2008 Vietti Castiglione Barolo

Enjoyed over the dinner table without a proper note but so good, it’s maybe worth a comment? Opened with a lush, clean and modern edge with perhaps a waft of dusty oak. Given half an hour in the decanter after a vigorous double decant and it seemed to lose weight but gained perfume and focus. Rose oil, sweet and tart cherry, darker red fruit and a hallelujah chorus of bright Castiglione dirt carried on tongue coating tannins so sweet they melt and last a very long time. So fresh and bright after its slumber. There was tar and maybe porcini too. All the unfettered flavours of Barolo suavely poised in a perfect Armani suit. One of my first 2008s and there’s a balance of ripeness and zing which had me checking the cellar list for more. No rush though.

14.5% alcohol but no sign of warmth. Cork. Think it was a very thoughtful gift.

95 points, easy.

2018 Davide Carlone Colline Novaresi Nebbiolo

On the way between Milan and Turin as the high speed train thundered through the town of Novara, I did idly think a stop would be interesting. Gazing north to Lake Maggiore, the country looked gently hilly and quietly inviting for wine exploration, one day. Seems I’m not alone as those Mondo Import lads from Boccaccio Cellars have been bringing in Davide Carlone’s wines for a few years now at direct prices that are very tempting. This bottle opened with a health spa blast of bitter herbs which quickly evened out into rose oil, crisp red cherry buffed with granite dust tannin and well mingled ripe acidity. Over three days, the fruit darkened to maraschino cherry and some roasted nuttiness. The true nuttiness though would be to drink this without good Ital stylee food. Swishing a sip after a mouthful of a Sunday night pizza treat isolated all that sweet Nebbiolo tang into pure delicious pleasure. And that was after three days of oxygen exposure, more reason for slow food. The thought occurred this is sort of between the power of Barolo and the mountain crispness of the Valtellina, geographically obvious really, duh.

13.5% alcohol. Diam, good. $38 in Neb terms, value.

92 points to start, 93 to finish, plus plus for pizza appropriateness.

2010 Ca’ Rome Maria di Brün Barbaresco

Having opened a leaden, malty and hulking 2010 Barolo recently and read alarming reports of disappointments with the vintage, thought it time to see if money and patience had been wasted, a familiar sensation to Burgundy fiends especially. Seems this is named for the winemaker’s mum and comes from a special bit of the special Rabaja cru planted to the Michet clone. Important info thanks to importers Trembath and Taylor and their detailed website. The first small pour wasn’t encouraging, looking a bit rusty and tired but air brought a sense of relief as the colour brightened and darkened, if that makes sense? Black cherry, deep tarry earth flavours and a flicker of juicy red fruit to bring a twinkle of chiara to the profound scuro. More air and interminable swirling bring liquorice root and fennel to saturate the retro nasal canyons, intense. Ripe acidity sluices it all through the mouth. The tannins, and what tannins, throb and build and take no prisoners. Brilliant but don’t think it’s possible for wine to be any more positively tannic. Couldn’t imagine trying to drink this without something full of protein and fat to eat. Monumental antioxidant Nebbiolo. Seems there’s another in the cellar to wrestle should bottle variation and cork be kind.

14% alcohol. Cork. Was possibly about $100 or so of recklessly optimistic spending.

95 points and no arguing with those tannins.

2016 Luke Lambert Nebbiolo

I’ve read that Luke Lambert is obsessed by Nebbiolo, sensible fellow. This is possibly the best non Italian version for me, albeit from a pretty limited sample range. Still some cheerful crimson colour without the tiring orange seen in high PH Australian versions. Touch of typical Luke Lambert reduction clears quickly to fresh sour cherry, raspberry and sweet earthy fruit. Hint of regional mint and forest. The shape is beautiful. Crackling fresh ripe acidity and the sort of ripe, sweet and melting tannin that’s rarely seen in Australian wine. Oddly but in some way not surprisingly, the freshness of fruit and soft depth of tannin remind me of Yarra Cabernet. Obviously not the flavours. Something in the valley season seem to soften the green hardness both these varieties can show in places where they ripen too quickly perhaps? Probably a daft generalisation but looks good here. Like the Socceroos of past generations, there’s quality here to play at international level without embarrassment. Particularly at the price point.

14% alcohol. Diam, extremely difficult to get out of the narrow necked old style Bordeaux bottle and even harder to get back in. $60.

95 points, even in an away game at the Stadio degli Alpi.

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.