Recently I went along to a “Northern Italy Trade Tasting” as there was appeal of the wines from Piedmont; new whites from a solid but not widely-tasted 2010 vintage, and even the odd young nebbiolo, barbera and dolcetto.
At least there was some stability in these Piedmontese varieties used, as I write the makers of Rosso di Montalcino (their second tier red) are voting on the adulteration of its sangiovese content (currently 100%) with international varieties (cabernet, merlot, syrah et al).
This is a pretty pointless exercise. Just because some producers were supposedly caught out dosing up their Brunello di Montalcino (the big tier wine) in the Brunellogate scandal with the 2005s, does not give cause to legitimise the practice across the region.
It’s quite amazing how vested interests take over when these insecurities are exposed.
The same producers can take properties on the coast around Bolgheri or Maremma where the international varieties are excelling in their viticulture, and proceed to make these new wine styles.
Adding international varieties to sangiovese might improve the style but it also dilutes, or adjusts the natural texture of this grape. And after all, what has Brunello got to sell. Sangiovese grosso if I recall!
The same discussion goes for Piedmont. The most respectable and respected wines of the region are nebbiolo-bound. Some Langhe nebbiolo may contain up to 5% barbera, a native grape of the same ilk (non-international) and that is more likely a positive aspect.
Conversely it would not hurt Barbera d’Alba or Barbera d’Asti to contain 5% nebbiolo as a small positive contribution, adding much needed tannin.
Although the 2007 Barolos and Barbarescos are trickling into Australia, there are still many 2006s on sale.
Gavi di Gavi (Pio Cesare) 2010; 12.5% (USD 28); +++; nice wine, lemon fresh, unwooded cortese grape, pale and full of expression, has great natural character and clean lines of flavour, nervy acidity, yes, but that is what’s needed. Four months lees aging.
Dolcetto d’Alba Visadi (Domenico Clerico) 2008; 13.5% (USD 31.75) ; ++++; terrific wine, fabulous nose of obviously ripe fruit which carries drinker interest, lovely soft crunch in the mouth alongside the racy acidity, volumes of fruit and attraction. Outstanding example from Monforte d’Alba.
Langhe Rosso Ill Nebbio (Pio Cesare) 2010; 13.5% (USD 44) ; +++; this is pretty simple, cherry-plum fruit, aromatic in fruit and therefore very modern (carbonic maceration), little presence of the black fruit aromas which I associate with nebbiolo; earlier harvested fruit is the answer, stainless steel-made, a few chewy tannins as usual, a good scope for the 2010 vintage though.
Barbaresco Magno (San Silvestro) 2007; 13.5%; (USD 40.50); +++1/2; modest aromas but very fresh and modern, little oak aroma but very understated, large cask aged; taste has silk rather than grip for nebbiolo, shows how well Barbaresco performs in a sunny year with such plush tannins; they are there but they are not there! Texture soft, flavour plus, plummy then final dryness.
Barolo (Pio Cesare) 2006; 14.5%; (USD 125); ++++1/2 ; a big wine now developing personality; lots of barley sugar aroma of maturing Barolo at high ripeness, starting to dry out and show its power, partly traditional style of multi-vineyard blends; plus the oak. Now tasted four times since release, every time better and increased depth; a great ager.
Barolo (Elio Altare) 2006; 14%; (USD 151); +++1/2; a single commune producer from La Morra, this a blend of La Morra and Castiglione Falletto, shows lots of age as nebbiolo can, leaf, tobacco, the herbal notes which keep its aromatic attractiveness, lean and tannic on taste, now on the drying out phase, drying tannins of nebbiolo surrounded by the acidity; good wine.
Peter Scudamore-Smith is a Brisbane-based Master of Wine, winemaker and educator www.uncorkedandcultivated.com.au