Our blind Nebbiolo tasting was designed to be similar to our April 2022 Sangiovese tasting, where we compared the same grape from different appellations within Italy. Like the previous version, we found plenty of similarities with these bottles, but also discovered clear variation in intensity and expression at the same time.
Among the similarities were notions of red roses, pine needles, an inviting earthiness, tar, and plenty of tannins. But each bottle was also distinct, showing varying levels of common flavors and structure, which Josephine likened to a mixer at a recording studio.
It was very difficult to rank these bottles, since all of them had merits, but like the Sangiovese tasting, the two most prestigious appellations rose to the top, and were only separated by 2 points. Ali summed up by saying, "I just keep wanting to cuddle with these wines."
Jamie was generous enough to also bring a sparkling Nebbiolo to the gathering, a first for all of us, and a great start to our tasting, but also great as a refresher.
Chelsea was an excellent helper again, in charge of labeling the brown bags, as well as assisting with the reveal.
First Place: Rocche Costamagna Barolo Rocche dell'Annunziata 2017. More amber in color, with scents of red roses, dark cherries, violets, dark tobacco, dust, caramel, and hints of pine needle. Andy detected "catcher's mitt." Perhaps less tannic than some others, but still high, and richer in body and more mouth-coating. Tasters found flavors of dark plums, bloody meat, and licorice. More assertive than many others, with excellent intensity. Jamie picked this one out right away as the Barolo. Ali, Kristin, and Josephine's favorite of the night. Received 29 points. Josephine's bottle. About $42.
Second Place: Cantina del Pino Barabaresco Albesani 2016. David detected some sort of cleanser on the nose, like Comet or Ajax, while Andy found hints of dirty sponge. Ali chimed in with "blueberry muffin mix." Not a lot of fruit aromas, but more like pine and dried orange peel. Ali thought of a "distant anisette or aperitif." Flavors of dried spices, dried herbs, cocoa, raspberries, and dark coffee. Had the most teeth coating tannins. Andy, David, and Jamie's favorite. Received 27 Points. Andy's bottle. About $60.
Third Place: Triacca Sforzato di Valtellina San Domenico 2012. Made using partially dried grapes prior to pressing, this expressed a pretty amber color, with scents of leather, smoked meat, wet earth, cooked fiddleheads, beef jerky, rubber tire, and dried herbs. Rich and smooth in texture, with flavors of cigar, meat, charred wood, and a little bit of funk. David felt that it was a little hot, and picked this out as the Sforzato. Josephine noted that it had more uniformity of flavor across the palate. 13 points. David's bottle. About $34.
Nervi Gattinara Vigna Valferana 2016. This was not initially very inviting on the nose, offering funky scents of skunk, inner tube, barnyard, sweaty horse, dead wet leaves, burnt toast, and rosemary. Josephine felt that it was "slightly diapery", but later found "heliotrope", and it generally improved with air. The palate, however, was elegant and balanced, with notions of tar, burnt caramel, and roses. 9 points. Jamie's bottle. About $120.
G.D. Vajra Langhe Nebbiolo 2020. The brightest in color of the night, looking youthful. Like clean earth on the nose, plus shitake mushrooms, roses, smoke, crushed pine needles, and anise. Had an umami quality to it. Pretty. Jamie detected "a tiny bit of red currant trying to edge out." In the mouth, it carried a salty note, like kalamata olives or pecorino cheese, then game meats, such as duck. Nice balance. Jamie noted how the front-of-mouth tannins seem to resolve well. 4 points. Ali's bottle. About $27.
Sandro Fay Valtellina Superiore Costa Bassa 2016. Tasters found scents of black oil cured olives, roses, tar, black cherries, pine resin, pomegranate, tobacco, and smoke. Sour cherries on the palate, then oily olives, and dried herbs. Shows primary fruit in the beginning, then turns savory on the short finish. 2 points. Kristin's bottle. About 24.
Ettore Germano Rosato Spumante Extra Brut Rosanna Non-Vintage. Made in the classic method from early harvest, organically grown estate Nebbiolo. Salmon in color, with notions of minerality, honey, lemons, cherries, raspberries, green apples, hints of watermelon, then mint on the finish. Bright and fresh. Spends 18 months on the lees. Jamie contributed this bottle. About $40.