Circolo Divino (CD) is a group of sommeliers
and wine buffs that gets together to taste wines. Our intimate
wine tasting group casually meets once every few months and brainstorms
about everything food and wine.
I organized a Nebbiolo Tasting at the Liverpool House restaurant
on Notre Dame Street. Liverpool house is where Ryan works as the
sommelier. As always, everyone brings a bottle of wine made from
the grape being spotlighted that evening. Once seated we were
nine tasters with nine different glasses of nebbiolo in front
of us. Pretty daunting and pretty exciting !
Nebbiolo is a grape found almost exclusively in Piemonte. Literally
nebbiolo means 'littly foggy one' and Piemonte « mountain
foot » These two words describe a little about the region.
Tucked in the north west corner of Italy, Piemonte borders France
and Switzerland. The region is full of hills and mountains. The
Langhe hills and the Monferrato hills where most of the great
wine is produced and the Alps are a big tourist attraction. During
grape harvest, the hills are blanketed with intense fog.
Nebbiolo has been cultivated since the 14th Century in Valtellina.
This valley in neighbouring Lombardia region at the foot of the
Alps is the only region where Nebbiolo is grown in Italy outside
Nebbiolo has many aliases. In Valtellina it is called Chiavennasca.
In the Langhe hills, three clones are popular. Michet, Lampia
or no clones, nebbiolo makes world class wines. Barolo, Barbaresco
and Gattinara are a few. In Lombardia the Valtellina Superiore
is a softer less tannic version of a very fine nebbiolo with often
gets less fanfare.
Once everyone was finished sniffing swirling and spitting, we
took turns discussing each one and took a stab at identifying
the wines that each of us brought. Most of us agreed there were
4 wines that were clearly above the rest in terms of quality.
I brought a wine in which i thought would surprise the group.
Turns out I was the one that was surprised. We were three that
brought the same wine ! Two were the Valtellina Sfursat 5 Stelle
from Nino Negri. A 2002 and a 2003 and one was a Valtellina from
the Sassela vineyard in the Lombardian valley from the same producer
! I thought we were going to taste Barolos and Barbarescos the
whole way but there was aslo a Gattinara, and a Nebbiolo grown
After the chairs were stacked and the glasses were put away, we
learned that nebbiolo is truly a remarkable grape variety. Its
naturally high tannin and high acidity lend itself to long aging.
It produces wines with wonderfully complex mushroom, cherry, tar
and tobacco notes. On the palate despite its tannins and elevated
acidity it can be elegant and caressing. The older 1998 Barbaresco
and the …….that we tasted was proof that Nebbiolo
on the right terroir can be truly one of life’ s great pleasures
and that makes me happy.