istituto Agrario di San Michele all’Adige found Nebbiolo to be related to Piedmont to two aromatic grape varieties—the Freisa grape of Piedmont and the French Rhone variety Viognier. This research would further suggest a parent-offspring relationship between Nebbiolo and several Italian grapes including Freisa, Bubbierasco, Nebbiolo Rosé and Vespolina of the Piedmont region and the Lombardy grapes Negrera and Rossola.
The Tanaro river runs through the heart Nebbiolo country in Piedmont.
- Compared to the annual growth cycle of other Piedmontese grape varieties, Nebbiolo is one of the first varieties to bud and last variety to ripen with harvest taking place in mid to late October. In some vintages, producers are able to pick and complete fermentation of their Barbera and Dolcetto plantings before Nebbiolo is even harvested. To aid in ripening, producers will often plant Nebbiolo in the most favored sites on south and southwestern facing slopes, which give the grape more access to direct sunlight.[ The most ideal location is at an elevation between 150 and 300 meters (500 and 1,000 ft) and must provide some natural shelter from wind. The vine is very susceptible to coulure, especially if there is wet weather during budbreak or flowering. While rains during this period can affect yield and quantity, rains that occur after the period of veraison can have a detrimental effect on quality. The most highly rated bottles of Piedmont Nebbiolo tend to come from vintages that had dry weather during September & October. Nebbiolo needs sufficient warmth to develop the sugars and fruit flavors needed to balance the grape’s naturally high acidity and tannins.
Nebbiolo does not adapt exceptionally well to various vineyard soil types, preferring soils with high concentration of calcareous marl such as those found on the right bank of the Tanaro river around Alba where Barolo & Barbaresco are produced. The grape can thrive in sandy soils, such as those on the left bank of the Tanaro around the Roero district but the wines from this soil type tend not to be as perfumed-lacking in particular the classic tar aromas.The slightly acidic pH of the sandy Roero soils tend to be produce early maturing wines. The lighter wines of Ghemme and Gattinara come from the acidic porphyry soils of the hills between Novara and Vercelli. In the lower Aosta Valley, the soil has a high concentration of granite while the soils of the Valtellina region of Lombardy are predominately schist based. In addition to soil type, the drainage ability and concentration of magnesium and potassium can have an influencing effect on the type of Nebbiolo wine is produced.
Like many varieties (such as Pinot noir) with ancient pedigree, the Nebbiolo vine is genetically unstable and prone to mutation. As of 2001, there were around 40 different clones of Nebbiolo identified. The three main strains used for winemaking are Lampia, Michet and Rosé Nebbiolo. Rosé Nebbiolo has fallen out of favor in recent years due to its wine’s light coloring. The Lampia strain adapts best to different soil types. Perhaps due to inbreeding in Nebbiolo’s lineage, the vine is very prone to grape diseases caused by viruses. Viral infection of the Lampia strain causes the cane of the vine to fork, or split, giving rise to the Michet type, which adapts poorly to different soil types. Its smaller bunches and lower yields cause it to produce highly concentrated wines. In many vineyards, producers will maintain a variety of Nebbiolo clones in order to maximize their wines’ complexity.
Nebbiolo has a traditionally light ruby red color in its youth. In the most notable expression of Nebbiolo, the wines of Barolo, there is division between what is considered a “traditional” approach to Nebbiolo and a “modernist” approach. The roots of both style can trace its history to the early “pre-technology” production of Nebbiolo. Prior to the advent of temperature control fermentation, the late harvest dates for Nebbiolo meant that the wines began fermentation when the weather turned cold. These cool temperatures would delay fermentation for several days, extending the maceration period and extraction of phenolic compounds such as tannins. When fermentation did begin, temperatures would reach excessive levels of 95-100 °F (35-38 °C) which would drastically reduce potential aromas and flavors. With the high levels of tannins, these early Barolos would require five years or more aging in oak barrels to soften some of the astringency.
