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.

2018 Fontanafredda Diano d’Alba

Dogliani and Diano, two appellations recognised for the quality of their Dolcetto. This version lives up to its lofty DOCG. Terrific perfumed impact, pristine crunch of black cherry, like those in the East European preserves, Piemontese tart and polished with stones and sweet soil. No more than medium bodied but fills the retro nasals with a lingering fruit fragrance. Suave tannin and acid, a perfectly tailored suit. No bombast, just subtle charm. Mouthwatering and pizza cravings a consequence.

13.5%. Nomacorc Select Green 300. 530 gms of glass. $43 rrp but thanks to the clever people at Fourth Wave imports a mystery special for $118 a six pack. Glad I cracked the enigma thanks to Winefront.

92 maybe 93 points but a plus for being my cup of Dolcetto.

2015 Renato Corino Nebbiolo d’Alba

Inviting straightaway, lots of ferrous stony stuff, sweet dried roses, cherry stones, all brightly lit and chiseled with tense acidity. Touch of toffee warmth to end shows the warmer vintage maybe? Second day, it’s just as sweet and ripe, for Nebbiolo relatively speaking. More rich dried cherry skins, those sweet rose perfumes and a sort of roast pistachio in muscovada sugar thing. All running up against a wall of rocky acidity to help the pasta go down. Not quite the drive or austerity of the long lasting years as it started to fade on the third day but delicious and so well made. A La Morra Barolo from this address would be something to try.

14% alcohol. Diam, good. 495 gms glass. $36 at auction.

Started 92 points, calmed down to 91 but lovely to drink.

2018 G D Vajra Langhe Rosso

Anyone who’s had more than a dabble in the joys of Barolo will have a particularly soft spot for this producer. From a vintage that seems to have led to crisp, high acid wines, this is probably the usual mix of mainly Nebbiolo with bits of all sorts like Barbera, Dolcetto, Freisa and others. The back label is coy this year. Open over three days. First, sweetly pretty with a fizzy cherry drink flavour, in a good way, cut tart and Langhe tense and earthy. Almost a natural wine feel, pure and alive. Second, deeper colour, more obviously Nebbiolo, spiced cherries, floral built on a puckering balance of almost glassy acidity and finest tannin. Third, better again, more fragrant red cherry and roses, such a tasty crunch of succulent acid controls the shape. So much in something light to medium weight at best. As good as anything with good pasta. In a fascinating interview with Aldo Vajra on Levi Dalton’s excellent podcast, I’ll Drink To That, it seems the new generation are learning from their papa and vice versa. The wine just gets better. Now, to find a bottle of their 2016 Bricco delle Viole.

13.5% alcohol. Screw cap. $30.

92 then 93 then 92, daft as a linear scale is for such subjective pleasure.

2013 Cantina Terre del Barolo Undici Comuni Arnaldo Rivera Barolo

A treat for a winter weekend from Castiglione Falleto’s cooperative, named after its instigator. A blend of all the eleven Barolo communes. It’s interesting that in a time of revered single vineyard bottling, some of the great old timers thought their blends to be more than the sum of their parts. Opens clean and dark fruited with a poker face. Time lightens the fruit to bright red and brings a smile. Aniseed gob stoppers, old pot pourri, muddy rocks. Creeps up on you sotto voce and then plonks a great big blob of tart cherries in the middle of the tongue. Leaves with a wave of pure Piemontese perfume. Great Barolo mash up.

14% alcohol. Cork. $60 from auction.

94 points but probably biased.

2019 Oddero Dolcetto d’Alba

From one of the pioneers of Barolo, a Dolcetto as it would be drunk at the table on a daily basis. Much as Nebbiolo and Barbera command the prices, if you order a carafe of rosso with your meal in the Langhe, more than likely it would be this under appreciated, early ripening alternative. This one has all the tart, red cherry fruit cut with the sort of challenging acidity and an austere stoniness that really suits a forkful of rich pasta. Not a drink for if you’re after the sweet allure of berries and vanilla plumped by alcohol but a real taste of perfumed ripeness teetering on a high wire of tense acidity. After 24 hours of air, the colour darkened, fragrant flowers and more dark cherries emerged. The acidity, still glassy, crackled with life and that fierce dryness. Time will settle things and this will be compulsory on the table in 2022. Hopefully with some friends allowed to share.

