Nebbiolo del Langhe

A quiet Labor Day at home in the city, a simple baked ziti and salad for dinner. What to drink?

I reached into the wine rack in the kitchen and pulled out a 2006 Vietti Nebbiolo Perbacco, from Langhe in Italy’s Piedmont. We’ve been drinking the Barbera and the Brachetto this summer, but for some reason, not a single Nebbiolo has crossed our lips. Nebbiolo is the quality grape of the Piedmont, responsible for producing Barolo, arguably the finest of the Italian reds. Its name comes from nebbe, the Italian word for fog, because it grows best where the morning fog in September helps the grape develop high acidity, ripeness and complexity. These are big, tannic, high alcohol wines.

While Barolo and Barbaresco get the accolades, and the high prices, a wine like our Nebbiolo del Langhe still has aging potential, and often shows the best attributes of its more famous cousins.

Directly from the bottle, the wine gave off a strong scent of ripe red fruit, with a touch of earth, anise and leather. The acidity and tannins were quite evident at first, then softened as the wine in my glass was exposed to the air. The wine is nicely balanced. Judging from the tannins, the wine might benefit from another year or two in bottle, but it certainly is fine to drink now.

We resealed the bottle with our Vacuvin wine stopper. If you have a half bottle or more left over, this device works pretty well. We’ll finish the bottle tonight.

UPDATE:  Last night the wine was every bit as opulent and aggressive as the night before.  It had developed a big cherry nose, but retained the tight tannins.  After 30 minutes in my glass, it was a soft, warm cherry cobbler, not quite sweet, a little racy and hardly dry.  So why isn’t this a Barolo?

It’s the law.  A kilometer too far, a few days short during fermentation, details over which the Italians are obsessed.  Some wine growers abjure the classification laws to make better wine, or to make more money, or both.  They label their wines IGT, indicating a wine that is typical of the geography.  Like Nebbiolo del Langhe, which delivers a Barolo experience at a fraction of the price.

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