2018 Davide Carlone Colline Novaresi Nebbiolo

Great place to stop for a well priced bottle of Nebbiolo, those hills around Novara up toward Maggiore and the Alps. There’s a beautiful perfume of Pink Lady apples, wild strawberries, sour cherry and all that Alpine meadow in spring floral and herbal stuff. Builds with clean red fruit across the tongue, floats on a feather of saliva inducing acidity and the finest grains of tannin. Right at the end, a glorious twist of what them Italians call amaro, like the bitter herbs used in those odd digestive drinks. Mountain fresh and barely middle weight. Becomes sweeter fruited after twenty four hours of air but still cuts a pleasantly bitter sense of place. Fairly obvious there’s such well grown grapes carefully and simply turned to wine. If you’re a fancier of Valtellina mountain Nebbiolo, you’ll be very happy with this, all at a bargain price. So different to the grunt and depth of Barolo but no less interesting.

13.5% alcohol. Diam, hooray. $30 as a direct import from Boccaccio Cellars, great value.

93 points.

2014 Piero Benevelli Langhe Nebbiolo

2014 was wet and the Benevellis decided to make no Barolo and declassify to Langhe Nebbiolo. The weather surely made a lasting impression as one September morning that year dearest and I arrived in Castiglione Falletto an hour or so early for a grand visit. How about a walk out toward Monforte on a dry and pleasant morning? Seems it was my fault we were tempted to plunge down a footpath through the Rocche cru towards Perno, just as the humidity became dense and the patter of following rain turned into a torrential thunder storm. The path fast became a mud slide. We scrambled up the hill to Perno. No way back down that path. Barolo roads being just a bit convoluted, it became obvious we were now several kilometres by bitumen from our visit and lunch, oops. Eventually a very simpatico couple from Milan took pity on our attempts to hitchhike in the wrong direction and dropped us within metres of our destination. The kindness of strangers and forgiving smiles at their wet muddy back seats. Fortunately dearest and I still talk as the tasting at Vietti and lunch were ace and we got there in time, just. This bottle shows none of those damp troubles. Nice red colour, fragrant with pot pourri and roses, touch of aniseed, stones and earth, fresh and perfumed through the mouthful. Maybe a hint of something green and herby, more mountain fresh than under ripe. Savoury too, perhaps some clean lees to fatten? The shape sort of reminds of the Valtellina but the flavours have their feet in the Langhe dirt, nothing muddy here.

13.5% alcohol. Cork. $30 direct import, bravo Boccaccio.

92, probably 93 really, points.

2016 Cavalotto Dolcetto d’Alba Vigna Scot

Of the few Barolo vineyards I’ve been lucky enough to walk around, the Cavalotto bit of Castiglione looks like it’s cared for like a perfect organic garden. Grudgingly sharing this bottle with mates over a good pizza, no notes but a lingering need to say just how good. Gentle but firm, all the flavours of good Langhe Dolcetto, bright cherry, touch of aniseed, sweet earth. It’s more the soft balance, everything in its place, no bombast, quiet assurance of grapes grown with great care, picked when the flavours are just ripe at lower alcohol, organic growing showing perhaps? Feels like it’s doing you good as it goes down. The shape reminiscent of digestible claret, the flavours all from a precious plot in Castiglione Falletto. How much longer I can keep my paws off my few Cavalotto Baroli?

12.5% alcohol. Cork. $38.

93 points but grace beyond numbers.

2004 Vietti Barolo Riserva Villero

If you walk along the road from Castiglione Falletto towards Monforte, on one side is Rocche, the other Villero, a dizzying bit of bitumen. Without a doubt this is the most profoundly concentrated and densely delicious wine I’ve ever had the fortune to drink. The deepest fathoms of Nebbiolo born in the Langhe, still just bottled fresh cherries, faded rose perfume and the tar of said strada in summer sun. Liquid geology in the mouth. Immortal rocks in velvet. Flashes of just picked summer fruit like lightening illuminating those hilly vineyards. How on planet wine do you grow grapes with so much flavour and most importantly definition? Gushing words and hyperbole barely grasp the beauty of this. Oh, it’s just a drink.

14% alcohol. Cork. The most generous share ever, particularly seeing the way Vietti prices have escalated.

97 points at first, then 98 of course.

2011 Cantina Antica Hiripinia Taurasi DOCG

It seems this is from the coop that made the very first Taurasi when DOC was granted, now DOCG or is now DOPG? Googling the EU enforced changes from DOC to DOP in Italy, I’m now even more confused. Seems to work for food but wine, no idea, Italians and adhering to rules? I do know this is Aglianico and a lovely word to say with that gli widening of the mouth. The flavours cover the width of the mouth too. Still fresh and bright, spiced plum skins, a swell of age softened red fruit, warm bricks, soot and an iron tang. A clean and clear message from dark brooding volcanic country. Caught it at a good point on its journey, fresh but rounding. Officially not sure what it’s called now but unofficially still what the old boot does so well, grape and flavour settled in its place. Maybe those Romans knew too?

13.5% alcohol. Cork. $35 at auction.

92 points.

