Wines to reach for your wallet (or run for cover)

If you’re a fan of Italian wine then the words northern Italy will either make you reach for your wallet or run for cover. These wines don’t come cheap.

The hills of Piemonte in autumn 2010 photographed by Joelle Thomson

The best are made from tricky grapes such as Nebbiolo, whose name comes from the word nebbia which means fog – something the hills of the Piemonte region are often shrouded with. It’s not ideal weather for growing late ripening grapes in, but it’s the traditional home of the finicky Nebbiolo grape, which is the sole ingredient in the newest northern Italian wine in New Zealand this month – the 2016 Produttori del Barbaresco Langhe Nebbiolo $46.99.

It comes from the Langhe; the name given to the hills north and south of the city of Alba in the province of Cuneo in Piemonte.

The Langhe was established as a legally defined wine producing area (DOC is the Italian term – Denominazione de Origin Controllata) in 1994. It’s used mostly by Barolo and Barbaresco producers who make a cheaper than usual Nebbiolo for relatively early drinking and label it with the grape variety, Nebbiolo, and region, Langhe.

The region is relatively small at 1371 hectares, which is about a quarter of the size of Hawke’s Bay, and is home to a growing number of international as well as Italian grapes, but, being Italy, it’s the native varieties that are the most exciting.

And in the case of Nebbiolo, the best still don’t come cheap, but their early drinking styles mean that oak is either low or not used at all. The highlight is on the grapes – a refreshing approach, which allows fruit flavours to shine.
I’m loving this new example from the Produttori del Barbaresco. It’s not exactly everyday drinking with its price tag of $46.99, but it does represent a high quality Nebbiolo gateway that is aspirational and from a top producer.

I know of this wine because I contract to Wellington’s biggest independent wine store, Regional Wines & Spirits.

Author: Joelle Thomson

I am a wine writer, author and educator... first bitten by a big buttery Chardonnay on a dark and stormy night in the 1980s and there was no turning back... Follow my tastings and join some too on this new site.

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