Today’s winemaking for both traditionalist and modernist include strict hygiene controls and the use of some modern winemaking equipment. Rather than fall into one hardline camp or the other, many producers take a middle ground approach that utilizes some modernist technique along with traditional winemaking. In general, the traditional approach to Nebbiolo involves long maceration periods of 20 to 30 days and the use of older large botti size barrels. The modern approach to Nebbiolo utilizes shorter maceration periods of 7 to 10 days and cooler fermentation temperatures between 82-86 °F (28-30 °C) that preserve fruit flavors and aromas. Towards the end of the fermentation period, the cellars are often heated to encourage the start of malolactic fermentation which softens some of Nebbiolo’s harsh acidity. Modern winemakers tend to favor smaller barrels of new oak that need only a couple years to soften the tannic grip of the wines. While new oak imparts notes of vanilla, it has the potential to cover up the characteristic rose notes of Nebbiolo.
In the Piedmont region, there is a long history of blending other grape varieties with Nebbiolo in order to add color and/or soften the grape’s harsh tannins. In addition to red wine grapes such as Barbera, Croatina and Bonarda Piemontese being used, white wine grapes such Arneis and Favorita also have a history of being blended with Nebbiolo. Historically the association with blending Arneis with Nebbiolo was so strong that a common synonym of the former is Barolo Bianco or “white Barolo”.[Today the DOCG regulations for Barolo and Barbaresco call for the wine to be a 100% varietal of Nebbiolo. In 1998, producers of the Barbaresco region drafted a proposal to allow 10-15% of other grape varieties into the wine but bad press by Italian wine critics lead to the rejection of that plan. While there is some speculation, from critics such as Oz Clarke, that Barbera or even Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon may be used to augment the color and flavors of Barolos by some producers there is no explicit proof that this is occurring.
For the Nebbiolo based wines of the Roero DOC between 2 to 5% of Arneis is permitted in the blend but the majority of producers rarely use this allowance. Similarly, many producers in Ghemme and Gattinara who are allowed some blending of Vespolina, Croatina and Bonarda opt instead to use nearly 100% Nebbiolo. In the Valtellina region of Lombardy Merlot, Pinot nero, Pignola, Prugnolo and Rossola are permitted blending partners for Nebbiolo.
Nebbiolo is found predominately in the northwest Italian region of Piedmont where it forms the base of many of the regions most well known Denominazione di origine controllata (DOC) and DOCG wines including Barolo, Barbaresco, Gattinara, Ghemme and Nebbiolo d’Alba. Despite the prestige and acclaim of Nebbiolo based wine, it is far from being the most widely grown grape in Piedmont. In 2000, there were just under 12,700 acres (5,100 ha) of Nebbiolo producing 3.3 million gallons (125,000 hectoliters) of wine which accounted for a little over 3% of Piedmont’s entire production. In contrast, there is nearly 15 times as much Barbera planted in the region. Outside of Piedmont, it is found in the neighboring regions of the Val d’Aosta region of Donnaz and Valtellina and Franciacorta in Lombardy. In the Veneto, there is a small amount which some producers use to make a Nebbiolo recioto wine. Outside of Italy, producers in the United States are experimenting with plantings in California, Washington and Oregon. In the Northern Region of Baja California, Mexico, over 2,700 acres (1,100 ha) support the production of the Nebbiolo varietal. In Argentina there are 200 acres (81 ha) planted in the San Juan province and Australian producers in the King Valley region of Victoria have found some success with their Nebbiolo plantings.
Barolo & Barbaresco
The Piedmont region is considered the viticultural home of Nebbiolo and it is where the grape’s most notable wines are made. The consistent continental climate of the region, coupled with the influences of Tanaro river produces a unique terroir for Nebbiolo that is not easily replicated in other parts of the world. The two most well known Nebbiolo based wines are the DOCG wines of the Barolo & Barbaresco zones near Alba. Barbaresco is considered the lighter of the two and has less stringent DOCG regulations, with the normale bottlings requiring only 9 months in oak and 21 months of total aging and the reserva bottlings requiring 45 total months of aging. In contrast the Barolo DOCG requires 1 year in oak and 3 years total aging for normale bottlings and 57 months total aging for riserva. The minimum alcohol levels for the two region vary slightly with Barbaresco requiring a minimum of 12.5% and Barolo 13%.(However, Barolo, as of 1999, now only requires a minimum of 12.5% as well)
Nebbiolo planted in Novara and Vercelli region of northern Piedmont tend to produce lighter and earthier wines.
