With my post about Malbec a couple of weeks ago I’m now halfway through Wine Folly’s Noble Grape Challenge. Created as a challenge to learn about the range of wine, the Noble Grape Challenge lists nine red and nine white ‘noble’ varieties – generally speaking, the most widely planted varieties throughout the world – and challenges the reader to taste through them all as a way of getting to know the breadth and depth of wine created throughout the world.
At this point it feels like a good time to take a look back on how things went and a look ahead at what awaits.
Wine Folly created the Noble Grape Challenge as a way to learn the spectrum of wine flavours found in red and white wines. Taking nine reds and nine whites, we’ll go through them from lightest to darkest, learning about the key characteristics and flavours of each.
First of all, can we just take a second to appreciate the name, Nebbiolo? Say it with me now – nnnnnneeebiooooooooolooooooo. So good.
Nebbiolos are most commonly from the Piedmont region in Italy. But what we do we know about Italy? They like to blend! So, Nebbiolo is commonly used in blends like Barolo, one of the more famous Italian wines out there. Also, I find it interesting that Nebbiolo is considered a noble grape when other regions have had trouble creating high quality wines from it – but I guess being noble is about how great the wine is, not how easy the grapes are to grow.
(I want to note that I found it very tough to find a wine that was purely a Nebbiolo and not some sort of Italian blend. I eventually found this bottle which, admittedly, is out of my everyday wine price range. But, in the interests of fully committing to the Noble Grape Challenge, I decided to splurge. Plus, it looked like a good wine and a nice treat.)
I’ve never had a Nebbiolo before, so this is a complete adventure for me. I’ll have to use the other things I know about wine, along with the research I’ve done, and trust my palate and my own tastes, which is what you should do every time you taste too.
My first observation: wow, is this ever light in colour! You can see the entire glass under the wine! This wine is super transparent, which isn’t something I usually see outside of a Pinot Noir, though, to be honest, I tend to favour big reds that often look like ink in my glass.
This wine also looks a little brownish at the edges, which isn’t surprising considering the only Nebbiolo I could find was from 2010, and wines start to get some brown in colour as they age, especially around the edges.
The wine had been in the glass for a while before I got to smell or drink it, and I’m happy it had a chance to open up. I found the nose to be earthy, with a bit of spice and some vanilla. Overall very soft and smooth.
I found the flavour pretty similar to the nose – smooth, spicy on the finish, with some tang/tannin/acidity, which is a common neb trait. I also found it quite big and full-bodied, which isn’t surprising knowing that Nebbiolos are common players in a Barolo, but was surprising given how lightly coloured the wine is. This wine is definitely keeping me on my toes. I was disappointed not to get any smoke from this particular Nebbiolo, knowing that’s also a common trait. I love me a smoky wine.
So, what do I think of this wine? I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it either. I drank it over a few nights and was disappointed that it didn’t mellow much over that time – I think I was hoping the tannins would settle down, which they didn’t. I liked the full body in the flavour but the acidity got in the way of true enjoyment. If I’m going to buy a big red I’ll steer more toward something from Chile or Argentina. That being said, if you like Italian wine (and can afford $20 a bottle) then I would recommend this wine.
I do want to note the cork. The wine had crept halfway up – wow! This is a often another sign of age, or sometimes of a bad seal. I’m happy this bottle found its way to me before the wine crept all the way up, since it would have meant the end of the cork and therefore the end of the wine. Luckily I managed to save it first and give it a good home.
Are you familiar with Nebbiolo? What do you think of it?