13% alcohol. Diam, brilliant. $30 on the shelf at Boccaccio cellars.

92 points of pure typicity, if that’s a word.

2017 Giovanni Rosso Langhe Nebbiolo

The 2017 vintage reports suggest it was hot and sticky work for a bunch of Nebbiolo grapes in Piemonte. First impressions were of brisk warm fruit and a chunk of firm tannin and acid without some of the perfume and for want of a better words, intricacy of flavour possible around Barolo. Nebbiolo can be contrary and slow to articulate though. So sure enough, by the third and particularly the fourth day of airing some rich cherry fruit and warm rose fragrance unravelled. Perhaps there’s not the sweet earthy complexity but it finally turned out round, satisfyingly ripe, with the tannin meets acidity fun of good Nebbiolo falling into place. Only medium bodied and gently extracted, perhaps showing a light touch in a hot vintage? Just landed from a long sea journey, some imports can look surly and take up to twelve months to open up, maybe the case here? It would be good to revisit in a couple of years.

14% alcohol. Diam, I think, guilty of an incomplete note. $45.

92 points.

2017 Cantina Zaccagnini Montepulciano d’Abruzzo

If you’re looking for value, lots of flavour for your money and a good place to step into the world of savoury Italian wine suited to the table, then the full Monte is the grape. Nothing to do with the Tuscan town of Montepulciano where they grow Sangiovese under a different name, typically obtuse Italy. Zaccagnini predate the designer labels, sort of obvious really, and they still tie a vine wood twig to the bottle as a badge of authenticity. The contents are still very authentic too. Starts off a bit surly and reduced but air draws it out. Mouth filling tastes of those sour Italian cherries, roadside berries, coffee grounds and sweet tar. Good grainy tannin and enough well meshed acidity to carry those honest, rugged flavours. If you were a fan of Italian football a while ago, you could say this is more Gennaro Gattuso than Rui Costa.

12.5% alcohol it says but feels warmer. Cork and a good old fashioned lightweight bottle with a twig. Around $25.

91 points.

2017 Musso Dolcetto d’Alba

Dolcetto from Piemonte deserves to be as widely appreciated as it is close to home and amongst us few who love it from afar. Those growers still persevering with it do so as a labour of love as they could make a much better return from Nebbiolo, particularly as some have it planted, like Musso, on land where Neb would be eligible for a Barbaresco label. This one is particularly clean and bright. Red cherry, bakery spices, a little of that Langhe soil and clip of something savoury to finish. Firm but fair tannin and acidity make it so typically adept at coping with a good bowl of pasta. Bright and bouncy from a warm season. Would love to see what their 2016 was like from such a good vintage for Barbaresco.

13% alcohol. Diam, hooray. $23.30, a lucky bid at auction, $35 RRP indicates how undervalued, shhh.

93 points.

2013 Podere Ruggeri Corsini Langhe Nebbiolo

There’s no fancy wine making polish here. Nebbiolo from around Barolo as it was, still sometimes is and, Bacchus willing, will be. Smells typically of red cherry, liquorice root, pot pourri, dusty roads and a haze of old oak. No messing with shorter time in contact with those tannin rich skins after ferment, the thump of traditional Barolo tannin pulls a rugged dryness through the mouth. Irish breakfast tea left to stew. There’s enough red fruit weight and earthy depth to buffer the scaffolding but only just. Without animal protein, it’s a challenge but at the table it makes sense. Nothing wrong with tradition that a bit less musty oak wouldn’t cure. Nothing wrong with some modern techniques that wouldn’t miss a bit less new oak. Happy to explore, oh yes.

14% alcohol. Cork. $38.

92 points.