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.
Steve Pannell was making great Grenache in McLaren Vale before the variety began to enjoy its modern renaissance as the so-called “Pinot of the south”. This combines plum and raspberry fruit sweetness with a backbone of tannin and refreshing acidity, supporting the concentration of the old vine fruit. The oaking is almost imperceptible here.
This is my kind of wine. In fact, I could drink a bottle of this almost every day and never get bored. Classic, perfumed Crozes, with violet and rose petal aromas, textured tannins and lovely, gluggable flavours of blackberry, black olive and liquorice. The tannins are silky smooth, the oak beautifully integrated and there’s enough tannin to add some backbone.
This is only the “entry point” Dolcetto from the Vajra family, but it’s still a deliciously aromatic example of Piedmont’s everyday red. Aromatic and fruity, showing flavours of plum and black cherry, as well as aromas of violets, it’s at its best when lightly chilled. Aren’t we all? Long and refreshing with chalky acidity.
The straight Barbera d’Alba is mostly fermented in stainless steel, but sees a small percentage of new oak for extra complexity. Savoury, sweet and refreshing, it has a little more acidity and tannin than the Dolcetto, but is still deliciously approachable as a young wine. Pure, tranpsarent and appealing, this shows the elegance that is to typical of this producer’s wines.
Slightly higher in alcohol than the regular Barbera, this is mostly sourced from the Bricco delle Viole vineyard, where the vines are 40 years old. Aged in neutral Slavonian oak, it’s creamy, smooth and savoury, with impressive texture, notes of liquorice and dried herbs, polished tannins and a warm, full-bodied finish. A Barbera that’s definitely worth keeping for a few years.
Even chalkier and fresher than the Baudana bottling under the same label, this has more perfume, elegance and finesse, with a tautness and minerality that are thrilling to taste. Essence of Serralunga, with fine, silky tannins, good structure and a sweet, complex finish that goes on and on and on. Beautiful Barolo.
There isn’t a lot of competition in Piedmont, but this has to be the region’s best Riesling. Nor would it look shabby in a tasting with examples from the Alto Adige. Made entirely with clone 49 on poor, sandy soils, it’s a dry, tangy style with notes of white flowers and lime zest and a crisp, tapering finish. Beautifully balanced.
How many wines make you want to start dancing? I love the perfumed frivolity of this wine. Sweet, frothy and perfumed, it’s a wonderful expression of the Moscato grape. The alcohol is low, the flavours are fresh and aromatic. What’s not to like? Try it with a bowl of strawberries.
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.