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.
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.
The relaxed pleasures of the Italian table perhaps touch the sublime in Piemontese inspired cooking? Fresh Tassie truffle liberally sliced over a plate of agnolotti del plin and what to drink? Undeserved spoiling in carefully sipped glasses of Produttori tradition. Great purity, freshness and ripe melting wax tannin. Head full of truffle, rose, cherry, licorice and tar perfume. Great fatty comfort cut by a tannin acid nexus like no other. A few moments of life on planet Earth which offer a very tasty connection to its best farming and cooking tradition. Even at just over ten years in the bottle under the most unreliable of closures, this Nebbiolo is only just starting to soften after a rough double decant. There’s no fat to the ripeness but there’s no green either. The acid cleans up the finish but it helps freshen the lovely mix of red fruit and darker savoury tar. Thanks, Scopri, our local Carlton Italian for birthday spoiling and the best glassware for Neb. Sitting under that huge black and white wall sized print of the Barbaresco landscape only helps the mood.
14% alcohol. Cork. $135.
95 rapturous points.
Just to make sure Nebbiolo’s over represented hereabouts, yet another. Enoteca Sileno have developed a reputation for perhaps not the thinnest of margins on wine but if you look carefully in their impressive wine fridge, you’ll notice less lauded vintages still there for about $135. Less if you buy a few and tongue in cheek ask for a discount. This Montestefano is still a craggy peak of dense stone. Very ripe red cherry, earthy tar and a bit of licorice, well, it is Neb of course. Chunks of mouth desiccating tannin and acid. Only tamed by fat and protein. Warm vintage, big hearted wine from the most stern of the Produttori’s crus. As unyielding as a 90s’ Juventus back four.
14.50% alcohol. Cork. $135.
93 four square points.
As the 2016 was so good and great value, finding a few 2012s amongst the stash under the house meant another Stelvin Luxe cracked with a satisfying twist. Nebbiolo obsession fed. Much more gentle than the 16 but beautifully clean and perfumed. Pot pourri, almost musk, gentle cherry and aniseed. Fragrant but not cloying. Great balanced crunch of ripe tingly acid and fine graphite tannins. More mountain fresh than Barolo earthy. Suave you might say.
14% alcohol. Lovely screwcap. $26 from a Prince Wine Store sale.
92 elegantly poised points.