Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Nebbiolo Notions

I've exhorted often enough the joys of getting off the heavily traveled wine roads in favor of more unique and stimulating paths that can offer true vinous enlightment. I've also offered up nebbiolo, the grape of great Barbarescos and Barolos, as an example of a fine place to explore. Well, I confess I didn't know how easily and cheaply it could be done.

One of the wine stores I frequent turned me on to a very nice Nebbiolo D'Alba 2001 from Alberto Giachino. It bears the D'Alba designation because it does not come from either the prestigation area of Barolo or Barbaresco but is instead from Alba -- land of very good Barberas. But the lack of a serious pedigree also means it goes for $17.99!

Now, I've paid close to $100 for a great Barolo -- the 1989 Giacosa (enjoyed just two years ago)was one of the best wines I've ever had in my life. It had loads of leather, cigar box and smoked meat aromas, even a trace of tar. A monster. But such a wine requires a lot of patience to really enjoy.

This nebbiolo, in contrast, is chewy and delicious, without waiting eons for a payoff. It's not Barolo, but for the price there's lot to enjoy here, blackberries and prunes with a dry, somewhat tannic finish. I had it with lamb stew, and it was fabulous. And, best of all, it was not overly familiar but fresh and striking, like the scenic route too seldom taken to a favorite place.