I’ll never forget my first time to taste a Nebbiolo wine. I was sitting in Eataly in the Mole della Antonelliana in Turin enjoying a lunch of rare meatballs in green sauce. Having never even heard of most of the wines on the list, I asked for the one most local to Turin which just so happened to be an Organic Nebbiolo that was available by the glass. From the very first mouthfull I was hooked.
Fast forward five years and my love of Nebbiolo has grown immeasurably. With this love has also grown frustration however – good Nebbiolo is almost always expensive. Being the grape behind the world renowned Barolo and Barbaresco, it’s never going to be cheap but like most great wines in Italy, there is always a more budget friendly option. Where Brunello di Montalcino has the less expensive Rosso di Montalcino, Amarone has Valpolicella Ripasso and Chianti Classico has Chianti, so too Barolo and Barbaresco have a second tier – Langhe Nebbiolo.
The Langhe is located in Piemonte in North West Italy. It is the wider zone that encompasses the renowned Barolo and Barbaresco DOCG’s and so, a Nebbiolo grown in one plot may be Barolo but the plot next door (and outside the DOCG zone) becomes Langhe DOC. This may sound like you are automatically onto a winner BUT the Langhe DOC zone takes in many inferior sights – on lower hills and on north facing slopes where it is difficult to ripen the somewhat fussy Nebbiolo grape. In truth, the frustration I mentioned earlier comes from the fact that there can be so much variance in Langhe Nebbiolo – I have had some real gems but also some pretty undrinkable stuff where the tannins were so austere as to remove any enjoyment from the drinking of the wine.
Nebbiolo is always going to produce a tannin heavy wine but, at it’s best, these tannins will be balanced by beautiful red fruits, floral aromas and a good hit of anise and spice. A well aged Barolo or Barbaresco will have all of these along with underlying hints of tar, tobacco, chocolate, coffee and any amount of other flavours depending on many factors. You are not expecting this kind of complexity in a Langhe Nebbiolo and this is reflected in the price, with most less than half the price of their big hitting cousins.
Guidobono Langhe Nebbiolo
I’ve tried numerous Langhe Nebbiolo’s over the past five years. Despite the variance in quality, it is a wine I find very difficult to leave on the shelf – just on the off chance that it will deliver on it’s exceptional promise. I picked this one up back in August 2019. I had an interview for Sheridans Cheesemongers and, while waiting to be called, spotted this bottle on the shelf of the South Anne Street shop. I couldn’t resist. I’m not sure why I took so long to open it but it may have something to do with the fact that the last 2017 Langhe Nebbiolo I tried was exceptionally austere and entirely unenjoyable. I need not have worried about this one.
The tannins, although strong are beautifully integrated. The balance of the cherry fruit and floral notes with anise, clove and a hint of vanilla and smoke from the oak ageing make this a well rounded and approachable Nebbiolo. What’s even better is it’s incredible value – €23 may be above the “everyday” price point but it brings it in at a third of the price of it’s more esteemed neighbours and firmly into the “weekend treat” catagory.