Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Instances of Nebbiolo: A wine tasting

I recently concluded a blog journey through the geographical locations and naming conventions associated with the Nebbiolo grape and, being driven to taste the associated wines, organized an event at my home in order to realize that ambition.

I have Barolos and Barbarescos in my collection but did not have any of the wines from the other relevant locales. I reached out to selected retailers with whom I had relationships (Morrell, Crush, Italian Wine Merchants) and bought what they had available. I fleshed out the list with purchases from other online retailers. All wines were shipped to Florida next-day air in order to minimize environmental degradation. A shoutout to Morrell where one of the staffers dug into his personal collection to make the Ghemme DOCG wine available to me.

The invitees to the event included a local group of Certified Sommeliers who have formed a Tasting Group to aid in their studies for the Advanced Sommelier certification. This group is honchoed by Melissa McAvoy of Swirlery and Citricos and she did an awesome job coordinating her group's participation. Besties Ron and Bev were also there along with longtime friends and neighbors Fred and Laurie and new friend Evan (@nerditry).

My wife did all of the hard work involved in event planning. And she is good at it. Look at the wonderful setup below. I almost didn't want anyone sitting at the table and messing it up. Thank you Parlo.

The evening began with copious amounts of Champagne and conversation around the bar. After they were suitably lubricated, Parlo invited our guests to partake of the evening's fare. Upon completion of their meals, attendees repaired to the "tasting area."

I began the proceedings with a presentation on Nebbiolo. Post this high-level presentation, I drilled down into the Valtellina region of Lombardia and the instance of Nebbiolo grown/produced therein. Upon completion of the region-specific presentation, we tasted the Valtellina Superiore DOCG. This cycle was repeated until we had tasted a total of eight wines.

Used with permission

Some qualifying remarks about the tasting. It was never intended to be truly comparative because (i) the vintages did not line up and (ii) I was unsure whether the quality of the producers aligned. Each wine would, therefore, be evaluated on its own and any interior comparisons would have to take these caveats into consideration.

The cocktail party, dinner, and tasting had taken up a lot of time -- and the group still had their regular bi-weekly blind tasting to do -- so I opted to leave the following two wines out of the formal tasting:
  • 2008 Deltetto Roero Riserva Braja DOCG (Roero)
  • 2011 Sandrone Valmaggiore Nebbiolo d'Alba DOC (Langhe-Roero).
In leading the tasting, I forfeited the opportunity to take notes but Ron was kind enough to make his notes available for this post. Below are his impressions of the wines we tasted.

2001 Ar.Pe.Pe Valtellina Superiore Riserva Sasella Rocce Rosse DOCG (Valtellina, Lombardy)
Medium color. At first slightly austere, with dried red fruits, herbs, and good acidity. Lighter in body and finish than a typical Barolo.

2008 Donnas Vallée d’Aoste DOC (Donnaz, Valle d'Aosta)
Dark in color. Red berry fruits and rosemary. Full-bodied. Supple, round tannins. Appeared to be more modern in style than the Valtellina.

2011 Cantine Garrone Prünent Valli Ossolane DOC (Val d'Ossola, Alto Piemonte)
Medium color with bright red fruits. Spice and floral notes with a rose petal orientation. Comes across as lighter-bodied with an elegant style

2008 Antoniolo Gattinara Osso San Grato DOCG (Gattinara, Alto Piemonte)
Sweet red fruits. Very aromatic showing plum, sweet tobacco, tar, mushroom, balsamic, and rose petal. Nice acid level with good structure and weight. This has a great future. Liked this very much!

2006 Antichi Vignetti di Canalupo DOCG (Ghemme, Alto Piemonte)
Red fruits consisting of rhubarb and sour cherry. Spicy with dried herbs. A little funky with hints of mushroom, earth, tobacco. A lighter, more elegant style.

2007 Le Piane Boca DOC (Boca, Alto Piemonte)
Cherry with Nebbiolo aromatics. A little funky with floral, tobacco, and licorice notes.

2008 Roccalina Barbaresco DOCG (Barbaresco, Langhe)
Red fruits. Lighter in style and slightly more austere than the other wines. A little disappointing for a Barbaresco.

1997 Oddero Barolo Rocche di Castiglione DOCG (Barolo, Langhe)
Dried cherry, truffle, rose petal, licorice with a riper style reflecting the warmer vintage. Drinking beautifully now.  

I was pleasantly surprised by a number of the wines. The Valtellina Superiore and Gattinara impressed me and are wines that I am going to be buying in the future. I was somewhat disappointed with the Ghemme DOCG. It was tasted right after the Gattinara which had performed remarkably well and had set some expectations for the Ghemme. The Boca DOC was too thin for my liking. In the blind portion of the tasting which immediately followed, I bagged up the Roero and had the group taste it. It showed really well.

Everyone enjoyed the proceedings in that (i) they found it educational and (ii) they had discovered wines with which they were unfamiliar. Pleasant.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

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