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.
The last day of Nebbiolo Prima was devoted to 2011 Barolos from the town of Barolo (47 of them). There were also a handful from other towns, such as Novello, Verduno and Roddi, and Barolos made from nebbiolo grapes of multiple municipalities within the zone.
While many of the Barolos from Barolo were a bit short on aroma and finesse, they were better balanced overall than those of La Morra. The real standout was a beauty from Guiseppe Rinaldi that had a lovely transparency, pretty aromas of wild berries, moist earth, spice and a hint of magnolia blossoms. Its bright, ripe Maraschino cherry fruit was perfectly framed by fine tannins, adding up to a focused, solid elegant wine that will only get better after a year or two in bottle.
The town of Novello also showed quite well, with nice restraint, herbaceous aromas, fresh strawberry flavors and a slightly astringent acidity, as if picked just a bit on the early side.
Overall, in 2011 the villages with south and southwestern-facing slopes (Serralunga, Monforte and much of Castiglione Falletto) appeared to have done better than the ones on the other side with predominantly east-facing vineyards (La Morra, Barolo, Verduno, Novello). Nonetheless, based on the Barolos tasted at Nebbiolo Prima, 2011 is an excellent vintage with good potential for near to mid-term aging. While aroma and fruit might be a bit lacking in many cases, there is lots to love in these wines. The trick will be to get them when the tannins soften up but before the fruit begins to fade. Right now, it looks that would be around three to five years for most.
While not all wineries in the three DOCG appellations participate in Nebbiolo Prima (some of the big names like Gaja, Giacosa, Giacomo Conterno and Giuseppe Mascarello do not), the 250 that do represent a significant portion of the total and provide a representative cross-section. And, though it might not be the best time or circumstance to really critique individual wines in depth, the event offers a great opportunity to formulate a global first impression and demonstrates once again the amazing ability of the nebbiolo vine to reflect the minute particularities of a given spot (vineyard, township, appellation) the climatic events of a given year, and to the handling of the individuals who tend the vines and transform the grapes into wine.
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