Nebbiolo Blind Tasting
1) L Pira Le Ombre Langhe Nebbiolo $21.99 - 87pts
2) Cavallotto Langhe Nebbiolo $21.99 - NR
3) Ascheri Bricco S. Giacomo Nebbiolo d’Alba $22.99 - 89pts
Flight 2 - 2005
4) La Spinetta Langhe Nebbiolo $24.99 - 75pts
5) Vietti Perbacco Langhe Nebbiolo $21.99 - 91pts
6) Ruggeri Corsini Langhe Nebbiolo $21.99 - 88pts
Flight 3 - 2006
7) Scarzello Langhe Nebbiolo $25.99 - 89pts
8) Brezza Santa Rosalia Nebbiolo d’Alba $28.99 - 91pts
9) Burlotto Langhe Nebbiolo $26.99 - 92pts
Flight 4 - Vintage Control
10) 2004 Produttori del Barbaresco Langhe Nebbiolo $19.99 - 86pts
11) 2005 Produttori del Barbaresco Langhe Nebbiolo $19.99 - 87pts
12) 2006 Produttori del Barbaresco Langhe Nebbiolo $16.99 - 90pts
13) 2004 Guido Porro Barolo Lazzirasco - 93pts
14) 2000 Burlotto Monvigliero - 95pts
So a group of fellow Nebbiolo aficionados joined me at Snooth central last night for a look at both Nebbiolo and a mine review of the vintage character of current available bottlings. We tasted through 4 flights of Nebbiolo, with a final flight of Barolo blind just for the hell of it.
Our first flight came from one of the most acclaimed vintages in recent memory, 2004. While I am a fan of this vintage I think it has been over-hyped by the media. It’s a wonderful vintage with elegant, ripe fruit but my concern is that some of what is being described, as elegance is actually dilution.
2004 was a very large crop and to me, many wines seem awfully easy and open knit at this point. The high yield of the year has produced wines that suffer from a touch of dilution or an innate simplicity that makes them very attractive today.
I think that in the long run 2004 will be a vintage that comes to resemble 1985 more than any other vintage. Much like with that vintage the producers had nothing but glorious things to say about the fruit. Perfect! It was said then and it was said in 2004. The wines from both vintages met with universal praise on release.
Now 1985 is no slouch of a vintage. There are many pretty wines out there, absolutely delicious now but with the passage of time many wines that were once considered to be great have developed rather quickly and have not reached the potential that was once though to be theirs.
The truly great vintages that I have been fortunate to taste on release have always been underwhelming. 1978, 1982, 1989, 1996, 1999. Yes they were praised from the get go but for their potential, though virtually everyone missed the boat on 1999. 2004 is a very, very good vintage. It is showing well today in many cases but I do not think it will enter the pantheon of exceptional vintages.
1) L Pira Le Ombre Langhe Nebbiolo $21.99
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
2) Cavallotto Langhe Nebbiolo $21.99
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.
3) Ascheri Bricco S. Giacomo Nebbiolo d’Alba $22.99
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
Our second flight focused on 2005. As with 2004 I think the initial reviews of this vintage will have to be updated with time. Though I may certainly be wrong there. I really enjoy vintages like 1988 and 1995. They can be a bit coarse compared with many other vintages but at the same time they are generally cool and well balanced in the mouth and well-made wines from these vintages have plenty of fruit that will age in balance with these durable tannins.
Just as the 2004 were too easy on release the 2005s will be too tough. They are not instant gratification wines and will require some though, ability to extrapolate, and understanding of what Nebbiolo is and does, not what one wants it to be and do.
There were many challenges over the course of the vintage from the cool temps and drought of early summer to the heavy rains and hail of August. In my opinion those stresses help to create complexity in the wines. The fruit was not perfect at harvest but he have seen what wine perfect fruit produces, the lovely 1985s!
This is a challenging vintage, there is no doubt to that, but the great producers will rise to the occasion and produce great wines, in many cases challenging and even surpassing what was produced in 2004. One issue in 2005 is that these wines have pretty assertive and dry tannins. In many cases there is plenty of fruit to balance them out but this issue is most glaring at the lowest end of the scale, ie tonight’s wines. The trade-off is that these wines also have slightly, yet noticeably lower alcohols, which is not a bad thing.
