Week 14 – Nebbiolo

Tasting Notes

Emma says: “In honour of the King of Italian grapes “Nebbiolo” I decided to crack open a special bottle this week, Pio Cesare Barolo 2009.  This is a renowned family producer that I knew would show this grape at its best. Nebbiolo can be a tricky beast because it has very bold tannins, so I was hoping that a great example would help Andy understand what I love about it.

I imagine quite a few of you have heard of Barolo before, given it is heralded as the finest of Italian reds. But perhaps you weren’t aware that the wine it is made from is Nebbiolo grapes and the name Barolo is related to the most famous region it comes from in Piedmonte, North East Italy.  A useful tip is that Nebbiolo from the neighbouring area Barbaresco or the wider region Langhe can be a great cheaper alternative, if you do like this wine but don’t want to pay the premium price tag that Barolo comes with.

Now onto the wine in question. Starting with the scent, because it really is beautifully perfumed, people describe it as smelling of “tar and roses” and I agree. The Barolo I’m tasting has a dark smoky rose hip note, with a forest floor savoury undertone and some balsamic twists from its age. Then on the palate this Nebbiolo sort of grabs you in a really nice way – sensuous again! The tannins are described as feeling like tea leaf, but in a good Barolo, like the one I’m tasting, they are tight on your teeth but somehow smooth and not raspy. The flavours have a sour cherry bite with a soft earthy undertone and a gentle marzipan note that lifts it with a hint of sweetness. This particular vintage I’m drinking was warm so the fruit is nice and weighty but some Barolo I’ve had can be beautifully mild and ethereal in how they sit on the palate.

Basically I’m trying to say it is easy to fall in love with good Barolo because it is so complex, dense and yet somehow elegant at the same time. I really hope the one you get to taste is half as good as mine.”

Andy says: “I was looking forward to this red as I thought it might be ‘the one’.

Alas, I’m still waiting for that big, bold, smoky red to turn up, and we’ve already covered Rioja so perhaps I’m screwed. I found this wine to have a little brown tinge, I guess maybe from its age. I’m afraid to say I didn’t get any of this amazing perfume or tar and roses – it just smelled like alcohol and bit of VA. I did get a bit of black cherry on one tasting, and I also think the tannins were smooth, but I go very little else, sorry Em!”

Buying Guide

Nebbiolo is the grape that goes into making the classic Italian wine, Barolo. Nebbiolo is the grape and Barolo is the the region. This week all you need to do is to find a decent Barolo from the Italian red section of a wine shop. This is never a cheap wine but if can be explosive in its flavour and a truly unique experience. Don’t miss this week!

14 thoughts to “Week 14 – Nebbiolo”

  1. Barbaresco Canaro 2014 13.5%

    I failed with this one. I didn’t have time to make notes when I opened the wine so I had a drink and then stoppered the wine in readiness for a proper tasting.

    A couple of weeks later and I now have the time but the wine has been stoppered for those two weeks.

    My recollection from the original tasting was that the wine was not disimilar from what I am tasting now, so I hope that these notes are valid.

    Clean, bright, deep garnet in colour, ruby at meniscus.

    Slightly closed on the nose with warm fruit and hints of damp cardboard.

    On the palate there is a cool prickle of acidity with rich meaty flavours.

    The finish is very short but fruity.

    This isn’t my favourite type of wine, but will be fine with meat or cheese. Hmm! Cheese….

  2. I tasted the Figli Luigi Oddero Barolo 2011 (14%) which had been given to me and was a treat on Easter Sunday. I made the effort to decant it a good few hours in advance, but in retrospect I should have done it the evening before.

    The wine was surprisingly translucent with a telltale brick red tinge. The nose was unshowy fruits – blackcurrant, cherry, raspberry – on a background of phenolly, tarry, marker-pen scent. There were hints of dried flowers (potpourri style) and peppery spices.

    To taste it was dry and very tannic, completely drying out the gums, yet with a deceptive lightness. That said, the strength was clear – it certainly warmed the cockles. The flavours were clean and understated. Dark cherries, but fruitiness was in the background only – it was more spirity than fruity. Oaky spices were there but difficult to pinpoint. The wine was certainly very elegant, but could the acid and tannin have been better balanced and structured? Perhaps more age would add this.

