The six things you need to know to get your head around Nebbiolo... – La Cantina

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The six things you need to know to get your head around Nebbiolo...

To help you navigate through all the particular wine laws and zoning of Piedmont and Italy in general, we've come up with this quick go-to guide to get you through that jungle to more ready enjoyment! Plus a sneaky little offer at the end to enable some practice.

Nebbiolo d'Alba
  • A zone, or series of them, in and around Roero, Barbaresco and Barolo – although not crossing into the latter two. Wines must be aged for a minimum 12 months.
  • Nebbiolo d’Alba is all about balance and enjoyment. Displaying floral and delicate red fruit sensations alongside integrated tannins and fresh acidity.
  • Must contain 100% Nebbiolo grapes
 Langhe Nebbiolo
  • Usually denotes a declassification of Barolo & Barbaresco and the whole zone (of Langhe Nebbiolo DOC) is centred in and around those two big name zones.
  • Can be ‘baby-Barolo’ and quite serious, but often also the younger vines that delivers a fresh, approachable expression of Nebbiolo.
  • Must be 100% Nebb and often confused with Langhe Rosso (DOC) which has to be at least 85% Nebbiolo grapes and often blended with Cabernet Franc, Barbera, Syrah and Merlot.
  • Produced in northern Lombardy, Nebbiolo, known locally as Chiavennasca (an ancient clone of Nebbiolo)  
  • Must contain at least 90% Nebbiolo and allows for a small amount (10%) of other local red varieties to be blended in.
  • The DOCG wine of Valtelina must be aged for a minimum of 24 months of which at least 12 months must be in wooden casks of any size and can only be produced in specific sub-districts of the Valtellina. 
  • As is the case with the wines of Alto (upper) Piemonte, the Nebbiolos of Valtellina tend to be aromatic and gracious rather than overtly powerful, although they can have plenty of structure.
  • Must contain at least 90% Nebbiolo and allow for a small amount (10%) of other local red varieties to be blended in. 
  • The wine is then aged in oak barrels for 1 year (or two years for Riserva), with an additional two years of ageing in the bottle. 
  • Gattinara is primarily volcanic rock, in comparison with the calcium-based Marl deposits found in Barolo & Barbaresco, making them tighter and somewhat leaner than Barolo and Barbaresco
  • A lighter, more elegant and usually more approachable style of Nebbiolo compared to Barolo but with less tannin on the palate.
  • The soil is mainly more nutrient dense, calcareous marl, than the overall leaner soils of Barolo zone
  • Barbaresco must be aged for a minimum of 2 years (9 months in oak) and 4 years (9 months in oak) for the Riserva – overall about a third less than Barolo
  • Has a bold mouth feel with rigid tannin due to the differing microclimates and soil.
  • Barolo is broadly divided into 2 soil profiles; richer, loamier soils of La Morra & about half of Barolo comune, more lean, limestone& sandstone from the eastern half of Barolo and into Castiglione Falletto,  Serralunga & Monforte d’Alba,
  • Barolo must be aged for a minimum of 3 years (24 months in oak) and 5 years (24 months in oak) for the Riserva.
We asked David Ridge & Christian Canala for their top picks in Piemdont. Here's what they had to say;
David Ridge [ Importer & Nebb devotee ]
Nebbiolo d’Alba
  • "Pretty reliable category, with a seemingly high minimum standard. Because the boundaries often skirt Barolo and Barbaresco, the outlook is promising, even if the wines are usually not quite to the standard of those two big guns. But the styles are generally a softer and more approachable window to the seniors. The standouts are Sandrone and Bruno Giacosa, both sourced from Roero, which are quite serious, yet generous. Other regularly superior wines from Vietti (their ubiquitous ‘Perbacco’), Brezza (‘Santa Rosalia’) and an excellent cheapie comes from Patrizi." 
  • "The DOC called, specifically, Langhe Nebbiolo (often confused with the geographically much broader Langhe Rosso – where wines can be blended) is really the place you’ll find declassified Barolo and Barbaresco – and as a result many very good wines, including examples of a term creeping into the vernacular lately, ‘baby Barolo’. But while you can get fabulous, near-Barolo wines, like Paolo Conterno’s from Monforte, Luigi Pira’s or Massolino’s from Serralunga as Langhe, while quality seems uniformly very high, style is not guranteed. A recent release by well-known Brezza of their Laghe Nebbiolo reveals a gorgeous, but almost heavy-rose weighted red." 
  • "Some Barbaresco makers are still looking to offer chunk, with darker wines and oak that betray the finesse and elegance that should be the appreciated qualities from here. For sheer power, a Giacosa Asili is unbeatable, but gorgeous, elegant, fruity, fragrant, sappy and uplifting wines come from Marchesy di Gresy, a Castello di Neive ‘Santo Stefano’ and Barale’s Serraboella. People will eventually wonder why they...we...were so fixated on Barolo." 
  • "How long have you got? Depends on the style, on the mood and the day; the monsterous darkness of ‘Francia’ of G Conterno, or the smoky style of Luigi Pira’s ‘Marenca’ in Serralunga, the piercing blue fruits of P Conterno’s ‘Ginestra’ or A Conternos swirling Monforte complexities in any one of their ‘Bussia’ sub-plots? Or if Casteglione Falletto’s fruit and fierce structure are the call, no Barolo can beat a ‘Villero’ from Mauro Mascarello or Vietti. Most often though, I’d be found waiting for the elegance and drive of a Barolo comune wine to open up in the decanter; a Cannubi from Brezza, Einaudi, Chiara Boschis or Barale. If you want openess, accessibility ie the fairly scarce (almost contradictory) concept of ‘day-to-day Barolo, the plump, choc and raisin notes of a La Morra wine from Marengo or Revello, get you there easily." 
  • "We will see more of these – and if people knew what challenging conditions these surprisingly consistent and occasionally thrilling wines were grown under – we’d be forming a cult in their honour! Widely available are the delicious wines of Negri, and worth seeking out are elegant and very fragrant Sassella and Inferno zone wines of Sandro Fay and Triacca."
  • "A source of much really good Nebbiolo (and most of the better Arneis) and the best (Sandrone and Giacosa) are Barolo standard (in fact closr to Barbaresco in style), but the zone’s DOCG is a bit flattering and they remain 3rd fiddle behind Barbaresco and Barolo."

