Spotlight on Nebbiolo: Gianfranco Alessandria Langhe Nebbiolo 2008
Nebbiolo makes an expensive wine. There are several reasons for this. Nebbiolo consitutes only about 6% of planted vines in Piedmont, so it is relatively scarce even in its home. Yields are generally low and prime planting land is expensive. Because Nebbiolo is so sensitive to climate, only a few particular sites make good wine – thus the entry price point goes up and up. Add to that the great prestige of Barolo and Barbaresco, and you have the perfect recipe for expensive wine.
This Nebbiolo from Gianfranco skirts some of the major price uppers by sticking to the general “Langhe” moniker. This means that the fruit either comes from regions outside the big boys in Barolo and Barbaresco or it is declassified fruit. What is really impressive, is that the quality of the fruit hits far above its entry-level (for Nebbiolo) price point.
Nebbiolo is an extremely tannic grape. It is difficult to turn into something accessible in its youth, but modern technology has started to move certain examples in this direction. Most wines would, however, be a shame to drink young. What is most impressive about Alessandria’s entry level wine is that it drinks so well even at this young age.
Unlike Sangiovese, the fruit quality of Nebbiolo is generally very good these days. Real challenges come in the cellar, however, and this is where the battle between traditionalists and modernists truly takes place. I will explore this topic in more detail in future posts; however, it is useful to note that most producers these days have eliminated the issues that led to bacterial infections and volatile acidity in the past. Thus the general quality of wine is quite consistent – the real trick is finding the values and the truly great.
Accessible, Delicious Nebbiolo
This Langhe Nebbiolo is made from 10 year old vines planted on south-east slopes in Monforte d’Alba. Only 3500 bottles are produced (under 300 cases).
The nose on this wine is clearly nebbiolo – classic bright cherry with nut skins. There is less expressivity and concentration compared to the big boys in Barolo and Barbaresco, but this is an extremely tasty wine.
The dense palate, with its firm and grippy tannins, loosens and opens with food. There is lots of dark cherry in this wine, which has a surprising density of fruit for its level. A wine with excellent concentration, structure and length. This is a super bargain for Nebbiolo and I’d call it slightly modernist but also restrained with the oak. In other words, quite a lovely amalgam of accessibility and traditional weight and tannin.
Very Good+ and Highly Recommended Value
$40 at Kits Wine