***A video guide is on the way. It’ll be ready by the time you have them in your glasses***
A Wine Decoded ‘Context & Contrast’ Wine Bite with Roberto Voerzio
I’ve been wanting to share the Piedmont Triology of Dolcetto, Barbera and Nebbiolo in a tasting pack for some time now. The perfect opportunity presented itself last week, with Voerzio’s trilogy of these wonderful varieties.
With 3 wines from the one producer, all from impeccably tended vineyards, that have no overt oak character, and, have been wisely matured pre-bottling, we have a great opportunity to see each of the varieties express itself without interference from non-grape based influences, such as oak.
Roberto Voerzio is one of the Barolo Boys! He has extreme dedication to quality, his vineyards are spectacular, his wines filled with personality & incredible purity!
The prices of his Cru Baroli and top-level Barbera are now out of reach for many.
Today Roberto shares his thoughts on each of Piedmonts main red grape varieties in the form of his, entry level wines. Wines that would qualify as the top wines of many producers.
All of the wines are from the La Morra sub-zone of Barolo. The Barbera from the Cerreto vineyard in front of the winery, and the Nebbiolo from two vineyards adjacent to Brunate. Vineyard pedigree at this level doesn’t get any better!
I had the great pleasure of spending a few hours with Roberto Voerzio tasting through his entire range at the end of 2015. He speaks little English and my Italian is average. Together we spoke enough French to open a revealing dialogue. In many ways, he reminded me of Doc. from Yarra Yering. Take a look at the footage from this rare opportunity in the Wine Bites Mag – Roberto Voerzio Winemaker Session. It covers his 2011 Baroli and 2004 Barbera and Riserva. Roberto discusses the vineyards for each wine, his viticultural and winemaking philosophies, the controversies of modernist vs traditionalist winemaking in Barolo and much more.
In the Vineyard
Constantly pushing to grow better grapes and make better wine. Seeking harmony, sophistication, purity, layers and layers of aroma and flavour. His vineyards are tended as though they were his children. Yields are minuscule. He works to drive the roots of his vines deep into the ground, and, feeds them with compost, according to each vines individual need, rather than applying chemical fertiliser. You can see the mid-row trenching and composting below. With great pride, he holds tiny bunches of Nebbiolo destined for his Barolo.
In addition to making his beautiful, sophisticated Baroli he makes stunning Dolcetto and Barbera. In fact his Barbera has been wine of the night on several occassions at Piedmonte themed wine sessions. Roberto’s top Barbera, the Barbera d’Alba Riserva Pozzo Annunziata La Morra is only available in magnum, this is how Roberto believes it should be drunk. “I’m bottling it in a magnum, because this a Barbera for an occassion.” Let’s face it magnums are more fun! Unlike many growers who replanted prime vineyards from Barbera to Nebbiolo, Roberto has kept his planting of Barbera in some of his best sites. It’s planted to a high density, with 4 canes in a goblet.
After bunch thinning early in the season and removal of the lower portion of the bunches later in the season, each vine yields around 500g per vine.
Tasting in Context & with Contrast
The Context – Red Grape Varieties of Piedmonte made by Roberto Voerzio.
The Contrast – Dolcetto vs Barbera vs Nebbiolo
What to look out for
If you really want to get your head around these wines, taste all 3 in one go
It makes it so much easier to find the differences and helps you to appreciate each wine’s qualities. Having a glass for each wine is the way to go!
If you’re up for it taste them all at once with some scaly mates. Don’t fear they’ll last for a couple of days open.
Tasting Order: This can be challenging, normally you’d taste by increasing fruit weight, and, increasing tannin. In the case of the Nebbiolo it will have the greatest amount of tannin, and, perhaps the least, apparent amount of fruit when placed next to a more immediately opulent Barbara. Putting it at each end of the spectrum!
Examine a good one closely and you’ll realise, like Burgundy, it is playing that trick of placing wild, intense flavour behind a restrained, elegant facade.
I’d recommend trying them in the following order: Dolcetto, Barbera, Nebbiolo.
Flavours: Savoury dark fruits in the Dolcetto, vibrant red fruits in the Babera, earthy, perfumed, super complex flavours in the Nebbiolo.
Acid: Highest in the Barbera, Nebbiolo in the middle, lowest in the Dolcetto. If you’re not sure what acid is, think of the difference between straight water and water with a squeeze of lemon juice in it.
Tannins & Texture: Highest in the Nebbiolo, then the Dolcetto, most supple in the Barbera.
