All I could think about when I tasted today’s Nebbiolo from Brandini is what a standout it would be in a comparative tasting of similarly priced wines from around the world. I may be a little biased in favor of Italian wines, but so be it: Put this in a lineup with similarly priced reds from Burgundy, Bordeaux, Spain, California, wherever…it’s very likely to come out on top.
It won’t be the biggest wine, nor will it be the ripest, but it’ll be the one that stays with you the longest. It’ll be the one with the most beguilingly complex aromatics, the most lingering finish, and the most aristocratic, “serious” feel to it. Nebbiolo is a “noble” grape that way, but it is usually rather shy and a little rustic in its youth; we have the exceptional 2015 vintage to thank for the sublime completeness of this bottling, a Langhe Nebbiolo called “Filari Corti.” Sourced from Agricola Brandini’s vineyards in the Barolo commune of La Morra, this wine expertly conveys the classic character of this village’s wines: plush red fruits, abundant florals, and tannins that grip but don’t bite. I haven’t tasted many 2015 Barolos yet (most have not yet made it to our market), but this wine has me positively giddy about what’s in store—although, come to think of it, I’ve got everything I need in a Nebbiolo right here!
The other thing that impressed me (and everyone at SommSelect, for that matter) was how dramatically it improved after just a few months of rest in our warehouse. When it first arrived, it was a little sharp and disjointed, which we assumed was due to the rigors of travel. Fast-forward a few months and we’re relieved to have assumed correctly: The wine’s ripe strawberry/cherry fruit has emerged, the texture has grown more silken and elegant, and the aromatics are off the charts, driving the long finish. As we’ve learned, not all Langhe Nebbiolo is created equal: vine sourcing and oak aging regimens vary widely, so in one instance you may be getting something lighter and simpler, while in another you’re getting a wine that would rival many Barolos. “Filari Corti” (“short rows,” so named because its source vineyard is planted in vertical rows on a short, steep hillside) is an example of the latter—although it aged just 12 months in large oak botti, compared to a required minimum of 24 months in wood for Barolo.
The Brandini estate, which includes about 14 hectares of Barolo-classified vineyards, is run by Piero Bagnasco and his daughters, Giovanna and Serena. The property is part of the ever-expanding Gruppo Fontanafredda, a portfolio of wine estates owned (or co-owned) by Italian food and wine impresario (and Eataly creator) Oscar Farinetti. The group now includes more than a dozen properties across Italy—including historic Barolo houses Fontanafredda and Borgogno—all of them part of a Farinetti-created association called “Vino Libero,” which is focused on sustainability in vineyards and cellars alike. Among the elements of the expansive Vino Libero discipline are the stated desire to eliminate all chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides, while also reducing sulfur additions to levels well below what’s allowed by law. Brandini uses the phrase “Organic Human Barolo” to describe its wines; the vineyards are indeed certified organic and the wines are aged in large, used oak casks with minimal amounts of sulfur used when the wines are bottled.
Finally, let me add the word “typicity” to my glowing description of this wine. Put your nose in a glass of this 2015 and there is nothing else it could possibly be but Nebbiolo (in this case, Nebbiolo sourced from Brandini’s estate vines in La Morra). In the glass, it’s a bright garnet red with orange and pink reflections, with an expressive nose that reveals itself immediately and continues to expand and evolve with time in the glass. Aromas of ripe red cherry (almost kirsch-like), wild strawberries, blood orange, sandalwood, tobacco, and underbrush introduce a medium-bodied, finely textured palate. There aren’t many Langhe Nebbiolo wines I’d describe as “aristocratic,” but I really believe that if I were tasting the wine blind, I’d guess “La Morra Barolo.” Upon receiving your order don’t jump on it right away: Let it rest for a while before opening a bottle and give it about 30 minutes in the decanter before serving at 60 degrees in Burgundy stems. Right now, the wine is fresh, electric, persistent, and loaded with aromatic complexity; over the next 3-5 years it will put on weight, soften up a bit, and become something truly special. Not bad for $32 if I do say so, and likely to be all the better if paired with a (non-spicy) slow-roasted pork shoulder. It’s textbook Nebbiolo. Enjoy!
Barolo DOCG—La Morra
Large Slavonian 'Botti'
Clay & Limestone