Nebbiolo the wine, the purest expression of the grape that shares the same name, affords wine drinkers wonderful opportunities to learn about producers as well as vintages. These wines tend to be less influenced by winemaking, and the lengthy ageing that is required for wines such as Barolo and Barbaresco, allowing one to see more of the vintage traits and skill of the winemaker in question. They;re also damn fine wine in their own right and often great values to boot.
I tasted the wines that follow on visits that I organized, mostly because I knew the producers and anticipated that I would enjoy their wines so this list is a bit of a self-selected best of list. The result is a bevy of fine wines and a range of styles, all of which can give you insight into the coming vintages for a modest price. 2010 and 2011 promise to be very exciting vintages in Piedmont, continuing a lucky streak that sees the even years being more traditionally styled and the odd vintages being more marked by a warm growing season. I am very excited by both vintages and found wines to recommend in both though most of the wines I tasted were in fact from 2011.
It’s too early to really say how 2011 is going to turn out for Barolo and Barbaresco but my gut tells me this might be the most successful warm vintage we’ve seen, eclipsing 2003, 2007, and 2009. The wines are big and bold, and probably will offer fairly immediate enjoyment but at the same time they are perfumed and rich with fresh fruit flavors. To a large extent the improvement over previous vintages lies with the winemaker’s growing familiarity with these conditions. Having experience with warm vintages and knowing what to do in the vineyard and in the cellar can make a world of difference.
2009 is the current reigning champ of warm vintages, and rightly so. While 2009 enjoyed plenty of warmth during the growing season temperatures cooled down late in the year, affording growers the leisure of a more relaxed harvest. In 2011 they had no such luck as temperatures remained above normal late into the season, particularly at night when the region usually experience the great diurnal shift that keeps their late harvested varieties fresh and bright. And yet still the Nebbiolo seems to have done quite well, exceptionally well in spots. Certainly this is a great vintage for Barbera, which usually means that it’s less good for Nebbiolo, but I have the feeling that some people just got everything right in 2011 and were able to produce spectacular wines.
Time will tell of course. It’s been said that in 2009 man made the difference, whether in vineyard or in cellar, it was a vintage decided by man. This is likely to be even more applicable in 2011, but judging from the Nebbiolos I tried a lot of people seem to be making the right decisions.
One note worth discussing here is that you’ll see that I tasted both Langhe Nebbiolo and Nebbiolo d’Alba, and even a Langhe Rosso or two. While for the purposes of this discussion these wines are almost interchangeable it’s worth noting that differences do exist.
To begin with there is a geographical distinction to be made. Langhe Nebbiolo can be produced from vineyards in any of over 100 communes in the province of Cuneo while fruit destined for Nebbiolo d’Alba can only come from a fraction of these, in particular those that surround the commune of Alba and the adjacent communes. In addition there is the question of varietal composition that differs. With Nebbiolo d’Alba we’re talking 100% nebbiolo while with Langhe Nebbiolo the wine must be at least 85% Nebbiolo, the remaining 15% can be any other allowed non-aromatic black grapes. A Langhe Rosso must be at least 85% Barbera, Dolcetto, or Nebbiolo with the same requirements for the remaining 15%.
In reality the vast majority of the wines I’ve tasted are pure nebbiolo, and the other distinctions that can be made between the two wine Langhe nebbiolo and Nebbiolo d’Alba, such as minimum alcohol content (11.5% versus 12%) or the requirement for dry extract simply do not enter the calculus of the wines at this high level. At this level the wines are indeed to a large extent interchangeable , geographical limitations not withstanding.
Young vines and less than perfect fruit that will not make it into the barolo, harvested one to two weeks earlier than barolo fruit.
