Make Mine A Double

Make Mine A Double #03 – Contrasting Nebbiolo Wines from Piedmont

This series of articles each covers two wines that have something in common, and most likely some point of difference. Compare and contrast is the order of the day – so make mine a double!

Nebbiolo is something of an enigma; it’s hard to love and definitely something of an acquired taste, but those who do like it, almost canonise it.  At the suggestion of Anne from @liqueurplate, a recent gathering of Dublin bloggers set to on a short tasting exploration.

Map of Piedmont / Piemonte
Map of Piedmont / Piemonte (Credit: Guild of Sommeliers)

These two Nebbiolos (Nebbioli?) are two very different styles – at different price points – which most piqued my interest from the selection.  Both are from Piedmont, specifically the Langhe, which is probably the region most closely connected to the grape.  The “King and Queen” of the region are Barolo and Barbaresco respectively are the most prestigious names associated with the grape.  I highly recommend Kerin O’Keefe’s book on them.

Guidobono Langhe Nebbiolo 2013 (€17.95, Mitchell & Son) 14.0%

Guidobono Langhe Nebbiolo 2013
Guidobono Langhe Nebbiolo 2013

This is probably the most fruit-forward style of Nebbiolo I’ve tried (though I don’t claim any expertise on the grape).  Although not austere, it does have the tannin and acidity that Nebbiolo is renowned for, along with roses on the nose.  But there’s also lots of juicy dark fruit which makes it very moreish.  A great introduction to Nebbiolo, and very good value for money.

Elio Grasso Barolo “Ginestra Casa Mate” 2006 (~€65, Sweeney’s of Glasnevin) 14.0%

Elio Grasso Barolo "Ginestra Casa Mate" 2006
Elio Grasso Barolo “Ginestra Casa Mate” 2006

Finian Sweeney of the eponymous Wine Merchants in Glasnevin imports this himself and recommended it to me as a serious, but accessible Barolo.  At nine years old it is now ready to drink, but still has some way to go until it hits its peak.

Elio Grasso is based in Monforte d’Alba, the most southerly major commune in the Barolo wine region.  They have just 18 hectares, mainly planted with local grapes Nebbiolo, Dolcetto and Barbera.  Elio Grasso makes three Barolos, which have been bottled separately since 1978 with an eye on constantly improving quality.

Elio Grasso vineyards

The estate produces an average of 14,000 bottles of this Ginestra Casa Maté per year from three hectares.

Vinification is modern – temperature controlled in stainless steel – before the wine is transferred to large 2,500 litre Slavonian (Croatian) oak casks for maturation.  Once bottled it is held back to mature further for another eight to ten months.

So given the much higher price tag, is this a much better wine than the first?  In my opinion probably not quite, at the moment.  I will qualify that by adding that, for most people the Elio Grasso isn’t that accessible right now, even though it’s lovely to drink.  However, with a few more years in bottle I think it could turn out to be much, much more than it’s showing now.  This is a wine to revisit towards the end of the decade!

Opinion

Valentines Wines (III) Dolcetto – the Little Sweet One

When most wine fans outside Italy think of Piedmont in the North West they immediately think of Barolo and Barbaresco – the pair that Kerin O’Keefe calls “The King And Queen Of Italian Wine”.  Some of these Nebbiolo-based wines are undoubtedly amazing, but they don’t represent the totality of Piedmont wines.

Gavi and Arneis are among the other white representatives, then Barbera and Dolcetto for the more approachable reds.  Locals drink far more of these than the “big Bs” – most of us are missing out!

Dolcetto is the Italian for “Little Sweet One” – and it certainly is sweeter than the tannic “Little Cloudy One” Nebbiolo.  And given the romantic time of year, quite an apt recommendation for Valentine’s Day.

Ciabot Berton Dolcetto d’Alba ‘Rutuin’ 2013

Ciabot Berton Dolcetto d’Alba ‘Rutuin' 2013
Ciabot Berton Dolcetto d’Alba ‘Rutuin’ 2013

According to their website, the Oberto family can claim to have early origins reaching as far back as 1200.  For many years, vines were grown as part of mixed-use agriculture on their property, with the grapes being sold to vintners rather than being made in wine on the property.

Fast forward to the end of the 1950s, and Luigi Oberto decided to produce his own wine. Initially, some was bottled under his own label and some was sold in bulk.  Over the following years, more and more was sold under the name Oberto and more of the family’s and was turned over to vines.

100% varietal Dolcetto, this wine was made in the family’s modern winery and matured in stainless steel to preserve fresh, fruity flavours.

Bright ruby red in the glass, this has a typical Italian nose of cherries and red berries. The cherries persist onto the palate, joined by cranberry – perhaps it’s the acidity which causes that to spring to mind.  Tannins are present but smooth and well integrated – you have to search for them to find them.  Would be amazing with some local cold meats!

Available from Le Caveau for a steal at €16.95, it currently has 10% off making it €15.25

At Le Caveau’s tasting last year I very much enjoyed Champagne Gobillard 1er Cru NV, and  I note that Gobillard’s Brut Rosé NV is also on promotion for Valentine’s – check it out!

The full list of 2015 Valentines Wines posts:

  • I – The Tasting Panel
  • II – Bloggers Of The World Unite (episode 1)
  • III – Dolcetto – the Little Sweet One
  • IV – Bloggers Of The World Unite (episode 2)
  • V – Romantic, Tacky or Kitsch?
  • VI – Bloggers Of The World Unite (episode 3)
  • VII – Bloggers Of The World Unite (episode 4)