The Barolo zone is three times the size of the Barbaresco zone with the different communes producing Nebbiolo based wines with noticeable distinctions among them. In the commune of Castiglione Falletto, the wines are more powerful and concentrated with the potential for finesse. Nebbiolo grown in Monforte has a firm tannic structure and the most potential for aging. The Serralunga region produces the heaviest, full bodied Nebbiolo wines and is also the last region to start it harvest, often two week after other areas have begun picking. These three region located on the eastern edge of the zone have soils that are dominated by sand and limestone. In the west, the communes of La Morra and Barolo have soils dominated by chalk and marl and produce wines that are more perfume and silky in texture. Throughout both the Barolo and Barbaresco zones are deposit of clay which add considerable tannins to Nebbiolo.
Rest of Piedmont and Italy
Outside of Barolo & Barbaresco, Nebbiolo is found in the DOCG wines of Ghemme and Gattinara in the Novara and Vercelli hills of northern Piedmont. In these regions the grape is known as Spanna and tends to produce lighter more earthier wines. Rather than mandate a 100% Nebbiolo, producers are allowed to blend a small percentage of Bonarda, Croatina and Vespolina though most modern producers favor a high percentage of Nebbiolo. In the northwestern corner of Piedmont, near the Valle d’Aosta, the cool climate of Carema DOC produces Nebbiolo wines with lots of perfume but in some vintages will have difficulties with ripeness. In the Roero district located across the Tanaro river from Barolo & Barbaresco, the wines tend to be less tannic and lighter while those produced in nearby Alba under the Nebbiolo d’Alba DOC can have more complexity and body.
Outside of Piedmont there are significant plantings of Nebbiolo in the Lombardy region of Valtellina where the grape is known as Chiavennasca. The high yields and sub-alpine climate tends to produce Nebbiolo lacking ripeness with bracing acidity. Nebbiolo is also used to make a deeply concentrated Amarone-type wine known as Sfursat. In the Franciacorta, Nebbiolo is a permitted grape variety along with Barbera, Cabernet Franc and Merlot in the rosso wines of the region. Northwest of Piedmont, in the Valle Aosta, some Nebbiolo is grown in the Donnaz region near the border with Carema.
In California, the influence of Italian immigrants in the early history of the state’s wine industry introduced Nebbiolo to the United States in the 19th century. As Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot increased in popularity in the 20th century, Nebbiolo (as well as other Italian grape varieties) steadily decreased in plantings. Today there are scattered plantings of Nebbiolo throughout the state with the majority located in the jug wine producing region of the Central Valley. As California wine producers aim for producing higher quality wines, there has been difficulties in locating ideally suited sites for Nebbiolo and the progress in producing world class California Nebbiolo is considerably behind that of other Italian varietals like Sangiovese, Primitivo and even Barbera and Dolcetto. In Washington State, Nebbiolo was first planted in the Red Willow Vineyard in the Yakima Valley AVA in 1985 with the first varietal release in 1987. As in California, Washington producers are still trying to figure out which sites are best suited to grow Nebbiolo. While the wine is mainly produced as a varietal, some producers make blends with Dolcetto and Syrah added in. Nebbiolo is planted in at least two vineyards in Virginia.
In Australia, winemakers found little early success with Nebbiolo as many of the earliest plantings were in sites that turned out to be too warm for the grape. Research into cooler climate sites lead to some favorable examples coming from the marginal climate of Victoria’s King Valley. Further studies have indicated that the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria and the Margaret River area of Western Australia have similar amounts of rainfall, relative humidity and sunshine hours as the Langhe region of Piedmont. Victoria’s Bendigo, South Australia‘s Clare Valley and the Mudgee, New South Wales’s are also currently being explored for their potential with Nebbiolo.
In Ensenada, Mexico, producers (L.A. Cetto) have been experimenting with plantings of Nebbiolo in Baja California near the US border with promising result, there are 100% Nebbiolo wines produced from low yielding plants with very good color and fine qualities, like the wine produced at Arcilla. In South America, early results in Chile have so far produced wines with high acidity and poor color as winemakers work to find which clones are best suited for their climate. The development of Argentine Nebbiolo has been held back by excessively high yields. In Europe, there are some plantings in the Austrian region of Mittelburgenland.
