Fiona MacPherson, by email, asks: I really enjoyed Susan Hulme MW’s article on ‘Barolo alternatives’ (May 2019 issue), and look forward to sampling a few of these Nebbiolos. I notice, though, that these wines are all from northwest Italy. Surely there must be producers in other parts of the world who are growing Nebbiolo? Can you name any interesting ones to try?
Stephen Brook, a Decanter contributing editor since 1996, replies: Burgundy-loving winemakers the world over yearn to make fine Pinot Noir, so it’s not surprising that Italy-besotted winemakers want to try their hand at the even trickier Nebbiolo.
High in tannin, acidity and alcohol, Nebbiolo is hard to get right in its native Italy, and can frustrate even the most skilled winemakers elsewhere. Californian writer Norm Roby described it as: ‘Pinot Noir with a bad attitude’. In Washington state two growers planted it: Mike Sauer in 1985 and then David Gelles. Results have been patchy, to put it kindly.
Nebbiolo has fared better in California, and Randall Grahm at Ca’ del Solo has made some impressive examples, as has Renwood in the Sierra Foothills and Palmina in Santa Barbara.
Steenberg in Constantia, South Africa, has produced some decent Nebbiolos, but Australia, especially Victoria, shows the greatest promise. Castagna, Jasper Hill, and Pizzini have all released well-balanced wines, though Rick Kinzbrunner at Giaconda admits it took him years to master Nebbiolo. (For more on this, see ‘Italy in Australia’, in the upcoming June 2019 issue).
With northern Italy offering the ideal sweet spot for this finicky variety, this may be a challenge too far in other growing areas.
This question first appeared in the June 2019 issue of Decanter magazine.