Nebbiolo is a hard grape to access. Good Nebbiolo is found only in a tiny region of Italy (the Langhe), the price of entry is high and even some of the most entry level wines need at least several years of age before opening up (without saying anything of the 10 year minimum for higher quality examples). Yet, Nebbiolo produces perhaps the most intriguing wines in all of Italy.
These are intellectual wines, but they are also wines of ellegance. Some examples may reach the realm of the esoteric, but many skirt the line between intellectual intrigue and sensual pleasure. As with all of Italy, there is a battle going on between the modernists and the traditionalists. Both accept and adopt modern technology, but the extent to which they use it and the style of wine they seek to express differ dramatically. The question is: can both make good wines or, as with Sangiovese, will the traditionalists win out? It may be that, in the end, this dichotomy is too simple, but it is a good place to start.
Barbaresco is one of the two famed regions in Piemonte (the other being, of course, Barolo) and is situated to the north and east of Alba. The Martinenga vineyard sits on a southwest facing ridge. This, along with the 2000 vintage, likely explains the sheer power of the fruit in this wine. Nonetheless, the calcareous soils of Barbaresco keep this wine more elegant than it would have been with a different base.
Expression with Age
This 11 year old Barbaresco is also a good place to start. 2000 was a superb year in the Langhe, but many of the wines are still incredibly dense and only starting to express themselves. This Barbaresco from the hybrid modernist/traditionalist Marchesi di Gresy, however, is in perfect form. Perhaps it is because of Barbaresco’s lesser need of age, but this wine is singing. It is also classically Nebbiolo, but also speaks much of the vintage, with its ripe, warm lush fruit. Gresy uses a combination of French Barriques and Slavonian Oak and you can taste this in the wine with its combination of forwardness and elegance.
One of the biggest changes in Nebbiolo between young and old is the openness and expressivity of the nose. The Camp Gros was explosive: dark cherries, prunes and flowers. On the palate this wine is elegant, slightly floral and suggestive of sweet pipe tobacco. An extremely long finish completes this truly beautiful wine. It is also delicious now, but will clearly hold up and soften a bit more with a few more years. I can think of no better way to start a Nebbiolo profile than with such a varietally expressive but incredibly drinkable wine.
Excellent to Excellent+
~$100 at Kits Wine