Giovanni Almondo; Accessible Nebbiolo

About the grape...
For many, the Italian Nebbiolo grape sits only amongst kings. Its famous wines from Barolo demonstrate the most masculine renditions, although it shines in other styles equally in quality. Unfortunately, the nature of the grape is extremely fickle. It is poorly adaptive, late ripening, disease vulnerable, and requires extensive maintenance and expertise. In short, it is very difficult and expensive to grow. You are beginning to see the many parallels to Pinot Noir. Unlike Pinot, Nebb's growing region is almost exclusively contained within its native Piedmont, with only a handful of producers around the new-world. Even in Piedmont it accounts for only 3% of total vine growth. The Calgary availability is somewhat scarce, especially under $30. Nevertheless, its lovers persevere. These complex wines are amongst the most special in the world. Acid, tannin, and ABV are always high, lending to excellent aging potential and a rather 'serious' posture in drinking. Typical flavour characteristics include florals, wild red fruits, wood, terroir, truffle, tar, and liquorice.
Wiki


The producer...
Domenico Almondo began a 2 hectare vinery 1981, named after his father Giovanni. Now the family owns and produces from a modest 15 hectare estate within the town of Mont√† d'Alba. This territory falls within the geography of the Roero DOCG. They produce 8 different bottling's, 3 of the Nebbiolo grape.


The region...
Roero is a less known DOCG of Piedmont, Italy. It occupies a relatively large area directly north of the city of Alba in the north-east corner of the Province of Cuneo. With the well known DOCG's of Barolo to the west of Alba and Barbaresco to the north-east, the Roero area essentially connects the two, spanning across the north of Alba.


Coming to the wine...
I try to visit most small wine shops that pop up in Calgary, and Nebbiolo around $30 is always amongst the first items to be searched out. So I was very excited to walk into Wine Ink on 17th Ave and 9th St, immediately greeted by Tim with a sparkling taste for us, and moments later find these two bottle's from Almondo.

Both wines are made from the Lampia clone. Both experience an 8-10 day skin-on maceration followed by 12 months in French oak. The vineyards are located adjacently on south exposed 30% gradient slopes of mostly sand and silt. Both average 80q/Ha. On paper the main difference is the Roero placed in new oak, whereas the Langhe stores in second-use barriques.

The 2008 Langhe...

One of the more quaffable Nebbiolo stylings around, designed for consumption in its youth. It's well structured and layered, presence and presentation. On the nose I found racy red and blue fruits with a bottom end of arid Italian countryside. It shows great balance on the palate. Moderate acid leads into a wholesome mid-full body. Fine and slightly gripping tannin conclude in a persistent, ultra dry finish with earthy secondaries.

A very well made, unique wine. It accomplishes exactly what it aspires; It retains trademark nebbiolo character, especially in the bouquet, but excludes most of the darker tertiary notes typical to the varietal. You can find distinct impression of its arid, silty environment through the fruit. It is easy to drink, delicious, and with intrigue to last multiple bottles. At $24, its a steal of a deal, and a long term favorites of mine. It might however, remain for people in the know of the grape, there is still an element of 'acquired taste' involved. It is nebbiolo being itself, showing its more easy-going side. A bottle you can readily open without taking things too seriously. This 2008 needs to open up but is definitely ready to drink now. We drank with a plate of firm sheep's cheese and fresh raspberry's. The pairing was spot on and it just drank beautifully. A great food wine in general, I'd vote it apt to pair with a diversity of soft to firm cheeses, white and red meats.


The 2007 Roero...

This wine certainly took grip with us. Red fruits explode from the glass as it's poured. It has a big, full bouquet covering a wide span of dry red fruits from candied cherry to red current to salty prunes. The palate follows suit. Higher in acid and tannin than its Langhe counterpart. The result is an aggressive, full body, with fruit focus. It is an engaging experience that is still very approachable, especially stood next to many others of its kind. A rustic background feel sums up it only earthy quality. I would describe it as an amazing wine with more focus on finesse and direction than complexity.

We paired it with a wild mushroom risotto (the go-to Nebbiolo pairing). We roasted shiitake and crimini and used good veal stock for richness. A drizzle of truffle of course. The pairing was fantastic but we quickly realized this wine is apt to pair with a variety of more vibrant flavours. Its robust and very refined profile is certainly satisfying and could serve as a great approach to the fruit and body style of the grape. This 07 opened up nicely in Burgundy stems and will continue to age well, although ready to drink now.

Its great to see quality fruit forward wines from this infamous grape that are genuinely reflective as well. Both are available at Wine Ink on 17ave, and Tim tells me he will continue to stock them. $23.95 for the Langhe, $28.45 for the Roero. Very, very worth your time.


July 2011