Saturday, February 02, 2008

Another Nebbiolo d'Alba: Joe's Quest for Cheap Barolo

It happens to every wine enthusiast eventually - you fall in love with a wine (or style of wine) that is beyond the budget of mere mortals. Top Burgundies, California Cult Cabs, Bordeaux First Growths, Barolo, Barbaresco, Brunello, Vega Sicilia, etc., etc. One day you will have one of these, you will fall in love, and you will want to drink that wine again.

But then the harsh reality that you are not Bill Gates sets in (except for you, Bill, thanks for reading), so you put that flavour into the memory vault and seek out lower priced substitutes. I am smitten with the great, the expensive, Nebbiolos of Barolo and Barbaresco. Time to seek out a cheap alternative.

Tonight I opened a Barolo and a generic Nebbiolo to see if I could get that Barolo high from a Nebbiolo d'Alba, despite the major failure in my last attempt.

There was no doubt that the 1999 Gianfranco Alessandria Barolo was the star tonight - tobacco and flint, white pepper, poeny, hay, and a nice tarry nose to this beauty. Very dry with bing cherry fruit and velvety tannins. So classy, so elegant, and such a nice looong finish. More structured and finessed than the Nebbiolo below. Nice now after a long decant, or sock it away for a few more years.
cork. 14% alcohol
Score: 18/20
Price: $59.95 (LCBO)

So did I find the grail? The 2003 Luciano Sandrone "Valmaggiore" Nebbiolo d'Alba was a great wine - juicy blueberries, damp undergrowth, liquorice, tea, vanilla, tarry/rubbery notes (pleasant tonight, not here) and toasty oak. Surprisingly well balanced for its youth, with a more juicy, up front modern feel, but never letting you forget that those gripping nebbiolo tannins were present.
cork. 13% alcohol
Score: 17.5/20
Price: $40 est. (gift)

Was this generic Nebbiolo an inexpensive Barolo substitute? Not really - it wasn't cheap, and it lacked the structure and finesse of the Barolo. But it was a fantastic wine, and a fantastic Nebbiolo that might just calm a Barolo fix. Note that I have had a Sandrone Barbera, Dolcetto, and Barolo over the past 18 months - all excellent wines, truly a winery to seek out.

Both wines were decanted nearly 4 hours before dinner, were still drinking nicely throughout the evening, and paired extremely well with a wild boar roast and a bison roast

PS - A confluence of work, family and other issues have kept me away from this site, but not from my wine or my note pad. Stay tuned...


Marcus said...

Glad to be a bad confluence on you!

Who knew snow is the best photographic background for wine... awesome photo!

I hope you'll do more using just this angle -- the bottles look like they're floating in space and I don't have any snow-covered land to try to do this myself.

GollyGumDrops said...

If you find the grail let me know, or if you're reading Bill, do send over a case of Barolo - Cheers

Joe said...

Hi Marcus - you were a contributing factor, but not for an entire week. Snow works! I love using the backyard as a backdrop in winter.

Hi Golly - the grail quest for a decent Barolo-like $30 wine continues, but I keep going down that Barbera tantalizingly close, but just not there...Bill just sent me a case of 1982 Conterno - if it's passable I'll forward you a bottle...

David said...

will have to see if they have any sandrone around here. I know what you mean about getting a taste for something beyond ones budget! I don't think I've even tried at Barolo and probably shouldn't start down that path.

Joe said...

Hi David - Barolo is only one of my vices! Avoid them at all costs - especially with an Osso Buco on a cold winter day...