I’ve collected Barolo and Barbaresco for some years now. I have recently been reminded that they are some of the greatest wines in the world that remain affordable for me. But I’ve held on to the notion that such Nebbiolos require age to truly shine. This remains true to an extent, but in recent years and in the right vintages young Nebbiolo has met new winemaking techniques that have allowed the wines to be consumed comparatively quite young. And because the tannins have been tamed these days, the wines are more versatile with food when young than prior.
But don’t forget, there is always a place for old wine. Drink the ‘village’ or entry level bottlings while waiting for the more expensive stuff to settle or just do what I did and open things to see what’s up.
Whichever you choose, these four wines are consistent with the extremely high quality available in Piedmontese Nebbiolo.
Selections from Recent Dinners
Pelissero Tulin Barbaresco 2010
For Giorgio Pelissero, Nebbiolo is a way of life. He inherited the estate from his father, who founded it in 1960. His approach is what he calls ‘awareness’ – or the principle that each choice in the vineyard and cellar should be purposeful in both producing quality and ensuring environmental sustainability.
The Tulin Barbaresco is one of their top ‘cru’ bottlings and is within the San Stefanetto subzone of Barbaresco.
I am not hugely familiar with the Pelissero wines, but this bottling was truly outstanding – indeed one of the best Barbaresco’s I’ve tasted. Why? It combines incredible aromatic complexity with extremely sophisticated and finessed structure along with fruit of a density and freshness that will sustain long ageing but also that completes the wine’s balance.
$100 at BCLDB
Pio Cesare Barbaresco 2011
A modernist producer that did well with the american magazines, meaning higher prices. However, these days the prices have stabilized and I consider them reasonable. Moreover, the ‘modernist’ use of barrique decried by many is just fine for wines of recent vintages made with luscious and expressive fruit.
This 2011 is a perfect example of singing young Nebbiolo. I find many 2011’s to be quite expressive now and the Pio Cesare approach means more oxygenation when aging in barrel and so greater accessibility younger.
$95 at BCLDB
Brovia ca’mia Barolo 2008
Brovia are one of my go to producers. Their price to quality ratio is outstanding, as are the wines, which I find perfectly balanced between accessibility and ageability. While Brovia’s main holdings are in Castiglione Falletto, the ca’mia is from the Brea cru located in Serralunga d’Alba. The Serralunga d’Alba vineyards that often produce some of Barolo’s most powerful wines offer something more elegant with Brovia – the powerful fruit structured to remain friendly but less in your face. The vines in this cru were planted in 1955 in clay and limestone soils, making them on the older side for Barolo. Three weeks cuvaison is followed by 2 years aging in old oak botti.
The 2008 is a stunning marriage of great producer to great vintage. Even at 8 years of age, it is showing wonderfully, though clearly will improve for 10+ years.
~$100 at Marquis Wine Cellars
Roberto Voerzio La Serra Barolo 2001
Unfortunately I generally find these wines overpriced – in the range of 2-3 times more expensive than other superb estates. That said, Voerzio does make excellent wine. They are known for a modern style, using new oak, and some getting some big scores from top critics.
La Serra lies within the La Mora cru, and is a well known vineyard (Marcarini makes a much cheaper but still great wine from this vineyard). It is a cool, windy site, producing finessed wine.
The wine itself is extremely floral, which is to be expected for La Serra. It was quite open now and ready to impress, though I would prefer it with maybe 3-5 more years’ age.
Excellent to Excellent+
$200-$300 on Wine Searcher (similar price for new vintages)