Snooth PTP - Value Nebbiolo blind tasting

 


So we meet again at Snooth central to blind taste what is arguably the greatest value wine in the world. At least if i am doing the arguing!

Langhe Nebbiolo and Nebbiolo d'Alba. These entry level bottingd of the Nebbiolo grape from some of Piedmonte's greatest producers of Barolo and Barbaresco frequently capture the beauty of the grape with a transparency that allows for the terroir and vintage character to shine right through.
Related Imagery
Flight 1-2004
Flight 2-2005
Flight 3-2006
Flight 4-Vintage Control
A guess one complaint, for both traditional and modern producers, that we came up with this evening was that forced extraction can conceal this character and while may produce a bigger, more Barolo-like wine it's just not what Nebbiolo should be.

This tasting was a beautiful exercise none the less as each wine spoke clearly about both the producer's style as well as  the vintage's character. Most of these wines tend to be made in relatively small quantities since virtually all of Barolo and Barbaresco producers are family run farming operations. They also tend to be poorly distributed in this country so some may be hard to find.

Why then are we doing this you may ask. Well the answer is simple, from this tasting I hope to offer general guidelines on the producers and the vintages to help guide you in finding Nebbiolo in your market that appeals to your palate.

Now there is one problem with that but it's a small hurdle. All the recommended producer from this tasting make wines that should be classified as traditional. The one modern producer made a wine that horrified this group of decidedly old world palates. Even though all the wines are made in a traditional style the variety of expressions was striking. So her are the tasting notes. After the notes is a short synopsis of both producer and vintage styles that I hope will be helpful. These wines really are fantastic wine and offer a great drinking experience at a very fair price. My tasting notes for these wines can be found summarized here.

Flight 1-2004

1)    L Pira Le Ombre Langhe Nebbiolo $21.99
groups tied for 8th - my 9th
This got us off to a good start with both Dave and Mark commenting on the oak here but at the same time as Mark said “it's not out of balance.” John thought this to be  ” a little extracted and modern, it's got a muddiness from the extraction and the oak” a sentiment that was more or less shared around the table though Justin, like most of us, came around noting ” I didn't like this at first but it's a good wine in a kind of newer style.”

2)    Cavallotto Langhe Nebbiolo $21.99
groups tied for 8th - my 11th
Ok this was corked. Slightly marred by TCA at first, though it was immediately apparent on the backend and grew over time to become more dominant. None-the-less there was a lot to like here. Josh summer it up well when he commented ” this is more of a traditional style, a lot of tannins still but between the fairly prominent fruit and the tannins, I really liked the balance.” This had ton's of fruit and a clean bottle should be splendid!

3)    Ascheri Bricco S. Giacomo Nebbiolo d'Alba $22.99
groups 5th - my 5th
This had a pretty stinky nose by the time we got around to it with an unusual array of Slavonian oak tone that Justin characterized as “sausages and salame” and an earthy fruit quality that both Mark and Josh thought recalled Russian River Pinot! There was some divergence of opinion regarding this wine with John finding it”stemmy with stemmy notes on the nose and the mouth but a fresh garden stemmy.” Dave though tthis was more “tarry, I got chocolate and coffee on the palate and even though this is way lighter than the other two wines there's a lot going on. I like it.”

Flight 2 – 2005
4)    La Spinetta Langhe Nebbiolo $24.99
groups 10th - my 12th
With this wine the group was pretty unanimous. While this had some big fruit, that Justin characterized as “starburst candy” and Joe called “more gummy bear and sweet”. Beyond that there was not much to say. Dave thought this smelled “candied and soapy with a plastic element” while Mark summed it up by saying “this is basically undrinkable.” Nuff said.

5)    Vietti Perbacco  Langhe Nebbiolo $21.99
groups 2nd - my 3rd
This took a while to open and suffered from following the Spinetta. Justin found “good typicity with rosehip and orange peel fruit but it's tough to evaluate now.” Joe came around with time and found the nose ” is really concentrated with classic Nebbiolo notes but your really need to stick your nose in it to get anything.”  Josh and Mark were both neutral on this wine,  with Josh saying ” not much going on on the palate” and Mark adding “it's got a brief finish too.” John liked the wine's “sweetness on the nose” and appreciated the wine's “relative transparency and good focus and precision.”

