I have a vintner friend who tells me that Nebbiolo is maddening to grow but wonderful to drink when it’s made into wine. He says this with almost parental pride.
As I’ve never grown Nebbiolo nor any other grape, I’ll take his word for the first part and certainly will agree with his taste conclusion. Having consumed lots of Nebbiolo through the years, I’ve found it to be, on occasion, light in color and almost Pinot-like ethereal in taste, while at times it seems steely in structure, often both within the same wine. And, like Pinot Noir, Nebbiolo has a lot of clones to provide variety.
Nebbiolo is the signature grape of Piemonte in northwest Italy, and its name derives from the Italian word “fog.” It has been called that for centuries, but the reason why has been lost in the fog of history, although many theories abound.
Piemonte is a lovely place for grape growing, with green knolls dotting the landscape. On a clear day, you can see the Alps. On an unclear day, you can see the pollution from Turin. Barolo reigns as the top-dog Nebbiolo, but a Gaja Barbaresco isn’t very shabby either. Langhe and some other areas can make very good wines at lesser prices.
We have four very affordable Nebbies for your pleasure in this all-Italian The Dozen.
2020 Casa Comerci “Refulu” Calabria Greco ($28). Tangy flavors of apples and quince with a nice finish.
2020 Donnachiara “Aletheia” Greco di Tufa Riserva ($26). Stone-like minerality to go with fresh yet lean fruitiness and some hints of lime.
2020 Donnachiara “Empatia” Fiano di Avellino ($26). Nice substance and very refreshing – tart floral notes and tart and spicy apple flavors with hints of orange rind in the finish.
2019 Banfi Chianti Classico ($16). A mellow, light-bodied Classico with raspberry and citrus flavors and a lightly raspy, yet not quite crisp, finish.
2017 Banfi Chianti Classico Riserva ($20). Mellow like the Classico, but with more intensity of flavors and excellent wood notes.
2019 Donnachiara Irpinia Aglianico ($22). Quite good – pleasant fruity aromas, very dark cassis flavors, good barrel notes, and lean but not puckery finish.
2018 Enrico Serafino “Picotener” Langhe Nebbiolo ($22). Delightful – tight and tannic, very linear, with intriguing smoky cassis and raspberry flavors and a crisp finish.
2019 Marchesi di Gresy “Martinega” Langhe Nebbiolo ($25). Enjoyable gamey nose and cherry flavors with a fairly full body and a puckery finish.
2018 Banfi “Aska” Bolgheri ($26). Very light, but with dark fruit and good barrel treatment, slightly raspy. It could have some more “oomph.”
2019 Vietti “Perbaco” Langhe Nebbiolo ($26). Lightish body, lots of citrus notes – more elegant than austere.
2019 Scerscé “Nettare” Rosso di Valtellina Nebbiolo ($28). Lovely perfumed nose, light floral flavor of sweet citrus and cherries, and a smooth finish.
2017 Donnachiara Taurasi ($38). Some gaminess adds intrigue; the fruit is a little muted at this stage, so let it open up first. The body is lean but substantial.
Prices listed are generally SRP or from wine-searcher.com. As more wineries are now shipping direct-to-consumer, check the winery website if you can’t find a bottle in your retail store.
Feature photo courtesy of Vietti.