Flight 2 - 2005
4) La Spinetta Langhe Nebbiolo $24.99
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.
5) Vietti Perbacco Langhe Nebbiolo $21.99
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
6) Ruggeri Corsini Langhe Nebbiolo $21.99
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
Now we move on to 2006. What will be said of 2006? Can it possibly be more heavily praised than 2004? While it is very early I would say that it probably deserves to be!
Here is a vintage that had many challenges from early drought, heat spikes, to cool summer spells and late rains. While each issue on it’s own might pose intimidating problems having them one after another certainly took it’s toll on both the vines and the producers. Fortunately, the key to the success of the vintage was that after each near disaster conditions allowed for the vines to recover.
Those stresses also forced the vines to adapt, to weave and bob, and no doubt imbued the grapes with a richness and complexity that will allow them to produce wines that will emerge as superior to what was produced in both 2005 and 2004.
Now these comments should not be misconstrued, I am always referring only to the best producers, those who understand their vineyards and are able to allow the vineyards to speak through the wine rather than imposing their own monologue on the wine. I may be wrong with all of this. it would be neither the first nor the last time. However I don’t think I am.
I do think that the critical media is caught up in a cycle of self-promotion and that by always tooting their horn they are able to draw attention to themselves. It worked for one person with the 1982 Bordeaux so why not keep at it? And of course it is all too easy, and accepted, to just go back and revise one’s opinion at a later date, as I may have to do. But like I said I doubt it.
Flight 3 - 2006
7) Scarzello Langhe Nebbiolo $25.99
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
8) Brezza Santa Rosalia Nebbiolo d’Alba $28.99
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
9) Burlotto Langhe Nebbiolo $26.99
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
And just for the hell of it our last flight was called vintage control. I wanted to have the vintages from a consistent producer to see if the vintage characteristic we discovered were actually vintage characteristics or were producer traits.
For me this flight perfectly highlighted the vintage characteristics and the Produttori del Barbaresco once again deserve all the praise they get and then some. This is their bottom bottling and frequently can be found for around $15. While probably the least cellar-worthy wine of the night they none-the-less performed well across the board.
One point that is worth mentioning here is that this is a negative selection of sorts. Individual lots of wine deemed not worthy of inclusion in the basic Barbaresco find their way here as well as young vines. Counter intuitively this bottling can out perform in poorer vintages and underperform in better vintages because of this policy. As the Produttori seeks to protect their brand they may declassify wines in certain vintages that still out perform this pay grade. Due to this policy the Langhe Nebbiolo bottling ranges fro 10% to 30% of the Produttori’s annual production.
Flight 4 - Vintage Control
10) 2004 Produttori del Barbaresco Langhe Nebbiolo $19.99
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
11) 2005 Produttori del Barbaresco Langhe Nebbiolo $19.99
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
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
After the Nebbiolo flights I want to include two wines that I consider values for different reasons. This was titled “The greatest value wine in the world” tasting so in order to continue the theme I presented these two bottles blind. Just to have some fun!
13) 2004 Guido Porro Barolo Lazzirasco $40
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
14) 2000 Burlotto Monvigliero $60
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
Well that was the evening. I will write up the groups very consistent opinions about the wines in a separate blog post. For the most part they all came around to see things my way. A rare evening indeed!
- Reply by Eric Guido, Dec 18, 2008.
Very nice, I've been eyeballing the Vietti for some time and I think i might snag some this weekend. I've yet to see the Burlotto at retail but it sounds fantastic.
As always, thanks for the excellent write ups, the backgrounds, history lessens and tasting notes. Awesome.
- Reply by Eric Guido, Dec 30, 2008.
I hit that 2006 Produttori Del Barbaresco and I've gotta say, I love this stuff.
What a great food wine. Everyone at the table was so happy with it's zippy acidity and pure fruit flavors. I ended up grabbing a case.
Thanks for the recommendation.
- Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Dec 31, 2008.
My pleasure. I am here to facilitate drinking, amongst other things.