The mofo guide to nebbiolo
Nebbiolo is a real treat of a grape - complex, age-worthy and always exciting. Here’s why it could be your next favourite varietal.
Why mofos like nebbiolo
When it comes to drinking nebbiolo friends, you're in for a treat. This red grape varietal originally from the Piedmont region of Italy is the backbone of some of the world's most famous and complex wines. It's a precious little soul on the vine and prefers everything to be just right in the vineyard when it comes to aspect and climate, so it’s not widely found out of its heartlands - but there’s a growing number of plantings in good ol’ Oz, particularly in Victoria. It’s a great partner to a long lunch, and is one of those wines where you’ll find you’re discovering more in your glass with every sniff, swirl and sip.
Check out: Bric Cenciurio Barolo DOCG 2016
What to expect with a nebbiolo
Now, nebbiolo is no lightweight. Paler red in colour than its other full-bodied cousins, it still has a solid structure and tannins, with flavours that can knock your socks off. As such, they generally benefit from a bit of ageing before drinking, allowing them to fully develop and mellow out.
Nebbiolo generally has a very broad spectrum of flavours and aromas to be discovered - “tar and roses” being the classic, somm-nod-of-approval description of the breadth you’ll find, from floral rose and dried flowers, to more complex earthy, tobacco, smoke and leather notes.
Not all nebbiolo wines are meant to be aged for years on end though. Some, especially those designated “Langhe” nebbiolo on label, see less time in oak and are intended to be enjoyed younger, with more fruit-forward flavours of dark cherry, blackberry, and plum that make them perfect for everyday drinking.
But nebbiolo in more premium regions (take a bow, Barolo & Barbaresco), can be aged for up to 20 years, during which time that complexity really comes to the fore and the wines develop aged aromas of wet forest floor, mushroom, and truffle.
Check out: Cascina Ca'Rossa Funsu Langhe Nebbiolo 2021
What temperature should I serve nebbiolo at?
Nothing complicated here - room temperature is great for nebbiolo, 15-19°C.
Given that many nebs have a bit of age on them though, you’ll find you’ll get the most from your glass if you decant the first before you’re planning to drink - let it stretch its legs for a bit after being cooped up in the bottle for so long. Have a sniff and swirl by all means when you first pour it, but it’ll look even better after a hour or two decanted, trust us. It’s a wine where it’s good to plan ahead a little, rather than just opening on a whim.
As with every piece of advice though, there’s an exception; if you have a younger “Langhe” nebbiolo, don't be afraid to pop that cork and indulge in its vibrant flavours right away.
What foods pair with nebbiolo?
When it comes to pairing food with nebbiolo, you're in for a treat. This wine is bold and complex, with flavours that can stand up to even the richest and most flavourful dishes.
A classic pairing is with beef, particularly a steak or a rich braised beef ragu. The acidity of the wine helps cut through the fat and the rich protein gives those great tannins something hearty to grab hold of, bringing out the full rich savoury depths of the meat's flavour, which those earthy notes compliment so well too.
But nebbiolo also pairs well with game meats like venison or kangaroo, as well as with hearty stews or roasts. And if you're looking for a vegetarian option, try pairing it with a mushroom risotto or a roasted root vegetable dish.
One thing to keep in mind when pairing nebbiolo with food is to make sure the dish has enough richness and depth to go toe-to-toe with the wine. A wine full of body and tannin, it demands hearty fare too.
Check out: Ettore Germano Barolo DOCG Prapó 2017 - 3pk
When should I be drinking nebbiolo?
It's the kind of wine that's best enjoyed slowly, with good company and a hearty meal. Whether you're indulging in a plate of rich pasta or a juicy steak, nebbiolo is the perfect accompaniment, dancing with the food to add depth and complexity to any dish. So pour yourself a glass, take a sip, and indulge in everything that's great about this drop.