Nebbiolo day!

We are all used now to days which celebrate or draw our attention to something important or special.  Apparently this is National School Meals awareness week and Men’s health awareness month. (Are men that stupid that they need a whole month to get to grips with things that might trouble them – well, probably.) But for wine lovers it was a matter of celebration that London had its very first – indeed a world first – Nebbiolo Day on 13 November 2017. Walter Speller of www.jancis.robinson.com had the idea and persuaded growers in Barolo and Barberesco – but also Valle d’Aosta, Roero, Gattinara, Ghemme, Boca, Carema, Valli Ossolane, Bramaterra, Fara, Valtellina Superiore, and no doubt a few I have missed – to show their wines to the London wine trade. One large hall, one grape variety only, and five styles of wine royally entertained the London trade and wine-writer scene – young Nebbiolo, wood-aged Nebbiolo, Nebbiolo Riserva, a handful of pink and /or sparkling wines and one dried-grape Nebbiolo.   

My personal reflection is that however many Nebbiolo wines you have tasted, this is not a category that exhausts or tires you.  Yes, they are high tannin and high acidity and they do have a relatively limited range of mostly red fruit but they are very addictive, even compulsive.  I love Sangiovese but some of the wines are heavy or clumsy, unlike Nebbiolo.  The only comparison I can think of is Champagne where the endless play on acidity makes the category compulsive.  

Highlights 

We were fortunate in that most of the young wines on show were from the splendid 2013 vintage – fresh, complex, high acidity, ripe and fine tannins. But there were some spectacular wines from other vintages too.  From the hundreds of wines on show I pick a few: 

Castello di Neive Riserva, Santo Stefano, Barbaresco, 2011, 13.5% – this company owned by the Stupino family have been inadvertently contributing to one of Italy’s – no, the world greatest wines – in that they have sold the grapes from the Santo Stefano vineyard to Bruno Giacosa in the past.  But having built themselves a new, larger winery, they are now able to vinify their own grapes and, hopefully, get more of the glory for their own work.  From the hot 2011 vintage, this shows great depth of red-berried fruit and real freshness, the hallmark of quality in this vintage. This will be good for a couple of decades of development at least.  

Produttori del Carema, Carema Classico DOC, 2014, 13% – near rosé colour despite being macerated on the skins for 12 days and aged in large oak casks for 12 months. Lifted rose and earthy perfume, present but unobtrusive tannins, no doubt will add complexity in the bottle.  A little gem from Alto Piemonte, close to the border with Valle d’Aosta. 

Antoniotti, Bramaterra DOC, 2014 – lovely spicy and lifted red plum notes, very striking linear body, incisive and distinctive: 70% Nebbiolo, 20% Croatina, 7% Vespolina and 3% Uva Rara.  Bramaterra is one of the seven historic sub-zones of Alto Piemonte.  (P.S. we drank a 2009 of this bottle in the evening with real pleasure: barely less fresh than the 2014.)

Rainoldi, Sfursat di Valtellina DOCG Fruttaio Cà Rizzieri 2013, 15.5% 

This is an example of the dried-fruit style of wine but made with the Nebbiolo variety. You might think that Nebbiolo does not need an further concentration, particularly in a dry wine, but this shows how versatile it is.  The grapes are dried for two and a half months with a reduction in water of 35% and then vinified. Wonderfully complex red fruit, tobacco and a hint of raisins, fully dry finish (said to be 4.4g/l but it did not taste sweet), and that remarkable tautness in the mid-palate which is a hallmark of the variety.  16 months in new barriques is taken effortlessly in its stride.  

Sordo, Parussi, Barolo riserva DOCG, 2007 Let’s finish on a bit of a treat at a professional tasting, the chance to reflect on a Barolo riserva with a bit of bottle age.  The Parussi vineyard is close to the Sordo cellar in Castiglione Falleto and forms a south and west facing amphitheatre. The wine is aged for two years and more in large neutral oak casks and then spends a minimum of five years in the bottle.   The nose showed some development with a combination of mushroom, red berry notes and a light acetic lift; a very fine fruit core; tannins just beginning to lengthen. Outstanding.  

This was a wonderful opportunity to taste Nebbiolo across North East Italy.  I don’t know if it would kill it or promote the variety if its day became an annual event, but I would very happily add Nebbiolo day to the calendar.  Perhaps the event could be annual but move around the main wine centres of the world?  Put the date in the diary now: 13 November! 

 

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