6)    Ruggeri Corsini  Langhe Nebbiolo $21.99
groups tied for 6th - my 7th
Dave noted that this had “a strong barnyard nose, almost to the extent of smelling like manure but the palate turned it around for me. Ultimately I liked this.” John again found this to be ” stemmy in a weedy way with a little stem flavor, not in a bitter way, it just may be young and flesh out.” Mark felt this while this was the best wine of the flight ” I don't like the flavor profile, it's too leathery, barnyardy and earth driven but it doesn't seem manipulated at least.

Flight 3 – 2006
 7)    Scarzello Langhe Nebbiolo $25.99
groups 8th - my 8th
Joe quickly said ” I don't really like this.” While John was more precise adding ” the alcohol is carrying all the aromatic here, it's muddy with no precision and soft tannins.” Justin felt this was “very tannic” while Josh caught ” a glycerine quality, this is rounder with cherry and menthol notes that remind me of cough medicine.

8)    Brezza Santa Rosalia Nebbiolo d'Alba $28.99
groups tied for 3rd - my 1st
Joe, once again getting straight to the point, said ” There's a sweetness here, seems the most traditional of the three, I kind of like it.” Justin had a somewhat different take thinking the wine to be ” very soft and round, jammy and a little candied, very polished but there's not a lot of character to it.” Dave ” liked the simplicity, there are faint flowers, ripe fruit, chocolate, toast, it's working for me.”

9)    Burlotto Langhe Nebbiolo $26.99
groups tied for 3rd - my 2nd
John thought this could have used a bit more acidity, a sentiment shared by Mark who felt this ” may have gotten a bit riper they they want it to.” Justin found this to get ” more precise and interesting in the glass with good persistence and an underlying minerality.” Josh ” liked the fruit quality but there's a lot of tannin. It's got the concentration and even though it's wound up you can see where it's going to go. It's got really good structure.”

Flight 4 – Vintage Control
10)    2004 Produttori del Barbaresco Langhe Nebbiolo $19.99
groups 9th - my 10th
This was a relative disappointment that Justin thought was “very hollow”. Dave got “a lot of leather, barnyard, and old wood, kind of vegetal and acetic, it's not great but it's not bad.” Josh pretty much agreed adding ” it's thin and tart with some tarry character, not the most pleasant wine.” Mark pretty much was in accord summing the wine up as ” more barnyard, leather earthy on the nose, and vegetal on the palate but it's not trying to be something that it's not.”

11)    2005 Produttori del Barbaresco Langhe Nebbiolo $19.99
groups tied for 6th - my 6th
Joe again got a “sour quality” with this wine. Josh on the other hand found this to be ” sweet, not saccharine nor candied but there's a sweetness that goes beyond the fruit.” John found himself “liking this more and more, it's very astringent but it's ripe and extracted , more like a Barolo.” Mark found this to be “roasted but with a rustic, authentic quality. I've got no problem drinking this.”

12)    2006 Produttori del Barbaresco Langhe Nebbiolo $16.99
groups 1st - my 4th
This was a very popular wine with Dave noting ” this is full of violets, forest floor and ripe cherries. It's simple but the simplicity holds it all together.” Justin also found this had “lots of violets with a nice mouthfeel, it's very pretty.” Josh thought this to be “more compressed with a core of pretty ripe fruit, really good acidity, good balance and some tannin on the backend.”

Bonus Bottles

While no note were taken while we enjoyed these two bonus bottles their some consensus ideas floating around.

13)     2004 Guido Porro Barolo Lazzirasco $40
This, arguably the greatest value available on the Barolo market today had plenty of heady alcohol but was rich and packed with it's ripeness softening the traditional, dark stern Serralunga character. I think everyone liked this and looks forward to seeing what develops in the cellar.

14)     2000 Burlotto Monvigliero $60
This is just a stunning bottle of wine. Distinctive, seductive and as character filled a bottle of Barolo as one is likely to find with it's trademark black olive nose adding it's distinctive imprint. Positively suave in the mouth, everyone seemed to really like this. Wine of the night!

Producer round-up
These brief style shots are for the producer in general and should not be limited to their Nebbiolo bottlings. They are consistent producers with a style that unifies their entire line-up. One caveat that I would add there is that many of these producer do have a top of the line bottling that may veer from that model somewhat.