Christian Canala [ importer - La Cantina Australia ]
Langhe & d’Alba
  • "Hard to look past Vietti as one of the most pioneering in this category. The Perbacco Langhe is almost all the Nebbiolo you will need, especially if you can buy it in Magnum. Of course, prior to the most recent vintage, most of Gaja’s Nebbiolo wines were classified as Langhe DOC, even though they were often single site Barbarescos essentially. It’s hard to beat those for ageability, complexity and polish."
  • More often than not I prefer Barbaresco to Barolo. The elegance, fragrance and perfume of the best ones are to die for. Top picks are Giacosa (Neive), Prodottori del Barbaresco (Barbaresco) and - even though they are a much larger concern - Pio Cesare (Treiso)
  • "Easy to pick my favourites here! Revello in La Morra (ok I know it’s my own), Giuseppe Mascarello & Azelia (Castiglione), Bartolo Mascarello & E.Pira (Barolo), Aldo Conterno (Monforte d’Alba) and Giacomo Conterno & Luigi Pira (Serralunga). Touring through these producers will give a drinker quintessential versions of each of the 5 main terroirs of Barolo, from the plush and open weave of La Morra to the dense, graphite laden wines of Serralunga"
  • "Nino Negri makes probably the most famous one. Brawny and savoury and delicious. I also recently tried the wine from Sandro Fay, it was more reserved but still wonderful"
  • "I have only tried one, Matteo Correggia, and it was lovely. I think more attention should be paid to the wines from here but as an importer it’s difficult to justify bringing Barolo price-point wines without that famous DOCG."
SHARE: Have you tasted an exciting Nebbiolo recently? tell us about it and could be featured in our regular emails! Just take a happy snap of you an your beloved Nebb and send it through with a short sentence or and what your thoughts about the wine followed by the hashtag: #clubnebb 

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