For most people, Barolo is synonymous with Nebbiolo, and Nebbiolo with Barolo.
But Nebbiolo is made beyond Barolo and Barbaresco too, and the Italian Food Wine and Travel group this month decided to learn more, and to expand the borders of Nebbiolo– at least in our imaginations and the imaginations of our readers! While those two areas of Italy may set the “gold” standard, this month Sue and I investigated three Nebbiolo from Italy and three Nebbiolo from the United States, including two from Silver and one from Naked Winery– hence our title’s reference of “Silver” and “Gold.” We paired four of the wines with rack of lamb and mushroom lasagna recently and the other two we tasted previously.
First, here are a few fun facts about Nebbiolo:
- Nebbiolo is native to the Piedmont region of Italy.
- Nebbiolo’s name probably comes from the Italian word for fog “nebbia.”
- Nebbiolo grapes become fogged as they ripen.
- Nebbiolo is one of the first to bud and last to ripen.
- Nebbiolo makes a lightly-colored red wine that becomes brick colored with age.
- Nebbiolo is super tannic and can require years of age to come into balance.
- Nebbiolo was so highly esteemed in the 15th century that penalties for cutting down vines included having a hand cut off or even being hanged!
- Nebbiolo was brought to California by Italian immigrants in the 19th century.
And now some thoughts on three Italian Nebbiolo followed by three American Nebbiolo plus some menu ideas and links to recipes we used as well as links to posts by others in the #ItalianFWT group.
Balbi Soprani -2012 – Nebbiolo d’Alba D.O.C – 13.5% alcohol – $13 at Whole Foods
The color on this wine is very pale for a red wine. If you didn’t know what you were pouring into your glass, you might think you’d be drinking a Pinot noir, except it is more brownish coral in color, more liked an aged Pinot noir.
At first I found a lot of stewed fruit, with baking spice, cranberry, prunes, plum, and stewed cherry, but after opening, it loses that stewed fruit character and becomes rather fresh. Some may think the cherry is too robust, but it is not cough syrup cherry, but bright and tart. Overall, a bright and vibrant wine with strong tannins and some nice earthy funk.
This is a great wine at this price point to grab to go with any Italian meal you may have selected from the deli at Whole Foods on your way home from work on a Friday night.
Aeration softens the tannins significantly, and we’d recommend either aerating or decanting but you will probably enjoy this with your meal even if you don’t. We both liked this wine especially because at the price point.
Note: Sue bought this wine at Whole Foods.
2014 – Il Principe Langhe Nebbiolo – Michele Chiarlo – 13.5% alcohol – Bevo Mo $20; SRP $25
Langhe is a southern region of Piedmont, home to Barolo and Barbaresco. This example of Nebbiolo is a very tannic beast of a wine. Aeration seemed to help because this is still a very young wine; the 2014 is still really tight, and it could use a couple more years in the bottle.
The color reminds me of dried roses, and I get that fragrance on the nose and on the palate as well as the cinnamon spice of a carnation. On the palate, there’s intense fruit including cranberry and macerated fresh cherry, and a lengthy spicy finish with dazzling acidity.
The longer this wine is open, the more I am enjoying it.
This wine is so closed in at first but if you give it a chance, you will come to appreciate it. Seriously, it needs to be cellared for a couple of years to enjoy or aerate and decant. Or maybe this is just a wine that you need to open when you start preparing dinner unless they have 4 or 5 years on them. I tasted this at a Kobrand event last fall and was intrigued enough to want to buy a bottle for this tasting.
Note: I bought this wine at BevMo.
Langhe Nebbiolo – Germano Angelo – Viticoltore in Barolo Dal 1908 – 2010 – 14.5% alcohol SRP under $30
Another Nebbiolo from Langhe, we were very excited to try this wine, but it did not knock our socks off right away because it is still such a baby, and needs to grow up. Seriously, it should cellar, and needs to be cellared longer. As it was open, it grew on us. For this wine, we broke out the big glasses. Research says to use burgundy glasses to taste Barolo so you can get the big nose. There is a bit of a fruit and anise finish, however it needs food to bring that out. This is not a cocktail wine by any means. We found this to be very tannic. It tastes like it needs to lie down longer and mellow out.
Definitely decant 1-2 hours in advance of a nice rich dinner in order to enjoy it now or leave it in the cellar for another 5-10 years.