Luigi Pira - A touch modern but moving towards a more traditional style that captures the strength of Serralunga fruit in a bold style.
Cavallotto - Enlightened traditionalism at it's best. Packed with the rich fruit of Castiglione but built to age and improve.
Ascheri - A touch modern but also moving towards a more traditional style but the wines are rich and complex and worth discovering.
La Spinetta - Modern and not to my tastes with a forced feel, unnatural fruit and enough wood to build a boat.
Vietti - Can be bordering on the modern side but so expressive and elegant they are seductive.
Ruggeri Corsini - Traditional is a touch rustic yet fun and classic. There is an appealing authenticity to the wines.
Scarzello - Arch traditional producer making big, brash wines that may not be to everyones tastes but at their best are thrilling.
Brezza - Traditional with a purity and crude freshness to the wines that make them captivating and eminently drinkable.
Burlotto - Another arch traditionalist but making wines that are softer, suave  with an earthy sweetness and unusual complexity.
Produttori del Barbaresco - Traditional producer, actually the world's greatest coop,  making the best value in Barbaresco.
Guido Porro - Traditional producer capturing explosive fruit in a rather refined style for Serralunga. The prices are amazing.

2004 - An elegant vintage with exceptional balance but it was a big crop and the high yeilds have left a few wines lacking in depth and complexity.
2005 - A much more challenging vintage but the best wines will offer greater depth and cellaring potential than their 2004 siblings.
2006 - A potentially exceptional vintage with challenges through out the summer but great conditions at harvest that produced rich, fruit filled complex wines.

Gregory Dal Piaz is the Community Manager at  Snooth, an avid Wine Geek with a passion for things Italian, and a long suffering Mets fan.


Mentioned in this article

Comments

  • Snooth User: Josh L
    108474 14

    Greg, thanks for a great tasting. Very interesting line-up of nebbiolo. For me, the 06 Produttori was the best value and a terrific wine in any sub-$50 lineup (already went out and bought some). My favorite wines of the main line-up were the Brezza Santa Rosalia, the Burlotto Langhe, both of which were really excellent and great values for the quality. The Guido Porro and the Burlotto Monvigliero were both a step up in quality and rival all but the very top in class in Piedmont. I definitely agree with you that these wines offer some of the best values in the wine world.

    Josh

    Dec 19, 2008 at 5:24 AM


  • Snooth User: 97mjr
    Hand of Snooth
    33990 2,159

    Greg, Thanks for organizing. It was no small task finding all of these wine. I wish they were easier to come by-except maybe the Spinetta.
    It was interesting how consistent opinions were. For me, the Cavallotto was the best all round wine, despite being slightly corked. Also liked the Burlottos, the Monvigliero was especially interesting w its pungent olive noe
    Fun to do the wines. Blind it was interesting how the 06s seemed more modern in style than the producers' names might suggest. I guess a function of the fat style of the vintage.

    Dec 20, 2008 at 8:54 AM


  • Franco Ziliani

    Gregory, congratulations for this tasting. I agree that many Langhe Nebbiolo and Nebbiolo d'Alba are excellent alternatives to most complex (but also expensive) Barolo and Barbaresco
    kindest regards
    Franco

    Dec 22, 2008 at 5:00 AM


  • Sorry for the delay in posting, but I was on the other coast.

    This was a very pleasurable evening, with some great values. I've posted my comments under Greg's for easy comparison.

    Flight 1-2004

    1) L Pira Le Ombre Langhe Nebbiolo $21.99
    GdP: This was an interesting wine, solid and a touch extracted with a bit of obvious wood but not offensive. Given some time I expect this will be pretty good and had something to say about Serralunga with it's dark, slightly medicinal character. 87pts

    JM: Damp wood, then ripe black cherry, then more of a cherry cola note. Heavy, extracted and a bid muddy (i.e., not precise). Definitely modern. Enough tannins for the fruit but a bit spufified. 85

    2) Cavallotto Langhe Nebbiolo $21.99
    GdP: This had a touch of TCA and while that came to be dominant with time it was not able to fully conceal the brilliant fruit this has and exceptional balance. Clean bottles should be excellent in a pure, fruit driven style with 90 plus scores likely.

