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2010 Langhe Nebbiolo, Coste, Ferdinando Principiano
Ferdinando Principiano is one of the new crop of exciting young winegrowers to farm Piedmont's Langhe hills. He graduated from Alba's Scuola Viticole Umberto-1 in 1993, joining his father Americo at the Monforte d'Alba domaine following an apprenticeship at both Giacomo Conterno & Roberto Voerzio; the best of both worlds you could say.
Initially seduced by the '90s fashion for making supped-up wines that 'guaranteed' 100 point scores in American magazines, Ferdinando changed direction in 2003 when he found that these same wines proved undrinkable, falling over with age.
Now the yields are not so low; the vineyards rich with wildlife; the roto-fermentors removed; his foot off the gas.
Boscareto, Le Coste, Pian Romualdo & Santa Anna are the key vineyards that make up the 10 hectare family estate, producing approx 35,000 bottles per annum of Dolcetto, Barbera & Nebbiolo wines. And since 2006 he has started producing approx. 150 cases/annum of Barolo from 0.5 hectare of Monforte's prized Ravera vineyard.
Nebbiolo is the grape behind the Barolo and Barbaresco wines and is hardly ever seen outside the confines of Piedmont. It takes its name from "nebbia" which is Italian for fog, a frequent phenomenon in the region.
A notoriously pernickety grape, it requires sheltered south-facing sites and performs best on the well-drained calcareous marls to the north and south of Alba in the DOCG zones of Barbaresco and Barolo.
Langhe Nebbiolo is effectively the ‘second wine’ of Piedmont’s great Barolo & Barbarescos. This DOC is the only way Langhe producers can declassify their Barolo or Barbaresco fruit or wines to make an early-drinking style. Unlike Nebbiolo d’Alba, Langhe Nebbiolo can be cut with 15% other red indigenous varieties, such as Barbera or Dolcetto.
Nebbiolo flowers early and ripens late, so a long hang time, producing high levels of sugar, acidity and tannins; the challenge being to harvest the fruit with these three elements ripe and in balance. The best Barolos and Barbarescos are perfumed with aromas of tar, rose, mint, chocolate, liquorice and truffles. They age brilliantly and the very best need ten years to show at their best.
Langhe is an all-encompassing zone lying due south of Alba and the River Tanaro in the province of Cuneo. Barolo and Barbaresco both lie within its boundaries.
Langhe is also the name of a regional DOC zone, which is used to classify wines made outside of the traditional Piemontese varietal scheme (Nebbiollo, Barbera, Cortese etc). Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc wines from the region are, for example, classified as Langhe DOC.
Effectively the ‘second wine’ of Piedmont’s great Barolo and Barbarescos, the Langhe Nebbiolo DOC is the only way Langhe producers can declassify their Barolo or Barbaresco fruit or wines to make an early-drinking style.
Langhe Nebbiolo can be released onto the market as soon as practicably possible either as a fresh, fruity wine made solely in stainless-steel, or later on having been aged in oak. The Langhe Nebbiolo DOC was created in 1994 along with a plethora of other Langhe DOC wines (so diluting their significance).
Unlike Nebbiolo d’Alba, Langhe Nebbiolo can be cut with 15 percent other red indigenous varieties, such as Barbera or Dolcetto. Leading, quality producers of Barolo and Barbaresco are more inclined to use 100 percent Nebbiolo, recognising its role as a stepping stone, using the fruit from vines that are either too young or poorly situated.
Larger producers tend to use the Langhe Nebbiolo DOC as a valve, declassifying wines destined for Barolo or Barbaresco when the market is difficult. Confusingly Langhe Nebbiolo can also be the declassified wine of Nebbiolo d’Alba.
Recommended producers: Giovanni Rosso di Davide Rosso , Mario Fontana , Ferdinando Principiano