There is something about Nebbiolo.
I was first introduced to the grape about a decade ago via an Australian wine made in the high volume region of North West Victoria outside of Mildura by Trentham Estate. It was a young, vibrant, fruit-driven wine without much fanfare or complexity and paired pretty well with just about anything you decided to put with it. My wife loved it.
It took much of the ensuing decade to start to discover the history of the variety and what it really tasted like when the wine came from it’s spiritual home, the Langhe region of Northern Italy.
Barolo is arguably the most well known region in this part of the world, and for very good reason, but (despite only being 10 miles apart) the wines of Barolo and Barbaresco can be remarkably different.
Barbaresco tends to ripen a little earlier than Barolo leading to wines that have slightly less tannins than their cousins to the west. This also means that Barbaresco wines can be released earlier than Barolo under DOCG rules due the lesser requirement for extended aging. All that being said, the wines still have a fair bit of grip about them so don’t expect anything resembling low tannin here.
The wines also tend to be more accessible as younger wines as a result, but they also tend to age less than traditionally made Barolo wines.
Production in Barbaresco is about 35% of the production of Barolo, so you tend to see less available on the market.
To get all ‘wine-geeky’ for just a moment, the ‘Bertola’ from Cascina Fonda spends about 10 days on skins with both hand plunging and pumping over done daily. Malolactic fermentation is undergone after alcoholic fermentation is completed and the wine spends 15 months in French oak barrels then a further 12 months in bottle before release.
Pale ruby colour, but with none of the hints of garnet/brick red colour that Barolo typically shows at this age. Decent nose with aromas of cherries and raspberries into plum, with some coffee and dark chocolate for good measure. Some aged characters of leather and then a slight charred wood/smoke character from the oak.
I needed a second tasting after about an hour as there was something about it that wasn’t opening up on first tasting. It’s a hard gig.
The winery calls the wine ‘full-bodied’ on their website, but I can only presume that they’ve never drunk a 15.5% Barossa Shiraz – this isn’t full. Higher end of medium body, to be sure, but not full.
It is, however, delicious. To a point.
Bright red fruits immediately, then into some deeper flavours – dark cherries, plums, some coffee and a resinous character. Some slight cassis rounds it off nicely. Then into the oak – cedar, smoke and hints of cloves. Pretty good all-round flavour profile, really.
Good acidity and, typical for the variety, high-ish tannin to match the 14% alcohol.
It is delicious – until the tannin kind of takes over everything, drying out the front palate just a fraction too much. I’m at pains to not suggest the wine is out of balance, it isn’t – it’s just a smidgin overpowering. Maybe it needs a little bit of time to settle down? It feels very young still.
It’s still a very decent drink right now and people who love tannic, drying wines will fall in love with this. But part of me just knows there are better Barbarescos out there.