Last Saturday we were invited to attend Mercato’s celebration of the noble grape that is Nebbiolo. The event was held at the beautiful National Wine Centre and showcased over 100 different Nebbiolos from Australia and northern Italy. With guests able to sample them all, we were pretty excited for some serious nerding out over wine.
So what is Nebbiolo? Nebbiolo is an Italian grape that is brick red in colour and translucent. It’s varietal is best known for it’s through the roof tannins and telltale scent of tar and roses. For those of you not in the know with wine lingo, tannin is what gives wine bitterness and that grippy feeling in your mouth. Nebbiolo is not for the impatient, it requires years of ageing to truly express the subtle complexities and balance of flavours the varietal exhibits. If you are patient enough to let this wine sit, the tannins will drop, the colour turns slightly orange and subtle flavours of orange peel and pith, dried roses, truffles and cherries become apparent. It’s a wine buffs wine, it is polarising, thought provoking and always surprising.
First up we were treated to ‘The Many Faces of Nebb’ masterclass. Hosted by David Ridge (importer at David Ridge Wines) and Tony Love (wine critic), it was an exploration of Nebbiolo from around different regions around Australia and then Nebbiolo from different areas around northern Italy. It offered a unique opportunity to compare the differences and styles of presenting the varietal.
It was hard to pick just one favourite wine, so I’ve selected one each from Australia and Italy:
2007 Solita from the Adelaide Hills
These grapes originate from one of the first plantings of Nebbiolo in South Australia, Longview in Macclesfield. Production of this wine is miniscule as they only release what they consider to be the best vintages. The process from grape to your wine glass takes time, approximately 36-40 months aging in oak followed by 5-7 years of maturation in bottle. The result is truly something incredible, orange-maroon in colour, with a subtle scent of dried rose, violet and tobacco and a palate of lush fruit and velvet like mouth feel.
2014 Bruno Giacosa Rodero from Piedmont
If you are looking at a map of Italy and thinking of it as being a boot, this is right around the knee region (I personally have never been good at geography). This wine has a slight smoky nose, something similar to fresh leaves being thrown on an open fire. The tannins are chalky and the palate is lush, soft and fruit driven. This wine is one that I would suggest to those who want to ease their way in to Nebbiolo and Italian wines in general.
After the masterclass we enetered the exhibition space were we were able to sample from the 100 different Nebbiolo available for tasting. What became apparent from tasting is that all the Italian producers are very close together (big thank you to the exhibitors who brought maps) yet the differences are so vast. It is no wonder that wine enthusiasts have such a love affair with the varietal; there is always something new to taste and something to learn.
Photography by NKM Images