Cultivated today in different wine regions of the world, including Australia, the traditional bastions of nebbiolo are confined to the hilly and mountainous areas of north-western Italy (Piedmont, the Vallé d’Aosta and Lombardy), where wines with a lighter hue and an alluring perfume of cherry, orange rind and sandalwood are belied by their prodigious capacity to age, founded on a spindle of tannin and marked acidity.
Nebbiolo performs best on low-fertile, clay-and-limestone soils interspersed with sand. The grape flowers early but ripens late, demanding sunshine and warmth without excessive heat.
Italian migration to Australian shores, a cross-cultural exchange of information and prowess, and a culinary maturity that requires wine styles to meld effortlessly across the table, rather than scream with bombast, has seen an inexorable growth in the popularity of nebbiolo.
While far from comprehensive, among my favourite Australian expressions are Pizzini’s standard cuvee from the King Valley, resembling a more traditional Piedmontese wine, with a gentle garnet segueing to notes of mulch, wood-smoke and sour cherry meshed to the breadth of larger format oak. Their Coronamento bottling imparts greater concentration and the polish of new oak.
Luke Lambert’s Nebbiolo from the Upper Yarra Valley evinces structural authority across bright aromas of cherry pip, tar and briar. It is arguably the country’s benchmark.
Meanwhile, a minimal hand lights up the L.A.S. Vino Nebbiolo from Margaret River. Mid-weighted and exotically perfumed, this gorgeous wine is crafted with gentle extraction across whole berries to impart aromas of rosewater and cherry cola that glide across a pinot-esque frame.
In a different guise, I recently cited rosé as among Australia’s more exciting styles of wine, with Brokenwood’s febrile Nebbiolo Rosé leading the charge: a zesty herbal plume meets musk, cherry and rose. Kerpow!
Finally, Owen Latta’s moreish Nebbiolo from the Landsbrough Valley vineyard emotes a darker, ferrous guise reflective of its Pyrenees origins. There is a giddy swirl of energy, too, given that it has zero sulphur, complemented by a deft hand and plenty of carbonic crunch.