Alan Tardi, an American chef living in Piedmont and a longtime contributor to W&S, attended the 2015 Nebbiolo Prima in Alba, an annual five-day invitation-only tasting of recent releases of Barolo, Barbaresco and Roero wines. In the coming weeks, we’ll post his reports.
Day 1 at the Palazzo Congressi in Alba got off to a good start with a first peek at the 2012 vintage. The wines from Roero were first up.
The Roero has a very different landscape than the Langhe, just across the Tanaro river, with much looser, sandier soil than the Langhe’s limestone and clay, and more sharply pointed hills. The wines are likewise very different from Barolo and Barbaresco. Just over a year ago, in order to gain greater autonomy, the Roero left the Barolo-Barbaresco consortium and created its own governing body.
The 2012s suggest that this may have been a good move. Though not stellar, most of the two dozen 2012 Roeros were well balanced, in stark contrast to Roeros of past years, which seemed fatally over-extracted, as if trying too hard to be blockbuster wines. Many of the 2011 Roero Riservas that were shown were a case in point: a mess of murky hues, muddy aromas, heavy tannins and extracted fruit. They also brought up the question of whether Roero Riserva really makes sense. The additional year of aging that comes with the reserve designation does not do anything to showcase Roero’s special qualities.
Many people wondered the same thing when tastings the 2010 Barbaresco Riservas. While the regular Barolos and Barbarescos of the 2010 vintage were largely lovely, well-structured yet elegant wines with pretty aromas and fine tannins, most of the riservas were pruney, salty, dense, sour and astringent. (Rizzi’s Barbaresco Riserva Boito and Piazzo Armando’s Barbaresco Riserva Nervo Vigna Giaia were among the few exceptions).
Then again, it’s not always easy to tell how nebbiolo is going to evolve. Take 2005. When the 2005 Barbarescos and Barolos first came out in 2008 and 2009, it seemed like a bright, fruity, accessible-but-simple vintage best suited for immediate consumption. But, based on a number of 2005s sampled recently, the vintage now seems to be undergoing a renaissance, displaying an entirely new subtly, nuance, depth and finesse.
This was confirmed at dinner that evening at Ristorante Bovio in La Morra, where a number of producers brought 2005 Barolos. The wine that stood out, however, was not a nebbiolo but a riesling from Ca’ de Raio. Bone-dry, crisp, mineral and acidic, it cut through all the day’s tannin build-up and was the perfect accompaniment to an asparagus tortino with Raschera fonduta and summer truffles. (More about riesling in a later post.)
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