    JM: Slight wet cardboard note that most of us picked up from the beginning but we were collectively reluctant to speak the “C” word. When I voiced some suspicions that it was corked, everyone confessed their secret worries. Too bad. This had really nice, classic sour cherry nebbiolo notes. This is a nice wine notwithstanding the TCA but presumably would show more fruit without the taint. Even with the TCA, I gave it 87 as I found this easy to taste through.

    3) Ascheri Bricco S. Giacomo Nebbiolo d'Alba $22.99
    GdP: This started out with a clean, extremely complex nose but evolved into an earth bomb, not that that is a bad thing. It's a bit of a schizo wine but once you get over that there is a lot to like here with nice rich fruit in a slightly rustic, chunky style. 89pts

    JM: Lighter, more garnet hue. More red fruuit flavors, rose hips, piercing weedy, stemmy scents (which I liked). A bit thin on fruit so the tannins show at first. But it fleshes out with air into ripe, even roasted fruits. My favorite of the flight: 88

    Flight 2 - 2005

    4) La Spinetta Langhe Nebbiolo $24.99
    GdP: What is this? What can this be used for? Is this paint thinner? Hand cleaner? I joke, only slightly. There is plenty of froot in here but the extraction and wood make this a mess. There are people who like this wine, fortunately I don't have to drink with them. Not to be crude but I compared this to a one legged stripper while tasting it. If you catch this from the right angle it looks like the real thing but it just can't get the job done. 75pts since it's the holidays and I am feeling generous.

    JM: Very dark color but a dull hue. Very ripe scents — alcohol and cooked fruits come up immediately; very New World-y. Strange solvent elements, too. A debate ensued about whether these were household or industrial solvents. A consensus was reached that they did not rise to the industrial level. In the mouth, tropical, tutti-fruity fruits. The only precise thing in this wine was a distinct ripe Kiwi fruit note. Bleeccch! 78 (This was not a spoiled bottle. This was just a disgusting style.)

    5) Vietti Perbacco Langhe Nebbiolo $21.99
    GdP: Where the Spinetta was all make-up, prosthetics, and household solvents this is just delightful. Simultaneously light, airy and tight and taut. This is gentle yet complex and is the rare delicate wine that will improve for several years in the cellar. A wine that was made to make the most of the vintage and pulls it off effortlessly. 91pts

    JM: A nice sweetness in the nose (oak?), and a hint of Pond's face cream. Good depth, with ripe, roasted fruits. Good tannins and pure flavors, but a tad thin in the finish. 88

    6) Ruggeri Corsini Langhe Nebbiolo $21.99
    GdP: Here we have a bit of a throwback wine. This is a fine wine, rustic and natural feeling if perhaps a bit too affected by the vintage but true to it's roots. It's got the green notes generally associated with Langhe Nebbiolo but they are well represented in an array of balsamic and forest floor accents. This needs food but works in its rugged, stocky way. 88pts

    JM: Much lighter in color. Stemmy/weedy note in the nose, plus some creosote. Nice balance in the mouth, with medium body. Some stem flavors, decent fruit. Toward the rustic end of the style scale. 85

    Flight 3 - 2006

    7) Scarzello Langhe Nebbiolo $25.99
    GdP: I really like what Federico is trying to do here and the wines generally perform very well. This was an extracted, powerful showing that made the wine seem a bit clumsy. It's a big, bad boy and will certainly benefit from cellaring. While I really like the wine I think it does lack some elegance, and transparency that I prefer in my Nebbiolo but if you want chewy power check this out 90pts

    JM: Dark color. Rich scents, but a nice tension in the aromas — not overripe, though I picked up some alcohol. Rich fruit in the mouth but a bit muddy — not precise. Pretty soft tannins. I knocked it down for its murkiness and its density, which I thought was a bit forced. 80

    8) Brezza Santa Rosalia Nebbiolo d'Alba $28.99
    GdP: Ok, if you want classic Nebbiolo, graceful, slightly raw, with bracing acidity and long, pure fruit here it is! This really speaks of the grape Nebbiolo. Screams it in fact. I love drinking this wine. Simply delicious! Sealed with the glass Vino-Lok stopper too.91pts

    JM: Some stem scents, very tight. Ripe cherries in the mouth, fairly soft tannins — or perhaps the fruit just masks them. Could be Dolcetto, though (which I think some other people agreed, notwithstanding Greg's claim that this “speaks Nebbiolo.” 85 for me.

