When price is not an issue of concern it’s not difficult to find a decent wine. Everyone loves that feeling of getting a great deal for what they paid for, and quite frankly, there simply is no challenge in finding a high quality, expensive wine. If you’re shelling out $100 or more for a bottle, it had better be good, simple as that. The real fun, and the part that I enjoy the most, of wine shopping is when you find something with an approachable price that performs right as well as its more expensive counterparts. That’s a win win situation and you get to prove that sometimes you actually do get more than you pay for.
That’s why I like to challenge myself when I go wine shopping. I love to find things from lesser known regions and varietals, as I frequently feature (see Tuesday’s article on Tannat), which often sell for less because of their obscurity. However, I also like to seek out wines from classic regions made with iconic grapes that cost a fraction of what is usually expected while still bringing tons of quality for the price.
One of the varietals that can be the most challenging to find at a decent price is Nebbiolo. The grape behind the iconic wines of Barolo and Barbaresco in northern Italy’s Piemonte region, Nebbiolo not only has a reputation for being prohibitively expensive but also for requiring extensive cellar aging before becoming ready to drink. Although both can be true in some cases, there are affordable Nebbiolos from Piemonte that can be drank immediately after purchase or with a bit of cellaring. You just need to know where to look.
A low price is not always a bargain, and if you go for the cheapest Nebbiolo on the shelf you may end up with just what you paid for, or maybe even less. One thing that I like to look for is that the wine is estate produced and/or bottled, showing that the grapes have been handled from start to finish by the producer, usually ensuring a higher degree of quality. Today I’ve found four Nebbiolos from Piemonte, two from Asti and two from the famed Barbaresco region, all of them estate bottled and selling for under or around $30.
Wine #1: Rivetto 2006 “Lirano” Nebbiolo d’Alba
This wine’s aroma is surprisingly interesting, perfumed with red rose petal, dark chocolate covered cherries, and cigar wrapper. A spin in the glass opens up a subtle earthiness as well hinting of vineyard dust, barn tones, and a lightly herbal quality.
Lots of bright, red fruit-like acidity introduces the palate. Cherries and red currants show at the core, with cacao powder, suede, and dried rose petals emerging on the edges. Very clean, precise, and dusty with firm tannins this is a nicely balanced wine that brings a surprising amount of quality for the price.
Worth Buying. 88 points.
Wine #2: Rocca Felice 2009 Nebbiolo d’Alba
Cherry, strawberry, and pomegranate drive the nose of this wine with notes of vanilla, coffee beans, and burnt caramel showing in the background. A spin in the glass also reveals a light menthol and floral tone as well.
Ripe and driven by red fruit, this is a very approachable, easy to enjoy Nebbiolo, soft, and generally free of the traditional tannic grip of this varietal. Strawberry and cherry mix with vanilla, light coffee and caramel notes show at the core with a subtle floral quality lingering in the background. This is not one of the big, bold powerhouse Nebbiolo wines of Barolo or Barbaresco, but its intense red fruit, bright acidity, and exceptional balance make it a wine that should absolutely not be missed for the price.
Worth Buying. 90 points.
Wine #3: Rivetto 2005 “Ce Vanin” Barbaresco
Raspberry and mocha notes with soft potpourri and kitchen spice tones show initially on the nose. Plump red cherry and a very faintly mossy quality hinting of forest floor and mushrooms shows in the background.
Ripe red cherry and raspberry with plenty of kitchen spice introduce the palate. Very subtle tar undertones and hints of earth and moss give the fruit some additional depth. Ripe and fresh with very pure juicy acidity and a soft spiciness, this is a somewhat downplayed, but pretty and enjoyable Barbaresco.
Worth Trying. 88 points.
Wine #4: Produttori del Barbaresco 2006 Barbaresco
Cherries, crushed red berries, and dark flower petals define this wine’s nose. A spin in the glass opens up some interesting notes of rose bush and a delicate menthol quality.
Soft, supple, velvety and dusty all at once, this wine shows a nice integration from the very start. An almost juicy acidity is countered nicely by faintly tacky tannins giving it a well balanced mouthfeel. Dried berries, cherries, and dried flower petals mix with cacao power and earth to create a fairly interesting and enjoyable Barbaresco for the price.
Worth Trying. 89 points.
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The Grapevine: What’s your favorite “got more than you paid for” wine?