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Nebbiolo beyond Barolo

23 June 2016

Nebbiolo beyond Barolo

Brand Manager Patrizia Baldini writes...

In his latest blog post, David wrote about the 2012 vintage in Barolo. While Barolo is considered the pinnacle of wines from Nebbiolo, at our recent Piemonte tasting I was reminded of the versatility of the region’s most famous native grape and the pleasure of the variety of styles produced.

Two key areas of Nebbiolo in Piemonte are Alto Piemonte in the north of the region and the Langhe (Barolo and Barbaresco), further south. The different soils of these areas are key to understanding their wines, as Nebbiolo is a great translator of soils.

The Alto Piemonte vineyards are part of the Sesia UNESCO Global Geopark, due to this area’s geological significance. This Alpine area is the result of the explosion of a super volcano 300 million years ago. Between 60 and 30 million years ago, the same processes that formed the Alps raised and rotated the part of the Earth's crust where the volcano exploded, exposing its caldera system where there were once pockets of magma, up to about 30 km depth. The result of these movements is an incredibly wide variety of soils in a small area with a huge amount of minerals available for the vines. Calcium is almost absent in the soil giving a very low pH to the wines (4 -4.5). Some of the soils here are Pleocenic marine sands, porphyry and sand, quartz porphyry and loamy moraines rich in iron oxides. The result is an elegant wine, with a fine bouquet and a long savoury taste.

Recently, Antonio Galloni commented “Paolo De Marchi and his son, Luca, make some of the most compelling wines readers will come across from the northern stretches of Piemonte”, and I couldn’t agree more. The Nebbiolo wines from Proprietà Sperino are skilfully made to express the rich and minerally diverse soils in Lessona. Lessona, sheltered by the Alps, doesn’t suffer wind erosion and its soil predominantly consists of marine sands. This extremely well-drained soil is one of the most acidic in the world. Vine roots explore deeply and absorb minerals in quantities unthinkable in other conditions. The resulting wines are fresh and fragrant, their Rosato ‘Rosa del Rosa’ a particular favourite among Liberty Wines’ staff.

In the Langhe area, where G D Vajra are based, the soils are younger, geologically speaking. The Eastern side, where the original sea was deeper, has finer sediments like clay and silt, and the soils are richer in limestone and microelements. The wines produced need time to be ready to drink but have a long potential for ageing. On the Western side, the original sea was shallower and left coarser sediments like sand and gravel. This area includes the towns of Barolo, La Morra, Novello, Verduno, Cherasco, Roddi. The wines produced have a rich bouquet with softer and approachable tannins. In addition to their ethereal Barolo, G D Vajra also make an unoaked varietal Nebbiolo, designed for younger drinking. They use a blend of grapes from the Western part of the area, in the communes of Barolo and Novello, and the Eastern commune of Sinio.

Each of these wines prove that, in addition to fine, age-worthy Barolo, wines made from Nebbiolo can offer immediate and accessible drinking pleasure.