Nebbiolo is a beautiful grape, native to the Piedmont region of Italy. A late ripener, vintners tend to celebrate Nebbiolo’s harvest toward the end of October or early November when the Langhe region becomes submerged in thick, pea-soup-like fog. Indeed, the name Nebbiolo is said to stem from the Italian word for fog, nebbia. Out of this darkness, this denseness, this stone-wall of a cloud, comes one of Italy’s most noble and notable grapes. A shy shade of red in its youth and often quite tannic, the wine ages into rich and vibrant colors — not unlike dragon’s fire — and develops deep aromatics, complex flavors, and matures right out of those sticky tannins. Nebbiolo, at its peak, can be one of the most intense wines alive.
Of course, these are characteristics associated with the Italian varietal from Italy. I don’t believe I’ve yet had the opportunity to taste a Nebbiolo from the United States. Until I popped the Big Cork on Big Cork Vineyards 2015 Nebbiolo.
About the Wine: The Big Cork Vineyards 2015 Nebbiolo is made from 100% Nebbiolo grapes harvested from the Big Cork Vineyards estate vineyards in Maryland. The wine was aged in combination new and neutral French and American oak barrels for 18 months.
Flavor Profile: Pop the Big Cork on the Big Cork Vineyards 2015 Nebbiolo and smell the dank wet wood of a deep cellar cave. On the pour and into the glass, this young Nebbiolo is indeed a light, but rusty shade of red. Initial aromas are of that wet wood and oak barrels, but also the sweet perfume of ripe raspberries, strawberries, with the hint of “something” funky. Swirl, and find that funkiness is not unlike milk chocolate warmed, then melted, in the indian summer sun. Pull the nose away and breathe in the delicate aromatics of soft-petaled roses and flush, bushy greenery.
On the palate, the Big Cork Vineyards 2015 Nebbiolo is a cool and light bodied at first — though its weight steadily, smoothly increases throughout the tasting, ending in a solid medium-body. The texture is defined by a soft, sand-dune like backbone of tannins — acting almost like a dam, holding in the rest of the light and lively liquid. Dominant flavors are of that wet wood (still), fresh cherries, raspberries, and herbaceous eucalyptus and mint leaf. The finish will tell you of tannins, but of tannins that are merely acting like the period at the end of a sentence. Short, purposeful, and inviting you to speak with the wine again.
Food Pairing: The moment I tasted this wine I knew it was destined for a pasta bolognese. Fresh fettuccine, homemade marinara sauce, sautéed mushrooms and onions, and, for me, vegetarian ground “meat.” Smoosh it all together and sprinkle with some funky-fresh parmesan, and yes this was the perfect pairing. The sautéed veggies added a juiciness to this drier red wine; the tomato-based sauce kept up the acidity levels; the meat played into that richness developed by the oak aging; and what Nebbiolo doesn’t like a little funk?
The Big Cork Vineyards 2015 Nebbiolo with this dish became absolutely, well, gluggable! Admittedly, some may prefer to hold off on this wine for 3 to 5 years (maybe even more), but I find beauty in its youth — its lightness and ability to pair well with hearty dishes.
More Info: I received the Big Cork Vineyards 2015 Nebbiolo as a sample for review. (Cheers Amy!) Retail: $42. For more information about Big Cork Vineyards and to order wines directly, please visit the Big Cork Vineyards website.
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