Massachusetts Beverage Business


Nebbiolo Outed

Article By: Bill Nesto, MW

Recipe for a Madman's Winter Repast

Select a winter evening so cold that your sneezes turn into snowflakes.

Stoke a fire in the fireplace until it crackles louder than you can talk.

Slice open and roast some chestnuts. Set them on a metal pan near the fire where they can stay warm.

Strip game of feather or fur.

Braise, roast or barbecue.

Position root vegetables (potatoes, onions, etc. ), squash (acorn is preferred), and mushrooms (portobellos are fine) around the sizzling meat.

Roll out a wheel of aged Parmigiano Reggiano. Break into bite-sized portions.

Position the dining table near the fire and cover with a white table cloth. Position large crystal balloon goblets at every setting.

Place hand-made, bone-handled cutlery at every setting.

Position and light candles.

Insert CD of a Puccini opera; hit PLAY.

Decant a cellar-temperature, WINE X, preferably at least five-years-old. One older than 1O years might have sediment in the bottle. Pour WINE X off the sediment into a glass pitcher. The wine, young or old, must sit for at least one hour.

While the wine breathes, go out, capture three friends, bind them securely onto the ski rack, and motor them back home. They can be male or female. They must be hungry.

Once at home, unbind them, position them at the table and pour out WINE X.

Begin the dinner.


QUESTION What is Wine X?
ANSWER A quality Nebbiolo, preferably a Barolo or Barbaresco.

Nebbiolo is a red grape variety that makes just about the heartiest, most tannic red varietal wine on the planet. It hails from the hills and mountains of northwest Italy. Consumers are most likely to have experienced it labeled under the appellation names, Barolo or Barbaresco.

When lipstick has not been applied, ie, the wine has not been doctored or aggressively manipulated, Nebbiolo wine is pale garnet in color, even when just released. Looking at the wine against a white background, a color typical of overmature wine, a pale tinge of orange-red rings the wine's edge on the glass. But don't be fooled by Nebbiolo's whimpy, older-than-it-should-look color. Fine Nebbiolo packs a punch as strong as any pitch-black Screaming Eagle, lives as long as any brawny Hermitage (once called , the "manliest" of wines), and makes a roasted wild game cower in its presence.

Once the cork is pulled, the wine can greet you with disappointing vegetal or animal smells - or nothing at all. The reason for decanting it an hour or two before is to give oxygen to the nose, and hence, to let it "breathe". In. Then out. In. Then out. Just kidding! It doesn't breathe like we do. Pour an inch or so of Nebbiolo into your glass. Bring it up to our nose. The large bulbous glass of my recipe allows you to spin a little wine up near the top of the rim and then back down again. This action gives the wine more oxygen. It also increases the surface area exposed to the air releasing more volatile aromas. The wine "breathes" more. The wine's nose can wake up or bad smells can play themselves out and disappear. The wine smells nice. Cherry is the dominant scent. Any permutation of the smell of various flowers, underbrush, root vegetables, mushrooms, Indian spices, leather, and tar provides background scenery for the cherry. As is often the case with Pinot Noir, the smell of a Nebbiolo can amplify and becomes more complex if you age it for ten or even twenty years in its bottle.

Now pour some of the pale red stuff into your mouth. The first thing you notice is that the wine has no sugar. The next thing, you realize is that it has plenty of alcohol. The greatest examples have levels of 13. 5% and higher. The high alcohol is the result of late picking. If the capricious Piedmont autumn remains sunny and warm, the grapes continue to ripen late into the season, into early November. Maximum flavor and high alcohol in the wine is the result. With all that alcohol, the wine, particularly when young, will initially taste fiery. Before you can say boo, the wine changes from being fiery to incredibly tart. And before you can say boo again, drying tannins lay siege to the mouth. It is because of these tannins that strong tasting meats best accompany the wine. Chewing and releasing flavors of the meat dilutes and buffers the attack of the tannins. The rich unctuousness of the high alcohol combines with the wine's fruit. These flavors balance the flavors of the meat. The wine's acidity cuts the meat's fat. The result harmonizes with the Puccini opera. What an experience! Older Nebbiolos are less fiery and astringent. They accompany more delicately flavored foods such as chicken and veal.