2019 Crissante Alessandria Barbera d’Alba

The 2018 was so good that when this 2019 appeared on a local online auction site, difficult not to bid. Writing about the lovely 2018, I was completely wrong to think the maker’s name was one of those family name first Italian formals, in fact it’s the two family names involved. Research is a useful thing for those who think they know of which they write. Anyway, this is just pure and delicious. Like falling face first into an Italian market fruit stall in late summer. Squished berries, brambles and that sort of slightly burnt fruit stew that can lurk in really ripe Barbera. Some Piemonte sweet soil underpins the exuberant fruit and it’s all swept up and clean by the sort of mouthwatering acidity that makes another sip unavoidable. So clean, so carefully made but so true to the soil of La Morra where the land lends a beguiling scent to its fruit, well maybe, or just a half a bottle down fancy? Delicioso they say.

14% alcohol. Diam. $38.

93 points.

2018 Murgo Tenuta San Michele Etna Bianco DOP

70% Carricante and 30% Catarratto. It seems these two are truly indigenous to the sulphurous slopes of Etna, the former particularly so and known for its ability to hang onto high levels of acidity. It must include a lot of malic acid as it’s known for frequent malolactic fermentation to soften things up. Murgo certainly seem to have a pretty good idea of how to make a very tasty bottle from their piece of the volcano. First day, toffee, exotic citrus and pear liqueur richness are pulled into shape by saline, ash and yoghurt sour acidity. Lots of power with much pith and acidity to balance. Second day and there’s an uncanny touch of Chardonnay from the Côte de Beaune about it. Unusually well applied oak, sweet citrus again and honeyed quince all delicious on a bed of drying mineral ash and that tangy yoghurt. A haunting mouth perfume stays around to emphasise the gentle power. Offered a glass without knowing, I would have offered a guess at Meursault or Chassange. Not many volcanoes in Burgundy but some influences in Sicily. Love to know if anyone’s tried this in an options game, had me fooled and I’d seen the label.

13.5% alcohol. Diam, yes. About $55 to 60 RRP?

94 and an argument for 95 possible.

2018 Crissante Alessandria Barbera d’Alba

A new producer for me, based in La Morra, home of Altare the modernist and this looks appropriately clean and fresh, albeit without being clobbered by oak flavour. Bearing in mind the Italian formality of putting the family name before the given name, this could the estate of Alessandria Crissante or not? Lovely to say with a musical Italian voice nonetheless despite the possibility of being unforgivably rude and bad at accents. The contents of the bottle are much easier to understand. Bright with dark sour cherry, digestive biscuits, nuts and that Piemontese austere stony earth. Sort of washy in a good way as the flavours float on the journey down the red lane. Ripe but crisply mouthwatering, yum. Wonder what that is in Italian? They must use the words a lot being so good at putting food on the table.

14.5%. Diam, bravo. $41 at auction.

93 points, better the second day, good sign.

2018 Rizieri Dolcetto di Diano d’Alba Sori del Ricchino

To be honest, it’s not that often there’s a new direct import inclusion on the shelves of the one in every suburb now Dan Murphy’s that inspires an immediate purchase. Perhaps Piemonte is now so important in the wide world of wine that even an Australian supermarket behemoth is paying attention? I should pay more attention to my pouring skills so as to keep the label uppermost to avoid those deeply wine coloured streaks. Does look like we had fun despite my clumsiness. Not that hard, bottle to glass and happy to repeat in this case. Good excuse for more practice. Beautifully made, this just got better over a couple of days airing and sipping. Spotlessly clean. Bright red lip smacking cherries, slightly tart, with almond paste and a perfect Piemonte earthy sense of place. An extra depth of fruit and some sweet herbs. All carried long on crisp ripe acidity and a brush of cat’s lick tannin. It seems as if the Langhe 2018s I’ve tried so far look like they’re from the cooler vintages of the last century before the warming harvests of recent times. Some careful growing getting things just ripe rather than worrying over heat, sun and high alcohol arriving before flavour. Better get another bottle and try not to make such a mess.

13.5% alcohol. Diam, good. $23.10, bargain.

93 points.

Following up with a bit of research, it seems that the Sori del Ricchino single vineyard has long been prized for the quality of its grapes, in a village already known for the quality of its Dolcetto. My vote for best value in an increasingly expensive Langhe.

Despite some good words about the quality of the vintage, a 2019 bottle of this was disappointing. Just too savoury and a little green around the tannin department. Started off well, quite firm and structured but never really showed enough fruit ripeness to match the grunt. Oh well, never assume.

2017 Massolino Dolcetto d’Alba

Some producers are good at the whole process from plants to packaging. Massolino would be an exemplar judging by this sadly empty bottle. Dense, clean and pure fruit galore. Authentic ripe sour cherries, tar, earth and a bit of warm year woody spice. Grip and tang in harmony. Second day and the core of picked just at the right time fruit is headed into deep and meaningful territory. If you had to choose a Dolcetto to interest those learning how good Piemonte can be, this would be the place to start. Bonus marks for a Stelvin Luxe screwcap and a lighter weight bottle. The label’s a bit fancy too.

13.5% alcohol. Screw cap. 420 gms of glass. $37.

93 emphatic points.