Wine that communicates a sense of place and the vagaries of wine fashion over the longer term are two of the great fascinations of fermented grape juice. My ancient copy of Hugh Johnson’s World Wine Atlas from 1986 doesn’t even acknowledge any vineyards on Melbourne’s Mornington Peninsula, now a prime wine tourist destination. It does however reserve a whole page for the more rurally distant parts of Piemonte, before phylloxera once a much larger producer of Nebbiolo than Barolo. Thanks to growers like Davide Carlone, areas like Boca are on the way back from obscurity. This wildly delicious version smells of sage and those weirdly volatile Italian herby digestive drinks. As it settles with air, cherries and sweet earth charm with a distinct rocky flavour, sort of like licking granite if you would be daft enough to do so? The fine dry tannin and firmly ripe acidity are a wonderful foil to good food and as tightly bound together as only the Italians know how. Maybe even more igneous rocky in character than Nebbiolo from the svelte Langhe or just a geological fancy? Nonetheless a beautiful Nebbiolo with a fierce pride of place. Good pizza amplifies the pleasure and smooths the rustic charm.
14% alcohol. Cork. $37.
One of the many joys of living in Melbourne is the enduring influence of the last century’s Italian immigration. In inner north suburban Brunswick there remains the large supermarket, Mediterranean Wholesalers, who direct import our daily staples at great prices and where the last surviving members of the 1950s’ diaspora chat in impenetrable dialects. The wine selection can be a little patchy but for a while it’s included the Piemontese cooperative Terre da Vino at astonishing prices. This humble Dolcetto proved to be the perfect companion to a bowl of their quality Gragnano pasta. Clean, fresh and a good bite of food friendly acidity and tannin, just what you want. Barely medium in weight with gentle scents and tastes of red cherries and a touch of that Piemonte soil. A mouthwatering build of soft sparkle fruit makes it interesting as it then fades out to that simply satisfying end. Dread to think what our Anglo Saxon table would have been like without some Italian influence.
12.5% alcohol. Nomacorc Select Green 500 to be precise. $12. Not sure how they do it.
89 points of simple pleasure.
Maybe the old argument about traditional and modern winemaking is more blurred than important when seeking value in Piemonte? La Morra is seen by some as the devil of new oak and esoteric science. Well, you can hope new barrels probably won’t feature in a humble Langhe Nebbiolo and it seems they don’t here. A blend of two vineyards, the eponymous, lovely word, S. Francesco and Fontanazza with grapes from a vintage with a reputation. Add some highly polished wine making and deeply flavoured grapes and the result’s a resolved bourgeois glass of rich cherry, Langhe dirt, polished melting tannin and controlled acidity. Great fruit and suave craft. This or old dirty barrels?
14% alcohol. Cork. $50 or so then.
93 points for Nebbiolo in a nice suit.
There’s possibly still a misconception about Dolcetto, the little sweet one; this certainly isn’t sweet or little, more like tackle from one of those Italian centre backs from the eighties. Knees, elbows or whatever it takes. This is savoury, jammed with dark Piemontese earth and astringent to the degree of pizza being a necessity. Dark cherries and soil both in smell and taste. Seems like a hot, dry vintage character with assertive dry skin tannin, almost leathery and very firm but thankfully not sour acidity. If you just tasted between meals, you wouldn’t be blamed for thinking it too dry and unbalanced but that’s not the way to do it. To the table for sweet tomato and pale mozzarella on a long prove chewy base and so delicioso.
13.50% alcohol. Cork. $30 or thereabouts.
92 points but not much else can match a pizza so well.
Clean as the proverbial whistle that wets the lips and pleasures the olfactory bits with bright bramble berries, spice and sweet earth. Bass riff of dark fruit chocolate. Praise for the lovely balance of whole berry fruit cut by guttural Monte tannins and brusque acidity. Extra depth of fruit to finish raises the level above the usual and gives angel wings to tomatoey pasta. Such a modern, fresh full Monty without losing the rustic underwear.
13% alcohol. Screwcap. $22.
Now is the winter of Nebbiolo contentment, again. Pristine bright sugar dusted raspberries and tangy red cherries. Rose perfume lift and almond paste. Really pretty and demanding of another sip, eggs you on with crackling acidity and for Nebbiolo just a drift of fine ripe tannin. Joyful drinking ensues.
14% alcohol. Cork. $49.
A new Barolo producer for me and one to follow further if this is representative. Clean and bright. Pure smells of dried rose, almond, red cherry and no surprise, tarry roads. Medium weight and just the right amount of those ripe firm Neb tannin. Very much in the red fruit and almond range of flavours which the Piemonte cognoscenti suggest is typical of La Morra. Almost the heft and fruit of Barolo proper. Good modernist version without the small barrel intrusion.
14% alcohol. Cork. A lucky $29 auction gamble.