When your tasting, think about the 5 elements below, they’ll make it simple and ensure you cover off the important aspects of good wine. We’ll be exploring these in detail in a series of posts for members only soon!
Tips for Drinking these Wines
🌡Temp: 16°C. We tend to drink reds an edge warm. There’s nothing wrong with chucking the bottles in the fridge for 15minutes to drop a few degrees off them. If they end up too cold they’ll warm up quickly in the glass.
🍷Decanting: All of these wines will benefit from being thrown in a decanter, particularly in their youth. If you’re using a Coravin or other wine preserver, pour enough into each glass to be able to try them over the course of several hours. These young reds will open up and be more expressive with a bit of time in the glass.
⏳Time: I love trying good wines stand alone, with food, and, often the next day. It gives them the chance to shine and ensures you don’t miss a good wine through impatience or fail to bring out it’s best by not marrying them to food.
🕯Cellaring: The rules of thumb for cellaring differ for each of the varieties and producer depending on their sites, quality of fruit and winemaking methods. These recommendations are specific to the three wines presented in this offer. Each of Voerzio’s wines are drinking beautifully now, a testament to a skilled maker, one who clearly understands the interplay between oxygen, fruit, and, tannin!
- Dolcetto, best from 2nd half 2018 to 5 years.
- Barbera, now more fun after 3-5 years and will go 15 years. Voerzio’s top Babera will often go 20-30 years!
- Nebbiolo, now and over the next 10 years.
🥩🍝🍕🍳Food Match: Just think Piedmontese, braises, rich tomato based ragù, truffles, beef, quail, lamb, wild boar, rabbit. Beef carpaccio with egg yolk and truffle oil! Head south and pair it with a pizza and you’ll go to a happy place. They make for excellent BBQ wines too.
The Best 2 Options for Preserving your Wine:
- Grab a Coravin wine preserver.
- Watch this video, “Stop the Wine-ocide” Kaani 2012 – My Deep Dark Secret, one of my first, about saving open bottles of wine from the drain, sorry about the quality, but, the message is still there.
Dolcetto’s, pronounced dole-CHET-toe, translates to ‘Little Sweet’.
Hit the restaurants in Alba at lunchtime and you’ll see plenty of Dolcetto on the table.
The great estates of Barolo, naturally make great Dolcetto.
Where is it grown?
It’s widely planted throughout the Langhe, the broader region within which Barbaresco and Barolo rest.
It is also grown in Liguria under the name Ormeasco, and, in the Oltrepò Pavese, where it is confusingly named, Nebbiolo or Nibièu. The only DOCG (highest Italian classification) is Dolcetto di Dogliani. The wines of Alba, home to Barolo, being classified DOC, but, perhaps the finest of all of the Barberas.
Lower in acid, ripening weeks before Barbera and Nebbiolo, allows it to be planted in higher, and, cooler sites. Getting the tannin ripe is essential.
What does it taste like?
The wines tend to have deep dark colour, opulent fruit and age well over around five years.
Dolcetto tends to have darker, black fruit characters, with an earthiness, and, fruit derived (not oak derived) woody character. Rich in mid-palate fruit, they often have an edge of rustic, fun, tannin. Many producers make Dolcetto that is a little raw, not developed enough prior to bottling to present as a complete wine.
The best like Voerzio and Cavalotto make wines that have undergone a full élévage and have an extra layer of poise. This time, tames the fruit, giving the wine enough oxygen to take the raw edge off it, balancing it with a decent layer of softer tannin.
Barbera, pronounced bar-BER-uh, was one of the great wine travesties of our time. The increasing popularity and price of Nebbiolo wines, particularly Barolo and Barbaresco, saw old plantings of Barbera in the great sites ripped out and replanted to Nebbiolo.
There have been notable exceptions, Voerzio & Vietti, being two. When charged with ordering vine material to re-plant parts of the Scarrone vineyard by his father, Luca, being a little mischievous or perhaps simply strong in his convictions, instructed the nursery to send Barbera instead of Nebbiolo. He knew the vines would look similar in their youth! As they established his father identified them as Barbera, in a rage, he contacted the nursery – “Why had they sent Barbera vines not Nebbiolo?” The nursery presented him with an order for Barbera signed by Luca!
Where is it grown?
60% of Barbera, Italy’s 3rd most planted variety resides in Piedmont. Plantings exist in Lombady and Emilia-Romagna and some southern Italian sites. The areas North and South of Monforte d’Alba, including Voerzio’s planting, producing the best Italian Barbera.