Wild cherry, watermelon, herb stems and stones really fill the glass in a captivating display of nebbiolo perfume. Opening with great ripeness this shows off sweet fruit with bright acids and tense tannins in near perfect balance.The fruit here is just gorgeous, fresh and detailed with a medicinal herb edge leading to a long, elegant finish filled with with cherry pits, herb stems, stones and mint. Killer Langhe Nebbiolo 93pts
80% young vine Bricco Boschis, the rest comes from vineyards that are outside bricco boschis, since they don’t make a base Barolo it all goes in here. Traditionally made with 18 months of aging, in more simple vintages maybe 15
Nice nose, a bit earthy yet powerful with sandalwood and macerated floral notes accenting rather plummy and raspberry scented fruit with an attractive a hint of tar. In the mouth this is both soft and at the same time a fairly rich with great acidity and nice soft tannins supporting with dark fruit that shows a tarry edge and a hint of medicinal florals, maybe a touch of chamomile. There’s also a spicy minty aspect to the wine that I often find in Cavallotto’s wines. The finish is long and shows the slightly chewy, muscular nature of this vintage. Classic Nebbiolo. 92pts
The lowest parts of Margheria and Merenga planted specifically for use in Lange Nebbiolo fourteen years ago. These lower vineyards seem to hold more water in the berries so the wines come off as less extracted than higher plts, this vintage the extract is the maximum, same harvest time as barolo
Lovely nose filled with pure Nebbiolo fruit, high toned, rose hips, a little agrumi, forest floor, porcini, wild cherry fruit. If you want to smell Nebbiolo, here it is! Lots of round slightly chewy tannins lend this some weight in the mouth and while this is a little short today, this is rather Barolo like on the palate. A powerful little Nebbiolo, tarry and really an impressive expression of the vintage with a killer nose. A damn fine wine but atypical in it’s power and depth. 92pts
Very aromatic with a really compelling nose filled wild berries, balsamic spices, some cinnamon and a bit of minty fresh herbs. This is intense and ripe in the mouth with impressive complexity and freshness. It has a lovely, lightly chewy feel due to the significant ripe tannins and fine acidity. In the mouth this is remarkably aromatic, and quite Barbaresco like with its masses of ripe fresh balsamic fruit, nice cranberry and strawberry notes topped with herbal, bay leaf and rose petal top notes. A big Langhe Nebbiolo with alcohol of 14.5% this is powerful and full, though today it does seem just a bit light on the finish. 91pts
A little over-ripeness greets the nose followed by little smoky, stony, mineral nuances. Bright, clean, and mineral in the mouth this is really energetic with lovely fine tannins supporting elegant, raspberry and strawberry fruit topped with little tarry, floral top notes in the mouth and turning orange blossomy on the long and perfumed finish. The purity of fruit here is impressive and this shows really nice cut on the finish with decisive small tannins. Vivid and lightweight 91pts
28 day fermentation, six months in botte
Classic aromas greet the nose, prune in alcohol, slightly herbal, gently medicinal with a touch of beef and chocolate rounding out the aromas. Easy and open in style, this offers up lots of ripe fruit, lots of acid, and lots of tannin for Langhe Nebbiolo. A baby Barolo in the making with deep rose petal and cactus pad flavors on the palate, and through the really lovely long, aromatic and powerful finish, where is admittedly does show a hint of heat. 90pts
Tight, mineral aromas gain hints of dried peach, forest floor, camphor and rose petal in the glass. This is a bit spicy in the mouth; medium bodied with lovely balance soft but present acidity and ripe succulent tannins supporting bitter cherry fruit with an earthy, limestone filled backdrop. This shows really fine cut on the palate with tannins driving the long finish filled with tart red fruits, Fairly refined for a Langhe Nebbiolo. 90pts
Very aromatic with intense aromas of cherries in alcohol, pickled watermelon, mint and fresh rye bread with a gently smoky top note. Light jammy raspberry fruit greets the palate with a bit of a soft, broad feel. This lacks the nervous energy of previous vintages but delivers rich, soft fresh and deep fruit, with nice earthy top notes all supported by very Nebbiolo tannins. The finish is long and lovely with fine persistence to the fruit. A happy, round and supple Nebbiolo. 89pts
Shorter macerations with lower temperatures than for Barolo, young vines from many of the same vineyards.
Nice cherry fruit on the nose is well framed by licorice notes and a bit of spicy wood Fairly ripe and fruity on entry, this soft and broad in the mouth with good height on the palate. Rich with dark cherry fruit accented by nice mineral notes and a little licorice and tobacco on the back end, this shows a nice touch of firmness from masses of soft, supple tannins that lead to a long finish with a nice blend of savoriness and small red berry fruit culminating in a long lingering burnished cherry finale. 89pts
12 to 15 days fermentations then 1.5 years in botte. All from vineyards within Barolo, either young vines, or plants that don’t deliver the complexity needed for Barolo some of which have 45 years of age. In essence a declassified Barolo.