In color, the 2010 Langhe Nebbiolo is a classic garnet core with coral and garnet along the edge. As it opens, the nose gives off spice with red stone fruit as well as fennel and tar. On the palate, medium to full bodied and well structured with red fruit, mushroom, spice, and tannic black tea.
Note: This wine was a sample from #WineStudio for review consideration.
1998 – Silver Nebbiolo – Santa Barbara County – SRP $25.00 (NFS)
The cork was old and disintegrated upon opening, but that doesn’t always mean a wine has gone bad. I’ve had this one cellared for about 18 months; I bought it at Santa Barbara’s Celebration of Harvest in 2015 and only brought it out the other day in preparation for our tasting. However, in this case, we felt that this wine was corked. And I’m very happy to say that winemaker Benjamin Silver has offered us another bottle! I just need to get up to the winery in Santa Barbara at 724 Reddick Street to pick it up! Fortunately that’s only about a 30 minute drive from my house and I was wanting to visit anyway!
Note: I bought this wine at a charity wine auction.
2010 – Silver Nebbiolo – 13.3% alcohol – $35
A bit richer and deeper in color than the others and more brick than red, this Nebbiolo has quite a bit of funky barnyard plus fruit, and then beyond that great spices of cinnamon and cloves. The tannins are present but not obnoxious, they don’t attack you. Running it through an aerator softens it and makes it more pleasurable faster. As the wine opens up, the distinctive tar of an older Nebbiolo starts to show as well as dried roses. On the palate, iron, pomegranate, and cranberry with a lingering, haunting finish.
All of the wines went significantly better with the food which taught us that Nebbiolo tends to need aeration, age, and rich food. Fresh Mozzarella and tomato on rosemary skewers, olives, creamy castello blue cheese were simple yet amazing with this wine.
Note: I bought this wine at a charity wine auction.
Naked Winery’s Orgasmic Oh! Nebbiolo Columbia Valley WA 2012 – 13% alcohol – $80
Beautiful in color, almost translucent, this Nebbiolo from Washington’s Columbia Valley is light yet offers great complexity and intensity, very fruity and spicy. Because of the soft color, most people will think it’s a pinot noir but one sip and they will know it is a wine of a completely different nature.
Dried roses and cloves start to come out as the wine opens up; this Nebbiolo has very nice baking spice quality. Red plum on the palate with a typically long finish.
Helen observed that this is a nice red wine for a warm day. Often times, red wine can be too heavy to be enjoyed on a warm day. This wine does not fit into that category. It is lighter in body and complex in flavor making it easy to enjoy when the temperatures soar.
At $80, it’s an expensive wine, in a stunning package, that makes it a special gift for your Valentine. We’d love to revisit this wine in about 2 to 3 years at least to see how it ages.
This wine was a sample for my review consideration.
Appetizers: Fresh Mozzarella and tomato on rosemary skewers – olives – Creamy castello blue cheese –
These all went perfectly with the wine. Simple and amazing.
With homemade dressing and lots of anchovies.
I licked the parchment paper when removed to complete baking.
This lasagne was an amazing recipe. It would go well with any mushroom loving wine. We plan on doing it again for Pinot Noir.
Rack of Lamb
Marshall did the rack of lamb with garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper. simple but great on the BBQ and went beautifully with our wines.
This is a grown up tiramisu – so delicious – something to go great with your shot of espresso or cappuccino at the end of the evening. not great with dessert wine. The dessert went great with Amaretto, possibly Frangelico, or cognac .
Read more about our adventures into Nebbiolo beyond Barolo and Barbaresco:
- Jill from L’occasion shares The Test in Life is Unity: G. D. Vajra Langhe Nebbiolo
- Susannah from Avvinare shares Discover Off the Beaten Path Nebbiolos from the Carema and Canavese DOCs
- Lauren from The Swirling Dervish shares Breaking out of Barolo: Nebbiolo from Alto Piemonte
- Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla shares Zuppa di Cipolla al Vino Rosso + Bava’s “Gionson” Nebbiolo
- Mike from Undiscovered Italy shares Let’s Go Grumello
- Jen from Vino Travels shares The Land and Soul of Ceretto
- Jeff from FoodWineClick! shares Nebbiolo Grows On My Desert Island