What does it taste like?
Barbera has a vibrant red colour, fresh red berry aromas and flavours, is luscious, with fresh acidity and supple tannins. As it matures it develops earth and often truffled secondary characters. It is truly a thing of beauty when left to rest in a good cellar until maturity.
On three separate occasions, devouring verticals of the Barolo from: Giacomo Conterno, Roberto Voerzio, and, Vietti, their Barberas have shone through as some of the best wines of the night!
Nebbiolo, pronounced NEH-bee-oh-low, is such a unique variety. The name is derived from the Italian word Nebbia meaning fog. To theories for the name exist. The first that it refers to the fog that the vineyards of the Langhe are often immersed in. Second that the natural bloom that covers the grapes gives them a foggy appearance. Given the latter applies to most red grapes I prefer the former! There are 4 main clones of which Nebbiolo Lampia dominates over Nebbiolo Michet, Rosé (now proven to be a different variety), and, Bolla.
Where is it grown?
Southern central and north Piemonte: Langhe including Verduno, Roero, Ast, Carema, Biella, Novara and Vercelli. It is also grown in the lower parts of the Valle d’Aosta where it is known as Picotendroi, and, Lombardy amongst others.
What does it taste like?
The ultimate case of not judging a book by its cover, Nebbiolo, at first appears pale in colour, old wines can have the appearance of rusty tap water.
Then you smell it! The aroma of most red wines is dominated by fruit characters. In contrast, Nebbiolo’s aroma is typically a mix of complex secondary aroma, earthy, tary, spice, rose, citrus peel, woody herbs like rosemary, liquorice, phenol, dark chocolate, tabacco, truffles, leather, and, dark cherry fruit, often more evident on the palate. You’ll see this difference immediately comparing the Barbera and Dolcetto in this trilogy.
Good Nebbiolo has a core of fruit running the length of your tongue, along with layers of those same secondary characters. Nebbiolo’s grape tannins give it a distinct texture, that for those who have not tried it before can seem hard, and, unyielding. Look for the quality and depth of tannin.
Achieving well balance tannin, alcohol, and, acidity makes for great Nebbiolo.
More than most other Italian wines, Nebbiolo, demands food to be at it’s best. A little fat and salt, enhance the texture and bring out the flavours.
Where in the World do Voerzio’s Wines Come From?
Voerzio’s vineyards are in the communes of La Morra and La Serra withing greater Barolo.
The 2015 Vintage
Winter brought plenty of snow creating excellent water reserves. Combined with a mild spring the season began early with even flowering and excellent fruit set. From mid-June temperatures soared, but, fortunately, there was no hydric stress. Particular attention was required for foliage
management to avoid burning, but there were absolutely no fungal or disease risks. Harvest began early with the whites in late August to mid-September, and the wines showed superb sugars and acids, which will result in appealing wines of structure.
Barbera benefitted from the warmth in reducing total acidity and the cooler nights in August and September resulted in beautifully balanced and ripe wines. The nebbiolo ripened perfectly albeit earlier than in recent years, and the impressive tannins and excellent balance will ensure elegant, age-worthy wines of good structure. Everything was in place for a truly great vintage, one to remember like just a few others in history!
The 2016 Vintage
The 2016 vintage was certainly one of the longest-lasting in recent years. Winter was mild and dry, however March saw temperatures drop with plenty of rain, providing the soil with good reserves of water but delaying flowering by around 10 days. This phenological delay continued until the end of the summer, which also began slowly but extended until the end of September. All the grapes were healthy, and cases of hail were less intense and widespread than during the previous year.
The harvest of the whites began early September and they show excellent aromatics with good acidity and structure. The red harvest immediately followed the whites with the Dolcetto, then Barbera and without a break by Nebbiolo in mid-October. 2016 was a very good vintage for Dolcetto, but even more so for Barbera, which acquired excellent levels of sugar over a sustained period of good weather, while maintaining the varietal’s typically good acidity. Overlapping in some cases with the harvest of the Barbera, the Nebbiolo followed the classic order: first Barbaresco and Nebbiolo d’Alba, then Barolo.
The late development during spring and early summer, was made up for over August and September, resulting in perfect phenolic maturity. Overall the 2016 wines show excellent balance, generous bouquets and great structure, although in some cases with lower alcohols. We can therefore expect 2016 to be a vintage, which, will be talked about for a long time to come!
Your tongue will thank you!
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