Nebbiolo is a late-ripening grape that is responsible for the great wines of Piedmont’s Langhe and Monferrato hills: Barolo and Barbaresco. These are the most coveted of Italian wines among international collectors. Notoriously difficult to cultivate, Nebbiolo tends to be planted in the warmest hillside sites, where drainage is excellent. Barolo comes from Nebbiolo planted on the hills southwest of the town of Alba, while Barbaresco is made from Nebbiolo grown just to the north of Alba. Both of these wines show aromas and flavors including but not limited to cherry, plum, raspberry, licorice, mushroom, and leather. Especially with younger examples, expect plenty of bold tannins: these are big wines. With extended bottle-aging, these wines will mellow and show greater austerity.
Wines made from Nebbiolo are characterized by their ample amounts of acidity and tannin. Most examples are wines built for aging and some of the highest quality vintages need significant age (at least a decade or more) before they are palatable to many wine drinkers and can continue to improve in the bottle for upward of 30 years. As Nebbiolo ages, the bouquet becomes more complex and appealing with aromas of tar and roses being the two most common notes. Other aromas associated with Nebbiolo include dried fruit, damsons, leather, licorice, mulberries, spice as well dried and fresh herbs. While Barolo & Barbaresco tend to be the heaviest and most in need of aging, wines made in the modernist style are becoming more approachable at a young age. Lighter styles from Carema, Langhe and Gattinara tend to be ready drink within a few years of vintage. Nebbiolo from California and Australia will vary from producer and quality of vineyard.
The richness and tannic intensity of top Nebbiolos makes them fine partners for strong flavored grilled meats and stews, as well as dry, aged cheeses.
For Barolo and Barbaresco, 2001 and 2004 stand out among recent vintages. Top producers include, but are not limited to, Vietti, Elio Grasso, Pio Cesare, and Giuseppe Rinaldi.
Nebbiolo has a wide range of synonyms used in various local districts of northwest Italy. In the areas of Novara and Vercelli it is known widely as Spanna. In the Val d’Aosta region and around Carema it is known as Picutener. In Valtellina it is known as Chiavennasca.
The Nebbiolo grape variety is also known under the name Barbesino, Brunenta, Femmina, Lampia, Marchesana, Martesana Melasca, Melaschetto, Melascone, Michet, Monferrina, Morsano di Caraglio, Nebbieul grosso, Nebbieul Maschio, Nebbiolin, Nebbiolin Canavesano, Nebbiolin lungo, Nebbiolin nero, Nebieu, Nebieul, Nebieul fumela, Nebiolo, Nebiolo du Piedmont, Nibieul burghin, Nibio, Nibiol, Nubiola, Pantin, Picot, Picotendre, Picote, Picotenero, Picoultener, Picoutendro Maschio, Počte, Prugnet, Prunent, Prunenta, Pugnet, Rosetta, Spagna, Span, Spana commune, Spana grossa and Uva Spanna..
Recommended Growing Regions: Piedmont (Italy)
Flavor Profile: Big, bold, tannic red wines
Food Pairings: Grilled meats and stews; dry, aged cheeses
Other Notes: Don’t drink these wines too young, even the more modern styles benefit from some aging
Recommended Wineries for Nebbiolo
- Pianpolvere Soprano Bussia
- Bruno Giacosa
- Domenico Clerico
- Luciano Sandrone
- Giacomo Conterno
- Roberto Voerzio
- Conterno Fantino
- Bartolo Mascarello
Top rated Nebbiolo wines (??):
- 2004 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Le Rocche del Falletto Riserva (98 pts)
- 1996 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Falletto di Serralunga Riserva (98 pts)
- 2004 Domenico Clerico Barolo Percristina (97 pts)
- 1996 Gaja Nebbiolo Sperss Langhe (96 pts)
- 2004 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Asili Riserva (96)pts)
- 2004 Conterno Fantino Barolo Sori Ginestra (96 pts)
- 2001 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Le Rocche del Falletto Riserva (96+ pts)
- 2004 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Le Rocche del Falletto Riserva (in magnum) (96(+)pts)
- 2006 Bartolo Mascarello Barolo (96 pts)
IV The charms of lesser Nebbiolo wines
By Jason Wilson, Washington Post, March 29, 2011
Rarely do you find the words “affordable” and “nebbiolo” in the same sentence. You probably don’t even see them very often in the same paragraph. For most of us, the idea of an affordable nebbiolo exists in some alternate realm where we all ride unicorns and no one ever goes bald or gray and the weather is always sunny and 75 degrees with no humidity.
