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 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.

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.

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.

Another bottle late May 2021 and it’s getting better. The fruit has gained roundness, depth and sweet pleasures. Bargain, spotlessly clean taste and perfume of grapes as only Piemonte can.

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.