The list of impressive Nebbiolo producers outside north-west Italy isn’t a long one, but Steve Pannell, who has worked in Piedmont to familiarise himself with the grape, would definitely be on it. Suitably pale in colour, with the variety’s unique combination of austerity and voluptuousness, firm tannins and sweet, savoury autumnal fruit, this wouldn’t look out of place in a line up of Barolos.
The Luigi Baudana wines come entirely from Serralunga d’Alba, widely considered the best village in the Barolo region. This is more closed and concentrated than the sweeter, riper 2009, but has finer tannins, too, and the classic chalky undertone of eastern Barolo. It’s a serious, even sligthly backward wine with excellent structure and ageing potential. Give this wine time.
More structured than the Bricco delle Viole, this comes from a 2.2 hectare, south- and south-east facing vineyard and is a first release. It’s got a bloody, almost iron-like note on the palate, firmish but well integrated tannins and minerally freshness. The tannins need food (preferably a lump of protein) to take away their edge. One to tuck away.
So appealing now that you are almost tempted to pull the cork, but give this superlative Barolo some time. Old vines, marl soils, a top vintage and brilliant winemaking all combine beautifully here. Elegant, minerally and poised, this has a red fruits sweetness that is almost reminiscent of Pinot Noir, but with a firmer backbone of acidity and tannin. Fine, silky and very long.
Fascinating to taste this wine under screwcap and cork and perform a contrast and compare job. They are both excellent, as you’d expect from a top producer in an outstanding vintage, but I slightly prefer the brightness and purity of the screwcapped wine. Fresh and elegant, with pure raspberry and cherrystone fruit, subtle oak and the chalky minerality that’s so typical of Serralunga.
Delicious Barolo, like delicious red Burgundy, is hard to find under £20, let alone at closer to £10, but Matteo Ascheri is brilliant at finding parcels of Italy’s most tempertmental grape that deliver flavour as well as value for money. This is a riper style (it was a warm vintage), but combines aromas of rose petal and red fruits with savoury, smoky tannins and a classically firm, even austere finish. A great introduction to the joys of Nebbiolo.
2006 is a delicious vintage in Piemonte – less ripe than 2007, perhaps, but more classic in structure. This is still in short trousers, but it’s already approachable, with lifted aromas of tar, red fruits and incense, medium weight tannins, bight acidity and a core of savoury, focused fruit. Needs food to shine.
If you love Nebbiolo (and who doesn’t?) but can’t afford to drink top Barolo, this lighter style is a brilliant introduction to one of Italy’s two best red grapes. It’s subtle and fragrant, with a raspberry sweetness that reminds me of red Burgundy, backed up by fine, but not remotely aggressive tannins. Complex, leafy and well balanced, this is delicious now, but will develop for at least another five years.