Of all the superstar red grapes, nebbiolo is by far the most enigmatic. Pale in color and delicate in fragrance, it also has massive tannins, acids and savory, berry-like flavors. It rises to excellence mainly in one tiny corner of the world, the foggy (nebbiolo means fog) Langhe hills in northwestern Italy’s Piedmont region—also the heart of truffle country. These three bottles are special.
Michele Chiarlo Il Principe, Nebbiolo d’Alba, Langhe 2015
This bottle shows the soft, juicier side of nebbiolo’s personality, with grapes originating in the medieval town of Barbaresco and in the Roero subregion, best known for the hauntingly perfumed white wine arneis. Featuring floral, red cherry notes and a hint of nutmeg, it’s a tart, medium-bodied wine with delicate fruit nuances and distinct minerality that finishes on an almost salty note.
$20, Vine & Barley, Boston
Nino Negri Sfursat, Sforzato di Valtellina, 2015
From the neighboring region of Lombardia—where nebbiolo is known as chiavennasca—this is a silky and rich red, with fragrant raspberry-like flavors. A local specialty, Sfursat is made from grapes that are naturally dried for three months in the cool mountain air, creating a concentrated, charming and super-versatile wine full of pepper, raisin and licorice notes.
$45, Eataly Vino, Boston
Ascheri Barolo, 2013
Barolo is a small commune that’s made nebbiolo revered worldwide as the king of Italian wine, needing to be aged three years before it’s sold. 2013 was a classic vintage, and Matteo Ascheri produced a bold, spicy wine with dried berry fruit, smoky tobacco-like undertones, leather and intense minerality. It’s delicious now, though very muscular and ageable.
$35, Lower Falls Wine Co., Newton