LIQUOR / nebbiolo
Nebbiolo is an enigmatic grape variety; capable of greatness but only when the right site and climatic conditions converge. When that happens, as it does in the Piemonte region in Italy's North-West, the wines combine aromatic beauty with power and longevity. Its most famous expression is as the grape behind Barolo and Barbaresco.
Not one for travel, Nebbiolo is a grape connected to its homeland. It's been stubborn and unwilling to replicate the great heights it achieves in the region of Piedmont, in the fascinating wines of Barolo and Barbaresco. This province is famous for hazelnuts, white truffles and its rich cooking and eating traditions.
The Piedmont region has been influenced by French Savoyard history, its proximity to Italian royalty, and the late-blooming industrial wealth of post-war manufacturing booms in Turin and Milan. The rolling hills around the small village of Alba known as the Langhe, are a UNESCO world heritage area. Honouring the transmission of distinctive living cultural traditions. No surprise that this region was a key catalyst in the birth of the Slow Food movement.
The Nebbiolo harvest occurs in late October as the autumn mist and fog descends. Its wine shows a shimmering smoky pale ruby tint in the glass and has a capacity to age for decades. Thanks to its persistent tannins and bracing acidity. It is hauntingly perfumed, evolving in the glass in ways that transfix its followers.
Sustained interest in the wines, has seen even junior appellations like Langhe Nebbiolo fetching high prices, but you'll also find accomplished Nebbiolo elsewhere. Upper Piedmont (Alto-Piemonte) in the north (Gattinara, Ghemme, Boca), as well as the Valtellina alpine terraces of Lombardy, here known as Chiavennasca.
It's also successfully grown in other parts of the world including New Zealand, California and Australia. In the latter case, the best results are coming from the Adelaide Hills, King Valley and Heathcote.
These wines need to be tamed with time in the cellar, especially the premium versions. With age they take on complexing characters such as tobacco, tar and leather. Their tannins elongate and converge, forming silk like chains. And they demand food, a perfect partner for richer meaty dish.
It pays to think ahead when drinking nebbiolo. Buy now to enjoy later.
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