Nebbiolo d’Alba Cascina Chicco

RWN47CC

This burgundy red wine has a complex bouquet, aristocratic and elegant with hints of redcurrants, blackcurrants, liquorice and spices. The taste is thirst-quenching and warm, with sweet tannins that make the wine even more noble. It gives off sensations that continually evolve around mature fruit and vanilla.

1 x 75cl

Region: Piedmont

Grapes: Nebbiolo

Abv: 14%

Nebbiolo is a black-skinned red wine grape variety most famous for creating the ‘tar and roses’ scent of Barolo wines from Piedmont, north-western Italy. The grape’s very name is evocative of its home among the misty foothills of the western Alps; the nebbia (Italian for ‘fog’) after which it is named frequently arrives on early October mornings, when the Nebbiolo harvest is in full swing.

Most strains of Nebbiolo demonstrate a good resistance to botrytis and although early forms of Barolo were made in a sweet style, this was due to struggling ferments rather than the effects of botrytis. Unfortunately the vine showed little or no resistance to phylloxera when the louse spread its devastation across Europe in the 1860s, and when it came to replanting Piedmontese vineyards, the higher-yielding Barbera became the preferred variety.

Nebbiolo grapes are central to four Piedmontese DOCGs and eight DOCs, of which Barolo is by far the most famous – Barolo wines are renowned for their power and intensity. However, just ten miles northeast of Barolo, Nebbiolo is made into Barbaresco, a slightly more elegant, perfumed style which rose to prominence in the second half of the 20th Century. Barbaresco lies only a little lower in the hills than Barolo, with which it shares its chalky clay soils, yet the wines are noticeably different.

In Roero, an area just across the river Tanaro, northwest of Alba, Nebbiolo is often joined by a splash of white Arneis to soften its tannic edges, a practice which has led the Arneis variety to be dubbed Barolo Bianco.

Slightly different again are the red wines of Valtellina, where the variety is known as Chiavennasca. These wines from the sunny alpine slopes of northern Lombardy may be less rich and round than those from Piedmont, but they are just as alluringly perfumed, particularly the passito, Amarone-styled Sforzato di Valtellina. What all of these wines have in common are noticeable acidity and the tannins for which Nebbiolo is as famous as it is infamous.

This sensitivity to terroir is both Nebbiolo’s trump card and its downfall. As demonstrated by Pinot Noir, Riesling and (less famously) Chasselas, wine enthusiasts find themselves immediately attracted to a variety which communicates its provenance. But while Riesling and (to a lesser extent) Pinot Noir have proven relatively adaptable to various climates and soils types, Nebbiolo has not. It is famously picky about where it grows, requiring good drainage and as long a growing season as is possible in sub-alpine Italy. In Piedmont it is generally one of the first vines to flower, and is always the last to ripen, making a dry autumn essential to a successful vintage.

Outside Italy Nebbiolo has had a modicum of success in Australia, Argentina and California, but the warmer climates into which it has often been planted in these places have proved too warm for Nebbiolo. Finding sites in which the variety will thrive is an on-going challenge for New World winemakers eager to replicate the great Nebbiolo wines of Piedmont.

As of early 2011, Nebbiolo was used in Piedmont as the major component in four DOCGs (Barolo, Barbaresco, Roero and Gattinara) and eight DOCs (Bramaterra, Fara, Ghemme, Lessona and Sizzano).