But Nebbiolo is "not over, until it's over". What distinguishes a fine Nebbiolo from all other varietal wines is its finish - how the taste of the wine remains in the mouth after a swallow. It lasts and lasts and lasts. The finish is composed of the lingering scents that waft up from the through into the nose, and the lingering textures, mostly astringent, that occupy the entire mouth and throat.

Barolos and Barbarescos are the most expensive Nebbiolos, costing over $4O each. Less expensive versions come with other appellation names on the label: Gattinara, Ghemme, Carema, Langhe Nebbiolo, Lessona, Nebbiolo d'Alba, Roero, Sizzano, Valtellina Superiore, Valtellina, etc. These are a bit lighter and less dense on the palate, and shorter lived with respect to aging in bottle.

Recently, in Italy, I sampled a range of Nebbiolos, selected for me by the Enoteca Italiana. Housed in Siena's De'Medici fortress, the Enoteca Italiana maintains a library of wines produced in all regions of Italy. In order to become part of the library, the wines must satisfy the palates of trained tasters. Most of the wines described on the next page are available in the US market. All the wines were fine examples of their type and vintage. I have expressed my personal preference by giving them a point score based on a maximum positive rating of 2O points. A wine with a score of ten is a technically perfect but anonymous wine. A wine that scores 15 or above is a unique and exceptional wine. Hence most of my scores range between 1O and 15. In each case in sequence, I list the name of the producer, the distinctive name or brand of the wine, the appellation, description of the appearance of the wine, description of the wine's smell, description of the wine's palate, description of the wine's finish, maturity assessment, and my personal point score.


BREZZA, BRICCO SARMASSA, BAROLO DOCG, 2OO1 Pale garnet with orange-red rim; red fruits, prosciutto, indian spice; moderate weight, hot in back of the throat, moderate tannins; hot cherry candy finish; can be appreciated now but can improve. 13.5 points

BAVA, "CADODO", MONFERRATO DOC, 2OOO Light ruby with ruby rim; slightly vegetal, young wine smell, red fruits, cherry, indian spice; hot, thick and fruity on the palate; hot, raisiny, chocolatey, and tart finish; young but meant to be young. 12.5 points

BAVA, SCARRONE, "CONTRABBASO", BAROLO DOCG, 2OOO Light red with orange rim; strong aromatic red fruits, smoke, tar; thick and tannic with good acidity; game, mushroom and smoke in the finish; drinking well but will improve. 14.5 points

MICHELE CHIARLO, CEREQUIO, BAROLO DOCG, 2OO1 Light to medium garnet with orange rim; burnt fruits, gamey, a little reduced, vegetal; young and impenetrably hard in the mouth, very tart; acid, hard tannins and heat form a balance in the finish; immature, needs 5 to 1O years of aging. 15.5 points

MICHELE CHIARLO, TORTONIANO, BAROLO DOCG, 2OO1 Pale garnet with orange rim; light red fruits, sour cherry and cedar in the nose; hot and rich but then sour and bitter in the mouth; strong bitter and astringent tannins in the finish; almost mature, will hold for 1O years. 12.5 points

FONTANAFREDDA, "LAZZARITO", VIGNA LA DELIZIA, BAROLO DOCG, 1999 Light to medium garnet-brown with orange rim; slight musty (cork?) nose, ripe - perhaps overripe - red fruits, mushroom and bacon in the nose; thick, full, delicious, complex on the palate; clean finish, elegant, tart, fine tannins; a complex wine that need 5 years. 14 points