Beautiful on the nose with layers of earth and savory complexity. not fruity in the fruit sense, but delivers a lot of terroir driven aromatics. In the mouth this is juicy, very mineral driven again not a fruity style but a very terroir driven example that reveals subtle layers of earth, dried herbs, and small red berry raspberry and wild cherry fruits. There’s just a touch of smokiness here as well, which might be from some wood but this remains fairly complex, with good length and elegance in the model of a mountain Nebbiolo. 89pts
Absolutely no new oak, 14 months in second and third passage
Slightly warmer microclimate, pick grapes beginning of oct
Fresh on the nose with light, perfumes of tight floral tones, wild herbs, and almost a bitter apple tone, with minty accents over a core of small red berried fruit. Quite open on entry with a gently sweet edge to the raspberry and strawberry fruit backed up with a hint of cinnamon and a dried herb and fennel notes. There is fine acid balance with lovely small, fresh tannins that have an astringent shading to them lending this an elegant feel. This shows real finesse on the palate but the fruit remains slightly dense and opaque. 89pts
Balsamic, fresh, and tense on the nose with the purity of mountain forest air filled with tiny red fruit and floral notes though there is something slightly dirty lurking on the nose, Lightweight and elegant with a light roundness of texture and just touch of glycerine adding a little flesh to the clear red fruit on the palate. This is very tense in the mouth with austere tannins and a long, elegant finish. 89pts
Vines from Ravera, only eight years old ne week fermentation at a little cooler temperature than for Barolo followed by a year in second passage barrique,
Sweet fruit cake aromas greet the nose with a hint of herb and some watermelon accents. Thoroughly ripe and a bit powerful in the mouth this offers emerging wild cherry fruit, with plenty of mineral notes, a big hit of mint, and a nice vegetal edge to the fruit. This is actually quite savory and very attractive with great focus and balance even if it’s not terribly complex. 88pts
A bit tarry and then quite herb stemmed on the perfumed nose which shows a mineral aspect and a touch of bitter almond. On entry this is a bit soft and rich though with lot of cherry fruit with a nice gently sweet spiced edge to the midpalate, and a touch of watermelon rind adding detail on the backend. The tannins are really quite refined and lovely with integrated acidity supporting the palate and driving the tart peach and cherry pit flavors on the modest finish. 88pts
6 months in SS, younger vines from different vineyards in Novello and Barolo,
Quite ripe on the nose with small wild cherry and slightly jammy wild raspberry topped by attractive spice notes and nice hints of rose petals. There’s good acidity here embedded in plenty of rich red fruit lending this a soft suave mouthfeel. A little opulent and easy in the mouth this is very approachable with its core of clear, crisp red fruit nicely supported by a base of fine grained and slowly drying tannins which lead to a simple long finish. 87pts
From all their vineyards, the young vines, under about 12 years of age, picked just a few days before peak of maturity, a low temp fermentation to preserve the freshness of the fruit, five to six days maceration then fifteen to eighteen days until ferments dry, three to four months in various wood
A little wood sweetness and spice on the balsamic nose which gains strawberry tops and a hint of sweet tobacco with air. Soft in the mouth and showing a nice little meatiness of tart red cherry and very ripe strawberry flavors that are supported by fine little tannins and clear acids. A fresh little wine that is rather warm fruited. 86pts
Only ss, eight day fermentation
Nice gummy, small berry fruit on the nose over a balsamic base with hints of clay, cut grass and a touch of white mushroom. A touch soft on entry, the pretty broad fruit on the palate is supported by nice acids and soft tannins, with some mossy green spice notes with a little watermelon rind appearing on the mid-palate. Finishes cleanly with small fine grained tannins, a leathery edge and with a hint of sweetness to the fruit. 86pts
Smokey and oaky on the nose with some black fruit and licorice accents. Soft and rich on entry though with a heavy load of oak tannin leading to a weighty mid palate that shows bright red fruits but lacks freshness and detail. the fruit has a gummy candy feel, black cherry gummi bear, tactile and sweet and layered over gently spicy oak. Arguably well made but this comes of as heavy handed and is simply not my style of wine. 85pts
Original: Snooth – Articles