    It improved the longer the bottle was open and definitely needed the lamb to go with it. It took the edges off and improved the balance. I’d say this is a “3 day wine” – you can’t open the bottle too soon.

    I had the great fortune spend some time living in North East Italy many years ago and tasted some really great wines before I had the knowledge to really appreciate them in a grown up way. This was a beautiful wine, but my expectations were so high based on those memories. Dare I say I was disappointed? Perhaps it was still too young (after seven years…). It was impressive, but just a bit too “ok” for my Barolo dreams.

    1. Hi Will, Interesting to hear your comments. Yes, Barolo is one of the those wines where I think you can try an amazing bottle and then have several underwhelming experiences until you find the next incredible one. Burgundy can be the same. It is often down to finding the producer you love, but quite an expensive habit to take the time to do that! But a very good plan to decant this style of wine, that really helps its tannins resolve a little.

  3. I didn’t have to go about to buy this week’s wine as I had 2 bottles of 2009 Barolo, Cannubi, Riserva, Serio & Battista Borgogno, Piedmont, in my wine collection – originally purchased broom Berry Bros.

    Full Bodied, Dry and 14.5 % alcohol this is one of my favourite Barolo’s – not that I have many as I tend to agree with some of the comments in this blog – it can be very expensive, not always good value for money and difficult to find a good one.

    I invested in a Barolo and barbaresco tutored tasting event at Berry Bros a few months ago and found the barbaresco’s better than the Barolo’s.

    This one is delicious, strawberry fruits, very smooth, good balance of tannins and silky.

    1. Hi DMC,
      Really good tip on Barbaresco’s being a satisfying alternative to Barolo. I really find that. If you haven’t tried our Morassino Barbaresco in the fine wine section then I’d really recommend it. But sounds like you have a fair few good bottles already on reserve…

  4. Barolo has always (to me at least) been a wine heavy with expectation. I try one or two bottles a year generally, and usually find that the wine is nice but not worth the money, or nice, but not as nice to me as everyone else seems to think it is. Maybe I’m not spending enough,( I usually spend in the £20-£25 region.) I also find the wine a snob-magnet (I managed the bar in a golf club for 15 years, and it was THE wine that THAT GUY would mention when someone mentioned enjoying Chianti or Montepulciano.) But maybe that’s just my experience.

    Anyway, on with the tasting, in no way clouded by irrational prejudices.

    Wine – Barolo, Villa Casetta, 2012 (Le Bon Vin £26)
    bottle says – ethereal, intense and pleasant, apparently

    The colour had the slight brick red/orange tinge that you would expect.
    On the nose, it was very spicy with a wet asphalt/tar smell. There were red and black fruit notes, but barely discernible under the pleasant murk of tar and herbs.
    The taste was lighter than I expected, almost like a spicy Chilean pinot-noir. There was definitely a complexity there; a wine to be savoured slowly. The fruit came out a little more in the tasting, but was still dominated by tar, rosemary and sage.
    The finish seemed a little short and thin, as with some pinot-noir, but it was not unpleasant, just not “in-your-face”.

    Overall, my opinion remains the same. For this sort of money I could have had a more than satisfactory Burgundy, with less expectation to live up to. I accept that Barolo is not on my ‘go to’ list of reds, and that I perhaps should pay more attention to which producers I am trying, but, I’m willing to learn and will keep trying the odd Barolo. There must be something in it, if so many golfers recommend it.

    1. Hi Jason, As someone who spends a fair time around wine people I’ve met a fair few of “that guy” types. Yes, Barolo does fall into that camp doesn’t it. And sadly the prices for these wines are sky rocketing because as wines have got scarcer in Burgundy, fine wine customers have started to move to Barolo as an alternative. So it is one to watch on the wine “rip-off” scale! My mum is an avid golfer and a Barolo lover, interesting to think there is some sort of connection there…

  5. Barolo is the wine for me!, full of flavour, very fruity and wonderful bouquet . However, Langhe Nebbiolo I found less fruity, slightly thin, but a wonderful flowery bouquet. I think I will stick to the more expensive Barolo !