Nebbiolo, after all, is the grape upon which Italy’s two greatest, and priciest, red wines are based: Barbaresco and Barolo. The latter, the so-called “king of wines,” is particularly expensive, with good ones starting around $80 and rising into the hundreds.
Now, I love Barolo, one of the handful of wines in the world that I would call profound. I love it so much that when people ask what my favorite wine is, I often exclaim, “Barolo!” And they nod, and say, “Ah, yes. Barolo, of course.” But saying Barolo is a favorite is very much a misrepresentation of my everyday drinking habits. I mean, how often do I drink it? Outside of professional tastings, when I’m buying wine to serve at home or when I order it in restaurants, I probably have Barolo three or four times a year. Maybe five if I’m particularly flush.
Don’t cry for me. Those times are always memorable. Lately, though, I’ve been interested in finding a way to experience the charms of nebbiolo on a more regular basis. So I’ve been looking for younger nebbiolo wines, or else nebbiolo wines from nontraditional regions.They exist, I promise. Many of them cost $25 or less, and some less than $20.
First, as always with Italian wine, there are a few quick points of geography and winemaking to keep in mind. Nebbiolo (taken from the word “nebbia” or fog) is a finicky grape that grows well in only a few places, most predominantly in Piedmont, the foggy northwest corner of Italy. That is also the same spot where the rare white truffle flourishes, and so we might reasonably assume that something strange and mysterious is going on in the soil there.
Barolo and Barbaresco are produced from 100 percent nebbiolo grapes grown in specific zones near Alba. Beyond geographic specificity, what separates Barolo and Barbaresco are their aging regulations. For instance, Barolo must spend at least a year in oak and then three years aging in the bottle, or at least 57 months for riserva. As a Barolo ages, the color turns brick orange, and its silky tannins, complex aromas of dried rose and violet, of leather and truffle and tar, deep cherry and plum flavors emerge. The finish lasts forever. It’s a wine to meditate, brood and ponder over.
However, nearly every producer of Barolo also makes wine bottled as either Nebbiolo d’Alba or Langhe Nebbiolo. Nebbiolo d’Alba is basically made from the same grapes that would become Barolo, only aged less. Langhe is nebbiolo from an even wider geographic area, but still the same basic neighborhood. These wines are not as complex as Barolo; they’re lighter, fresher, racier and completely enjoyable.
For example, Vietti, one of the most highly regarded Barolo producers, makes a Langhe Nebbiolo called Perbacco, which is so close to the real thing that the winemaker calls it a “baby Barolo.” Perbacco sells for $25. Vietti’s Barolos start at around $80.
Moving away from Alba, but still in Piedmont, look for nebbiolo from Roero, Langhe’s neighboring region. Malvira’s Roero nebbiolos are a wonderful value, and I wish we saw them more often in Washington, Maryland and Virginia. (Attention, local wine shops.)
Leaving Piedmont, the other region where nebbiolo is king is in the mountains of Lombardy, in Valtellina. Here, they call nebbiolo grape Chiavennasca, and the wine’s name is Sforzato di Valtellina, produced by drying the grapes before pressing, in a style similar to amarone. It falls somewhere in price between young nebbiolo and Barolo, but still usually less than $50.
Finally, leaving Italy entirely, some brave souls have attempted to grow nebbiolo in unlikely places such as Mexico (L.A. Cetto); Santa Barbara, Calif. (Palmina); and, closer to home, Virginia (Barboursville Vineyards and Breaux Vineyards). While not playing on the same field as Italy, those wines offer an interesting glimpse into nebbiolo’s potential outside its traditional home.
It’s a bold choice to grow nebbiolo in Virginia. I asked Jason Tesauro of Barboursville Vineyards a simple question: Why? He replied that his part of Virginia is also called Piedmont, and so why not?
“Nebbiolo is my desert island grape,” he says. “If I had to pick one grape only for the rest of my life, this is it.”
Given that as the reason, I can certainly understand the impulse to want to grow nebbiolo in Virginia. Or anywhere else.