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Value alternative to Barbaresco

Northside Staff

Tasters: Dave Pohl, ed., Dana Malley, Chris Coronel, Kelley O’Neill, Jason Wentworth,
Jay Reed

Barolo and Barbaresco, made from the nobly tannic Nebbiolo grape in hilly vineyards south of Turin in Italy’s Piedmont region, are two of Italy’s greatest wines. They are also two of its most expensive, with prices starting at around $40 per bottle upon release and climbing to $200 and beyond for some of the top wines.

Fortunately for the savvy wine buyer there are less expensive alternatives. Two potential sources for fine Nebbiolo are Nebbiolo d’Alba and Langhe Nebbiolo. Nebbiolo d’Alba comes from 1,370 acres of vineyards close to the small city of Alba. These vineyards are separate and distinct from the Barolo or Barbaresco zones. Langhe (lahn-gay) Nebbiolo, on the other hand, can come from a somewhat larger area that includes some Barolo and Barbaresco vineyards. Many growers choose to bottle some of their Barolo or Barbaresco as Langhe Nebbiolo, and such wines can be outstanding values.

The staff at Northside Wine & Spirits recently blind tasted seven wines designated Nebbiolo d’Alba or Langhe Nebbiolo priced $30 and under. The wines were of high quality; even the last place wine scored above average. Each of the wines exhibited the complex aroma and firm flavor typical of Nebbiolo wine.

Finishing first, the Sottimano 2008 Langhe Nebbiolo is a real beauty. Reasonably priced for its quality at $21 per bottle, this wine is made from grapes grown in Sottimano’s holdings in a prestigious Barbaresco vineyard called Basarin. It is the product of younger vines (average about 15 years); Sottimano uses only grapes from its older vines for wines labeled Barbaresco. Though not certified, all of Sottimano’s vineyards are organically farmed.

The wine possesses a complex nose, with hints of cherry, coffee, smoke, and anise all part of the mix. The palate is well balanced with a subtle chocolate note creeping into the long, firm finish. The wine improved markedly with air; one taster found it even better the next day! Try this mini-Barbaresco with roasts, stews, grilled steaks, robust dishes with wild mushrooms, or flavorful cheeses. Decanting ahead will give this complex wine a chance to open up and really blossom!

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