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Nebbiolo Nights


It’s been a while since an entry has been added to the blog. Fret not! There will be more frequent updates moving forward. I’ve been busy though! And apparently drinking a lot of Nebbiolo. Nebbiolo, the King of Grapes in the Langhe is one of my favourites and possibly exceeds my love for Sangiovese.

One of the things I find fascinating about Nebbiolo is that it really only reaches great heights in a small section of the Langhe, around the communes of Barolo to the southwest of Alba and the communes of Barbaresco to the northeast. Sure, it’s planted elsewhere in Piedmont and the world, but it’s rarely as special and, in the case of Nebbiolo grown outside of Italy, rarely palatable.

I’ve been fortunate to visit the area on a couple occasions and have an affinity for the people and food of the region. The notes below represent a cross-section of styles in the Langhe. Some are very traditional (Produttori del Barbaresco), others significantly more modern (Rocche Costamagna), while the others fall somewhere in between.  You won’t see notes on the top, top, top producers in the area (G. Conterno, A. Conterno, Vietti, Gaja, etc), but there are some fantastic producers, including one of my personal favourites, Sottimano. The wines of the Sottimano family are stupendous and are finally receiving the recognition of important wine critics. They’re fantastic people too!

  • 2004 Pio Cesare Barbaresco – Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barbaresco
    Not decanted. Medium ruby colour. Pretty nose of strawberries, earth, leather, and roses. Medium-full bodied with cocoa, strawberry, leather, minerals, and orange peel notes. Tannins are obviously still very firm for such a young Barbaresco, but this wine exudes finesse to the moderate-length, 30-35s finish showing more strawberry and floral notes.

    Another delicious wine from Pio Cesare that will benefit from several more years in the cellar. Revisit in 2015. (92 pts.)

  • 2000 Rocche Costamagna Barolo Rocche Dell’Annunziata Bricco Francesco – Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo
    Medium ruby colour. Beautiful nose of licorice, spice, vanilla, blackcurrant, and black cherry. Medium-full bodied, lush, with black fruit, and spice notes. Moderate finish, ~30-35s, with more dark fruit. This was drinking the best of the three Nebbiolo on the night. I still see potential for improvement and to allow for development of more secondary and tertiary aromas and flavours. Drink 2013+. (92 pts.)
  • 2000 Palladino Barolo Vigna San Bernardo – Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo
    Medium-ruby garnet colour. Beautiful nose of cherries, menthol, and strawberries. Very delicate. Medium-bodied with replays from nose. Approachable, but still showing good grip. Moderate-length finish, ~35s, with red berry fruit. Drink 2013+. (92 pts.)

All the wines in this first trio were delicious. The delicacy of the Palladino Vigna S. Bernardo was a fantastic example of how a complex wine doesn’t need to be super-dense. The Pio Cesare will see the most improvement with cellaring. It’s middle of the road in its aging regiment, but represents the old style of blending parcels from multiple vineyards to make a complete wine. I recall a bottle of 1989 consumed at sixteen years of age having developed gracefully and showing plenty of life ahead. From the 2000 vintage, the Rocche Costamagna Bricco Francesco represents what will ultimately be an early drinker in a modern, lush style. Good dark fruit with vanilla notes make it a good pairing for grilled meats.

  • 1996 Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco Riserva Montestefano – Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barbaresco
    Decanted one-and-a-half hours. Medium-dark ruby colour. Beautiful, expressive nose of roses, violets, orange rind, cherries, earth, and spice. Surprisingly undeveloped on the nose and quite tight on the palate! It opened slightly after another three hours, but the wine is still a shadow of what it will be with additional cellaring. Some earth, leather, red berry fruit, and orange rind pokes out. 91 points now with solid upside potential. Revisit in 2015. (91 pts.)
  • 2001 Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco – Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barbaresco
    Pale garnet colour with a good bricking of orange. Very pretty, floral Nebbiolo nose. Dried violets, roses, mushroom/earth, orange peel, leather, spice, dried cherry, and a hint of aniseed. Medium-full bodied, good attack, and straddles secondary and tertiary nuances in a similar manner to the nose. Solid length, ~35-40s, with chalk, dried red fruit, and flowers. Tannins still cause a little pucker but there is no doubt this is a gorgeous, traditional Barbaresco that has a long life ahead. Drink 2010-2018. (91 pts.)
  • 2006 Sottimano Langhe Nebbiolo – Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Langhe DOC
    A Barbaresco in everything but name (the grapes come from Sottimano’s holdings in the Basarin vineyard), this is a fantastic, medium-bodied Langhe Nebbiolo that offers sweet red fruit and wonderful floral notes with only about an hour of air. Something to drink while waiting for their single-vineyard Barbarescos to age. I’m glad I have a solid stash of this in the cellar. Drink 2010-2018. (91 pts.)

Produttori del Barbaresco represents one of the most successful wine co-operatives in Italy. Traditional, well-made, and long-lived wines are the keys to the Produttori. The regular Barbaresco is a blend of all their growers’ holdings aged in botte, while in exceptional years, nine single-vineyard Riservas are produced. The 1996 Riserva Montestefano was simply too young. One would think that fourteen years is enough age, but definitely not here. I’ll be leaving my remaining bottles from the other vineyards alone. The 2001 normale was delicious and just entering its drinking window. I look forward to following my remaining bottles over the coming years.

As for Sottimano’s Langhe Nebbiolo, it’s a Barbaresco in everything but name. 100% Basarin fruit from vines that are younger than the family desires for their single-vineyard selections, this wine represents fantastic value and is already approachable.

Additional Nebbiolo of late have included a lovely 1999 Giovanni Manzone Barolo Le Gramolere with its notes of menthol, leather/mushroom, earth, and dried flowers, and a fantastic early peek at a bottle of 2005 Paitin Barbaresco Sori’ Paitin that I wrote about in my Meatballs post.

Finally, a pair of very old Barolo Riserva from Borgogno were examples of how wine can’t age indefinitely. The 1952 Riserva showed significantly more life than its younger sibling, but I think the wine should have been consumed about 10-15 years ago. There were interesting notes of tea, leather, earth, iron, and hints of mulch on the nose and palate, but finished quite short. The 1961 was over the hill and, unlike the 1952, really wasn’t enjoyable to drink showing quite a bit of maderization with hints of caramel and chocolate on the finish. Nonetheless, it was an interesting exercise as it’s rare to have the opportunity to drink wines with this kind of age. It does remind me to drink wines on their way to (or at) maturity instead of when they’re on their downward slide.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Patrick permalink
    2010/03/21 7:03 PM

    Hi Fut… I watch your comments on WS from time to time, especially refarding italian wine 🙂 I’m a huge Nebbiolo fan myself.

    I remember driving to Mississauga to pick up 4 of the Sori Paitin and based on your review, i’m glad i did!
    My CT id is check it out!


  2. futronic permalink*
    2010/04/06 12:35 PM

    Thanks for reading the blog, Patrick! Hope you continue to enjoy it. The 2005 Paitin Barbaresco Sori’ Paitin is excellent stuff and I am glad I have a handful stashed away in my cellar.

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