Nebbiolo is one of those grapes that doesn’t travel well. Take Cabernet, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay or even Grenache or Sangiovese, they travel well. Well…they travel whether they like it not. Personally, like a dear cousin, they are most appreciated at home rather than in foreign lands but that’s another story.
Nebbiolo’s home is Piemonte or Piedmont, rarely found outside Piemonte even in Italy. In the hills of Barolo and Barbaresco, the grape yields wines that are first rate, every bit as sublime as the greatest of Burgundy or Bordeaux. With first growth Bordeaux being sold at $750+ a bottle the best of Barolo starts looking like a bargain. Personally I find Barolo and Barbaresco to be more like Burgundy’s long lost cousin in character than Bordeaux ever would. Bordeaux is a cerebral wine; Burgundy, Barolo and Barbaresco are wines of the heart, wines of passion.
So what does Nebbiolo taste like at its best? Smoky, raspberries, leather, spice, jam…concentrated with crisp acidity and great tannin, a wine of structure and depth. A consummate food wine to be enjoyed with grilled meats or hard cheeses. Provided there is ample fruit, with age the great tannin softens yielding a wine of passion and character, that caresses the palate with secondary notes of tar, incense, mushrooms or even truffles.
Great examples of entry-level Nebbiolos can be found for under $25 while extraordinary examples of Barolo and Barbaresco that have the stuff for aging can be found for under $75. A lot easier to hunt and afford than Piemontese white truffle…