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News on Nebbiolo

     In Piedmont this year, the wine buzz was high at the bi-annual Grandi Langhe event. The newly-released 2013 vintage and 2012 reserve Barolo, Barbaresco, and Roero was well-received by 1,000 trade and media in Alba. Interest was also high for special tastings of sparkling spumante wines from the area and pelaverga DOC wines from Verduno.

     Major vintners concurred that the vintage was excellent. Bruna Grimaldi Curto of Azienda Agricola Bruna Grimaldi called 2013 a “classic” vintage, picked later in October with acidity and tannin for long aging. Alberto Cordero di Montezemolo of Cordero di Montezemolo winery was pleased that each season was “real,” with time for full grape development. Chiara Boschis of E. Pira e Figli summed up the vintage by saying, “This was a fantastic vintage that everyone would want to sell every year.”
     But the excitement also reflected the next generation taking the reins at many wineries. At Albeisa, the association founded in 1973 by producers of the Alba area to ensure high quality and easily recognizable bottle for their wines, the new president noted that half of the board members are under 40 years old. For an area steeped in tradition, said Marina Marcarino, Albeisa President and owner of organic-certified Punset winery, empowering the next generation, taking an international focus, and maximizing social networks is key.
     At the Castiglione Falletto tasting at Castello di Grinzane Cavour, sampling the Sobrero Francesco DOCG 2010 Pernanno and 2013 Ciabot Tanasio reminded me of the quality the younger winemakers are finding with nebbiolo in the region. The balance between tannin, acid, fruit, and distinctive leather aromas of Barolo were well-handled by third-generation winemaker Flavio Sobrero, pictured on the left in the left photo.  Ornella Cordara of Col Dei Venti and Alberto Cordero are in the right photo.
New Nebbiolo Releases

As part of Grandi Langhe event in April, I was one of 100 international media who participated in Nebbiolo Pirma, intensive tastings of over 300 of the newly released nebbiolo wines. Known as Nebbiolo Prima, I found the Barolo wines were more approachable than usual, yet with enough tannin to show the typical aging capacity of the varietal. Here are some of my favorite picks from the tastings:
Col Dei Venti Barolo DOCG 2013 Debutto Serralunga d'Alba
Rivetto Dal 1902 Barolo DOCG 2013  Serralunga d'Alba
Castello Di Verduno  Barolo DOCG 2013 Massara Verduno
460 Casina Bric Barolo DOCG 2013 Bricco delle Viole Barolo
E. Pira & Figli  Barolo DOCG 2013 Cannubi Chiara Boschis  Barolo  Cannubi

Punset   Barbaresco Riserva DOCG 2012 Basarin  Neive  Basarin
Marchesi Di Barolo Barbaresco Riserva DOCG 2012
Ada Nada   Barbaresco Riserva DOCG 2012 Cichin  Treiso
Fontanabianca  Barbaresco DOCG 2014 Bordini Neive Bordini
Col Dei Venti  Barbaresco DOCG 2014 Tufoblù Neive
Pelissero  Barbaresco DOCG 2014 Nubiola
Pertinace  Barbaresco DOCG 2014 Nervo   Treiso Nervo
Rizzi    Barbaresco DOCG 2014 Pajorè    Treiso Pajore'

Generaj Di Viglione Giuseppe Roero Riserva DOCG 2013 Bric Aut  Montà
Poderi Moretti Di Moretti Francesco Roero Riserva DOCG 2013 Ginis  Monteu Roero
Cascina Val Del Prete  Roero Riserva DOCG 2013  Priocca

Beyond Barolo
     A bonus at Grandi Langhe was the opportunity to learn about other wines of the area at separate events. The first tasting was with pelaverga wines. A common variety before phylloxera, pelaverga vines seemed to be lost in the Verduno commune. But some families, said Fabio Alessandria of the Burlotto winegrowers, found vines and decided to pursue making the grape. The family company, Cantina Comm. G. B. Burlotto, was a leader in promoting production of the grape. In the 1950s and 1960s. Previously, interplanted along the rows, vintners decided to plant an entire vineyard of pelaverga from the best cuttings.
     A spicy wine with white pepper overtones, Alessandria said, “We thought it was nice to discover after tasting nebbiolo all day to find a refreshing wine like pelaverga.”  An association of pelaverga producers called Verduno è Uno was formed to bring attention to the wines. The group hosted the tasting with bites to accompany the savory wine such as spicy quinoa salad.

     The other special tasting of note was “Bubbles Made with Nebbiolo Base Wine.” This happy group was proud of their work to promote spumante made in the méthode Champenoise. One of my favorite sparklers was made by Sergio Germano of Germano Ettore a well-known Serralunga d’Alba producer. His Rosanna Burt Rosé was bright and refreshing; they also produce an Alta Langhe DOCG brut. Another bottling by Cuvage SRL presented a rosé from Nebbiolo d’Alba DOC grapes from the Mondodelvino group. Other favorites from the category were Cascina Ballarin brut from Giorgio and Giovanni Viberti and Rivetto Dal 1902 VSQ Kaskal from Enrico Rivetto.  

Two Roero restaurant gems

     Culinary discoveries also abounded at Grandi Langhe 2017. At two unusual settings in the Roero region, I discovered excellent food and a regional wine list.
     Ristorante Castello is literally housed in a castle at Santa Vittoriad'Alba in the Roero, across the Tanaro River from Barbaresco. The stunning setting with views of the surrounding countryside offers a modern sensibility of Piemontese food. During my first lunch in the Alba area, I satisfied my craving for tajarin, a local specialty of rich, egg-based thin pasta sauced with meat, mushrooms or other vegetables such as asparagus. But the appetizer was a sophisticated, light take on prawn carpaccio with pine nuts, sage, raspberries and rose garnish (photo).

     As for pairing notes, talented, young Chef Paolo Decio recommends another local dish, agnolotti del plin, small ravioli, that he prepares with roast beef gravy and butter, with a younger nebbiolo. Decio also taught me a new Italian phrase, translated as, “When you have good food, you need a good wine. When you eat well, you can drink well.”

      On a hillside in Castagnito in the Roero, Ostu di Djun is a one-of-a-kind dining experience. Even the name is intriguing—Ostu means “innkeeper’ and djun is the knot of a tree. Proprietor, Luciano Marsaglia brings his hobbies to the restaurant. One corner is covered in football, aka European soccer, paraphernalia. A shiny motorcycle holds a prominent place near the entrance.
     There is no menu. Marsaglia’s family, including his mother, cook whatever is fresh, local or special in the small kitchen. After seafood-stuffed peppers and pasta, we savored bone marrow and sweetbreads. Their signature treat is the delivery of a hunk of locally made hazelnut nougat with a knife to cut off for your dessert. Marsaglia serves favorite wines from his winemaker friends.

     At any time of year, the Alba region is full of surprises for food, drink and touring.

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