2019 G D Vajra Langhe Rosso

Each year this gets better. No longer do Vajra list varieties on the back label but I’d guess it’s the same Nebbiolo dominant blend with bits of Dolcetto, Barbera, Freisa and something else as past vintages. The ability to taste well enough to say for sure would be good though. Starts with a lift of that dirty, dusty old road Langhe Nebbiolo thing but it’s no more than a savoury seasoning like some of those better low sulphur natural brews. At its core is a panoply of red summer fruits, rose petals and the most mouthwatering of acidities and fresh tannin. It sparkles with life. That dirty road becomes calm and macadamed in time. Improved over three days. Probably rather drink this than more bulky aspirations of extraction. In a word, delicious, burp.

13% alcohol. Screw cap. $30 at best, normally $35 but still a relative bargain the way Barolo prices are going.

94 points influenced by sheer pleasure.

2015 Piero Benevelli Barolo Ravera di Monforte

A weekend treat, well I think it was Saturday, the only way to tell was more than usual walkers, cyclists and dogs on the footpath getting their permitted two hours of exercise. A treat that nearly didn’t as a 2010 version was horribly corked. Thanks to fine customer service from the importer and retailer that’s Boccaccio Cellars this was nobly offered as a replacement. Wish some other importers did that with corked Burgundies. Did I mention I hate corks? What a serious bit of Monforte grunt it is too. Faded, dusty old pot pourri, a bitumen and tarry depth, a haze of lift to lighten the dark with mashed up cherries and spice. Not the most polished of winemaking with that lift adding a jangly feel to the thunder of Monforte tannin but add food and tickle me pink. Thanks to some good potatoes, the gnocchi held soft and clung to mushrooms and truffle and the qualms disappeared. The Barolo just soared with the sweetest of cherry essence and profound earthy seasonings. Ripe and sweet. Think this is how Monforte is supposed to be. What a bottle rescued from the inequities of annoying tree bark.

14.5% alcohol with the tannin and acidity to cope. Cork. A bargain for Barolo around $80.

94 points.

2018 Bricco Maiolica Langhe Nebbiolo

Our neighbours are suffering building renovations and have been kind if not a little anxious in their forewarnings of chaos but we were all a bit startled as the builders have enthusiastically taken up the offer of a bit of our backyard for storage. A bottle of Nebbiolo was very gratefully received to smooth things along. Due to the recurring lockdown, I didn’t even have to share. A very suave version of Langhe Nebbiolo it is too. Over a couple of days it showed sweet, ripe cherries, scented with roses and pot pourri. Clean as a nonna’s kitchen. Sparkle of mineral acidity and firm black tea tannin. 2018 may not be the darkest or most powerful of vintages but the perfumes and crisp drinkabilty are very appealing at the moment. Good to get on with the neighbours. Maybe the builders could take some more liberties if drinks like this are forthcoming.

13.5% alcohol. Diam. Thanks kind neighbours.

92 points.

2019 Canonica Langhe Nebbiolo

Reading around the subject of Barolo, Giovanni Canonica seems to be a bit of a cult in the best sense with some inspiring reviews. When a bottle of the basic but not inexpensive Langhe Neb beckoned from the Italian heavy shelves of Boccaccio Cellars, the thought was now or never. Deceptive looking Nebbiolo as it can be, just medium bodied, clear crimson rose red looking. Starts a bit natural wine yeasty and nutty with a growing perfume of rose oil and musk scented red cherry. Wafts of Langhe stonework lurk. In the mouth, roses, cherry, almond paste and a yeast lees savour. Then, a sweep of those fine tannins like bouncing off a rocky tunnel. The second day the remaining half bottle gained fruit sweetness. Great purity of perfectly ripened grapes, glistening dewy cherries and even the rocky tannins sparkle like quartz in the sun. Pristine, ethereal, pure and of the earth. Rather drink this than the twice the price 2010 Barolo which was leaden footed, over extracted, lacked perfume and was hard work to actually drink. Finesse over bombast.

14% alcohol. Cork. $70.

95 points for pure joy not an excess of power.

2018 Giacomo Borgogno & Figli Langhe Freisa

It seems Freisa is the mum or dad of their much more famous child Nebbiolo. Obscurity makes it a lot cheaper, along with some keen direct import pricing from those Boccaccio Barolo boys. Intricate smells and flavours of cherry, Piemonte dirt, almond, liquorice and blood orange. In no way sweet, more typically Langhe tart and essential with a twist of bitter herbs. Tannins are fine but clinging like sediment. Perhaps not the drive or carry of its offspring but so good with a bowl of rugged winter pasta to demolish. Worth an uncouth but extremely complimentary burp.

14.5% alcohol. Diam. I think $39.99 on the shelf but Boccaccio website says $49.99.

92 points.

2016 Castell’in Villa Chianti Classico

Among many faults, a tendency to wildly generalise is one to which we all must plead guilty on occasion. The effects of a warming planet on grape ripeness are undeniable. Over dinner I suggested the whole of Tuscany and Bordeaux were thus now making wines which have lost all drive, freshness and sheer digestive appeal. A good friend at the table nodded sagely and gently said there were other factors, for example the need to please wealthy American palates craving size and power. Hrumph, haven’t seen anything for some while resembling the fragrant, nutty and lithe Chianti I fell for last century, I muttered. This arrived via auction to prove me wrong in the most delicious way. From a aristocratic property in the south of the Chianti zone, this is Sangiovese in purezza as the locals say. An instantly recognisable fresh scent of cherries, walnut and sweet new leather of a place and it’s own great grape. Blisteringly energetic, translucent fruit of enormous quality, the very essence of Sangiovese, perfect summer preserved in a liquid. Being Sangiovese of course, it all ends with caressing but austere acidity and a wall of well tailored, sweet stone like tannin. How wrong can a rash generalisation be? Considering this Classico normale fetches $70 retail, to put it in one of the lightest weight bottles seen for a while is heartening, take note those with aspirations to greatness. So energetic and uplifting, it must be a health tonic.

13.5% alcohol. Cork. $46 at auction, who’s a lucky boy?

95 points.

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.