When used to make Barolo or Barbaresco in Piemonte, Nebbiolo can yield ferociously tannic wines that need decades to show their best. But there are some more obscure wines from this corner of North Italy that provide the requisite combination of acid and tannin without needing an eternity in the cellar.
Langhe Nebbiolo is an appellation that encompasses the wine growing area that includes Barolo and Barbaresco but is generally made in an appealing, early drinking style. The one I’m talking about is from Produttori del Barbaresco, a cooperative winery in (you guessed it) Barbaresco, but quality examples abound and there hasn’t been a truly awful vintage in Piemonte since 2002.
Next door, in Roero, the sandier soils give lighter, charming wines from Nebbiolo grapes too, and north of the Langhe zone, in such historic places as Ghemme and Gattinara, the wines have Barolo’s haunting fragrance but a little less tannic muscle.
Over the border in Lombardia they call Nebbiolo “Chiavennasca”, and use it to make a kind of quasi-Amarone by drying whole bunches of the grapes for several weeks before fermentation. This is Sforzato di Valtellina (or “Sfursat” in the local dialect), an imposing, concentrated wine. It’s also worth checking out the wines of Valtellina Superiore, made from Chiavennasca and boasting such evocative names as Sassella, Maroggia, Stagafassli and Inferno. These are Alpine wines with brisk, mouth-cleansing acidity and spice and red fruit aromas (think cherries and raspberries).
This will be my last column for 2011. I’d like to thank my loyal readers. The number of people who’ve told me they enjoy my articles has been gratifying. I wish you all a merry Christmas and hope that you’ll have a chance to get some rest over the festive season. Lutyens will be closed from 24 December re-opening 4 January, so I am looking forward to spending some time with my in-laws in Berlin. Cheers.
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