Getting to know Nebbiolo


piedmont-sunsetWorking on Berrys’ Wine Blog has many advantages – being able to read the latest news and meet top producers are just a couple of them – but it does have one drawback: it makes you very envious. So, not that I needed any other incentive, I was delighted to be a part of a training trip to Piedmont to visit David Berry Green, who has now taken residence in his spectacular part of the world (look at this picture of the sunset and the Alps!)

Before I left I think it’s fair to say that my knowledge of Italian wines was relatively basic and our focus for the week, the Nebbiolo grape, was little more than a tale in David’s blogs and the essential component of the much-sought-after wines of Barolo. But this was all about to change.

In five days which involved a tasting around 90 wines and eating copious amounts of 4-course meals (a special thanks has to go to winemaker Mario Fontana’s mother Elda, who made us the most wonderful lunch in her home!), we really got to grips with Nebbiolo – and that isn’t a pun about the grape’s infamous tannins.

rivellas_vineyardIn fact, although the legendary tannins and acidity did prove evident in all the wines we tasted, we were amazed at the amount of fruit and complexity that these wines showed. From the more humble Langhe Nebbiolos and elegant Barbarescos through to the mightiest Barolo, one theme was consistent; we were all amazed at the freshness and energy of the wines from this region. Even after quite a few year’s ageing, these are wines that are built to last. And built to go with food. That’s a key point actually; in order to really get the most out of this wonderful grape, you have to have it with food. The juicy acidity and the powdery tannins are ideal for all sorts of delicious fare – from salamis and cheese through roast duck, casseroles and pastas – the list of options is seemingly endless. Me and my expanding waistline know this first-hand.

emily_1983I could talk for a long while about these wines – the raspberry zing of the ‘09s, the liquorice and mint on the nose of almost every ’06 and the wonderful leather, nuts and sweet fruit of the ’74 Barbaresco we tried at Cantina Rivella Serafino (above, right), but I shan’t, I’ll leave that to my colleague Stuart Rae in the video below. I will, however, just briefly mention the bottle of 1983 Cornarea Arneis (a white wine from the year of my birth, left!) which we tasted on day one and was still astoundingly fresh, with asparagus and smokey minerals amazing everyone at the table – except for the winemaker, who simply watched us over the breadsticks with a knowing smile.