  6. Be at home with Barolo
    I was fortunate enough to be given some time back a bottle of Barolo DOCG Bussia Vigna Mondoca; I dread to think what it cost. Anyway I put it aside (laid it down I think the wine buffs might call it) for a special occasion. That occasion arrived over the weekend. Not that I did anything special but used it as the excuse to celebrate @52choosegrapes.com quarterly celebration.

    If heaven is like this, I’m on the last bus.
    Step aside, Bordeaux and Burgundy — there’s another bold “B” on the block that’s just as big and bad as you are. I’m saying au revoir to our French bottles and benvenuto to the Wine of Kings. For me Barolo is the cream of the crop when it comes to Italian reds – the biggest, baddest red of Piedmont.
    Barolo is a lovely wine which needs to be discovered little by little, well this bottle did. Every time I open a bottle of Barolo, it gives off unique emotions and sensations. This particular bottle for me gave up herbs and aromas so no roses and tar taste for me. I wonder whether or not that might be down to its age. Incidentally I haven’t got a clue how old this particular bottle was. I can’t recall seeing Reserva on the bottle’s label. Not that I know what Reserva means or what the status might be. What I do know that this particular bottle of Barolo was dam good to drink. Some time back I treated myself to an Ullswater crystal wine glass, the particular crystal was called Downton Abbey. Yes you’ve guessed it. I’m posh? You bet your life you I am. Barolo needs to be respected and drank out of such – there is your birthday or Christmas present sorted.
    Quite by accident I was drinking Barolo whilst eating a mixture of steamed vegetables a light dish which is low in protein. For me the evening spent with Barolo went well and I would recommend spending an evening with Barolo with similar weight foods.
    To sum up aristocratic Barolo: the look, the smell and taste is mellow, elegant bouquet with scents of fruit. Elegant and assertive tannic texture, long and complex finish. My newfound descriptive wine lingo thanks to @52grapes.com. is on the up, many thanks E & A. Please stop you I don’t want to sound too arseademic – just get on and drink it.
    Thanks to team @52grapes.com
    Rambo, or should I now be called Ramborlo?

    1. Hello Ramborlo, that should definitely be your new name after that description. I love your passion for Barolo, a grape that truly deserves that type of honour. Next time we are up your way North we should share another bottle together! Good to hear you are enjoying our 52grape experience too.

  7. Wine tasted: Antiche Cantine dei Marchesi di Barolo 2011.
    Light, but tannic. This wine gave us 2 distinctly different opinions. With one of us saying sticky strawberries on the nose, the other saying tar and purfume. I felt it led to blackberries on the palate. The other tasting more red fruits. Good legs, lovely mouthfeel – a taste of more!

  8. On these pages I usually enjoy a variety I don’t often drink, or perhaps one I have never experienced before. Not this week as Nebbiolo is one of my favourite three red varieties. However rather that open a mature example from my cellar I have chosen to taste a bottle from my local wine shop, a “mere” Lange, Voerzio San Francesco 2014. Less than 20 pounds in London, I believe.
    Barolo has many qualities, but spontaneity is not one of them. If I were to buy a currently available recent vintages, say a 2013, to see the wine at its best it would need to spend 15 or so years in the cellar and 4 hours in the decanter . But with a Lange such as this, it’s ready to go straight out of the bottle, although admittedly the last sip on the second day will be the best! Tar and roses? Yes rose petals of a sort- not in a heady and sweet way, but more restrained and delicate way. The big paradox of nebbiolo is that buried behind the infamous and formidable tannic structure is the most delicate fruit aroma. And a finish that often reminds me of orange zest. Exquisite! Nebbiolo will never be a crowd pleaser, it is much too introverted for that. But give it patience and your full attention and it will be one of the most satisfying wines of all. I enjoyed this wine so much I bought another dozen. Winter is approaching down here in South Australia, so this wine will be our house red for a month or so.

    1. Hi Ian, I totally agree, Nebbiolo is such a special wine for that contrast of bold tannins and delicate flavours. You almost make me sad that we are moving out of the winter season here in the UK!

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