    9) Burlotto Langhe Nebbiolo $26.99
    GdP: This was a singular expression of Nebbiolo, as so many Burlotto wines are. Complex and rich without being weighty. With both a density and a transparency this is a wine to savor and inspect with uncommon complexity for straight Nebbiolo. Tremendous wine. 92pts

    JM: Very taught and closed at first — but what scents emerge are classic nebbiolo (e.g., dried strawberry). Nice structure in the mouth with lots of fruit. More tannin than the others but fantastic balance. Ripe black cherries. My only complaint is that it could use a touch more acid (which I think others agreed). But really delicious. Chuggable! 88

    Flight 4 - Vintage Control

    10) 2004 Produttori del Barbaresco Langhe Nebbiolo $19.99
    GdP: Well here we have a wine that suffers from dilution and a lack of ripeness. Still a solid wine this has lost what babyfat it had and finds itself in a tough interim phase. It most likely will improve a bit from here but there are better wines for drinking today. 86pts

    JM: Brickish hue and somewhat mature scents (too mature for the age when it is unveiled). Tough, not terribly fruity. I gave it 84. But the 04 Produttori “Torre” Barbaresco seemed a bit tough, too, early on, so perhaps this will flesh out.

    11) 2005 Produttori del Barbaresco Langhe Nebbiolo $19.99
    GdP: This exhibits the tougher, rustic tannins of the vintage but has plenty of fruit as well. A nice brasato would work wonders with this wine today, as would a year or two in the cellar. There is ore material on the mid-palate in this wine than in the 2004. 87pts

    JM: Medium color. Very tight in the nose. A bit riper than the previous wine but more tannic. Roasted fruit flavors, and somewhat rustic. It's fairly backward despite the fruit and the full body. It's dense and pretty tannic at the back. I think this just needs time. 86.

    12) 2006 Produttori del Barbaresco Langhe Nebbiolo $16.99
    Wow this is singing tonight. Big and full, simple yet pure. This has the high alcohol of the vintage but also has great sweet fruit and fantastic, ripe tannins. This may be a touch simple but it pumps out the Nebbiolo fruit in a way that makes me want to forgive it's simplicity. 90pts

    JM: This had the best nose of the flight, with nice ripe black cherries there and in the mouth. I hit a palate fatique wall at this point, though, and couldn't score it. Just too much cumulative tannin!

    Bonus Bottles
    13) 2004 Guido Porro Barolo Lazzirasco $40

    GdP: Is there a better value in Barolo today? Well yes but my Santa Caterina bottles from Guido Porro haven't arrived yet! This was a touch alcoholic but offered great intense fruit with such precise structure that I could look past that minor fault. Classic Barolo for the cellar but one that may be approachable sooner than many. At this price stock up! 2012-2024 92pts

    JM: I was put off at first by the alcohol, both on the nose and in the mouth, and in the finish. But it seemed to come into balance more with some time. Not sure what to make of it. ??

    14) 2000 Burlotto Monvigliero $60
    GdP: This on the other hand may not appear to be a value. It is after all $60 but, if any Barolo deserves to be better known it is this wine. Why this slips through the cracks I don't know. It is as traditional a wine as you can find and as distinctive, with it's intense black olive nose, as any wine out there. Yet beyond that this is a gorgeous wine. The tannins are so fine, the balance so precise. This is simply superb wine and competes with wines that routinely sell for $100 a bottle and more. Maybe I should keep quiet after all as I look forward to buying more Burlotto in the future! Superb stuff. Did I mention that I like this wine? 95pts

    JM: Brickish hue. Olive scents. Sweet in the mouth — really sweet (not RS, but in flavor profile). Weird orange peel notes, but very clean. Not at all typical. ?? But maybe my taste buds were just burned out.

    Jan 05, 2009 at 3:09 AM


  • Snooth User: Yasmin Reyes
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    597932 46

    Renato Ratti has an excellent Nebiolo. Have you tried it?

    Oct 02, 2010 at 11:31 AM


  • Snooth User: JCMoore
    271464 1

    I say this with kindness - you need a better proofreader.

    Oct 02, 2010 at 1:53 PM


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