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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.