FONTANAFREDDA, "LA ROSA", VIGNA LA ROSA, BAROLO DOCG, 1999 Light to medium garnet with garnet-orange rim; vegetal at first, then gamey, leather, red fruits, and tobacco smells; rounder and softer than Lazzarito; drying, fine tannins, long aromatic finish, very complex; needs 5 to 1O years. 15 points

FONTANAFREDDA, SERRALUNGA D'ALBA, BAROLO DOCG, 2OOO Pale garnet-brown with orange rim; red fruits, spicy, deceptively open and ready to drink in the nose; classic, hot, spicy, prickly, acid in the mouth; drying, hot, tart, spicy, long finish, fine aromatics; beginning to open but will age for 1O to 2O years. 16 points

PRUNOTTO, BUSSIA, BAROLO DOCG, 2OOO Light to medium garnet with orange rim; a whiff of rotten eggs at first then red fruits, eggplant and tobacco; substantial, rich and thick in the mouth; finishes hot, tart, with substantial tannins and cherry accents; needs 5 years but will be great. 15 points

PRUNOTTO, BRIC TUROT, BARBARESCO DOCG, 2OOO Medium to light garnet-brown with red-orange rim; strong red fruits, youthful, cinnamon hots, tar; thick, sweet character, fine dusty tannins; super long finish, great tannins; great future. 16 points

OBERTO, LOGHERO, ROERO DOC SUPERIORE, 2OO1 Light garnet-brown with brown-orange rim; flat nose, port-like, alcoholic; round; hot, bitter finish; mature but can hold for 1O years. 12.5 points

OBERTO, NEBBIOLO D'ALBA DOC, 2OO2 Pale red-garnet with orange rim; red fruits, slight musty note, tobacco; light on the palate; tart, bitter and tannic finish; needs 5 years. 12 points

RATTI, OCHETTI, NEBBIOLO D'ALBA DOC, 2OO3 Light to medium garnet-ruby with ruby rim; bottled-out-of-tank smell, clean, simple, modern, cherry-scented, tobacco; round, substantial, hot; tannic, some bitterness in the finish; needs 5 years. 12.5 points

TERRE DEL BAROLO, NEBBIOLO D'ALBA DOC, 2OO3 Pale red with orange rim; mute red fruits, vegetal, simple; moderate weight, alcoholic; very hot finish; needs 5 years. 12 points

GIGI ROSSO, ARIONE, BAROLO DOCG, 2OO1 Light to medium garnet with red rim; tight red fruit nose, young, red hot cherry candies; substantial, thick, complex tannins; lingering sweet fine tannins, tobacco in the finish; young, needs 5 to 1O years. 14 points

BIANCHI, VIGNETO VALTERANA, GATTINARA DOCG, 1999 Light to medium garnet with red rim; nice red fruit nose, slight mustiness; easy to drink, lower alcohol than other wines in tasting; substantial tannins, very drying; drinking well. 12 points

BIANCHI, GHEMME DOCG. 1999 Light to medium garnet with red rim; delicate cherry nose, clean; spicy, round, sweet tannins; fine tannic quality, lingering; needs 5 years. 13 points

NEGRO, SUDISFĂ€, ROERO DOC, 2OO1 Light to medium garnet with orange rim; complex baked cherry nose, tar, Barbaresco-like; round, alcoholic, very tannic, austere; long tannic finish; needs 5 years of aging. 14 points

NEGRO, PRACHIOSSO, ROERO DOC, 2OO2 Light to medium garnet-ruby with ruby rim; nice cherry fruit nose, tobacco, vegetal; easier to drink than the 2OO1, well made; tannic, good drying tannins in the finish; good now. 12.5 points

TERRA DA VINO, PODERI SCARRONE, BAROLO DOCG, 2OO1 Light to medium garnet with garnet-orange rim; round simple nose, red fruits, tobacco; tart, lacks complexity; nice finish, vanilla, tannic; okay now but better in 3 years. 12. 5 points

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