Wine notes

Thursday 11 November 2010


The Roero zone, crowned with the highest quality designation, DOCG, as recently as 2004, may be better known for its white wine made from Arneis than for its red. It is situated on the left bank of the Tanaro river north east of Alba, its sandy soils producing a rounder, earlier accessible style of red wine than those from the calcareous clay of Barolo and Barbaresco. Hopes are that Roero will one day be mentioned in the same breath as Barolo and Barbaresco, not least because it is made from the same grape as them, Nebbiolo.

With 198 ha of Nebbiolo, Roero is tiny, even by Piemontese standards, compared with Barolo, no giant itself, with 1,826 ha, and Barbaresco's 684 ha (all data from 2009, Camera di Commercio Industriale Artigianato ed Agricoltura di Cuneo). Roero must comprise at least 95% Nebbiolo, which, at first sight, makes it less serious than the more generic Nebbiolo d'Alba, whose regulations stipulate 100% Nebbiolo. However, the latter DOC seems to function as a home for declassified Nebbiolo which may be deemed not up to scratch by Barolo and Barbaresco producers, or for fruit from outside of these two most important designations. Because Nebbiolo d'Alba comprises a much larger area than Roero proper, including communes outside Barolo and Barbaresco, it cannot entirely escape the impression of being a Nebbiolo-catch-all-appellation. There is also some overlap with communes lying in both the Roero and Nebbiolo d'Alba designations, which does not make things any clearer. Nevertheless, it looks as though Roero is set to be a very promising satelite to Barolo and Barbaresco.

Yields for Roero may not be higher than a sensible 56 hl/ha compared with 63 hl/ha for Nebbiolo d'Alba, and the wine therefore shows, at least in theory, more concentration. Any serious producer would do well to eschew the 5% of 'other grape varieties' permitted, and most do. Ageing requirements stipulate that the wine may be released only 24 months after 1 Nov of the harvest year, with a minimum of six months of that period spent in oak. Intriguingly, although the wines must be vinified and aged within the DOCG demarcated region, exceptions are made for all the communes of Barolo and Barbaresco.

The very best Roero, at least in theory, is Roero Riserva with the same permitted yields but 12 months' longer minimum ageing period. The fact that Riserva involves only prolonged ageing was often evident in the wines tasted during Nebbiolo Prima. Few Riservas seemed to have any additional extract and complexity over regular Roero. Although Roero can deliver a genuine expression of Nebbiolo, its ability to age seems less than that of its great siblings on the basis of the examples tasted and noted below - admittedly a snapshot only. The logical consequence is that Roero cannot command the kind of prices its more famous neighbours on the right bank of the Tanaro river can, but this may prove to be an advantage, as it can offer true value for money.

Each tasting note below is preceded by the name of the commune where the wine was grown. Notes are presented in alphabetical order by producer (sur)name.

2007 ROERO

Giovanni Almondo, Bric Valdiana 2007 Roero 16 Drink 2010-2015
Montà. Deep ruby of medium concentration, rim just starting to show some development. Intense Christmas pudding nose, seductive, inviting, with cherry edge. First signs of oxidation? Refreshing, if very tight palate. Fiercely tannic, seems old school, but not without charm. (WS)

Fabrizio Battaglino, Sergentin 2007 Roero 15 Drink 2010-2013
Vezza d’Alba. Medium-deep Bordeaux ruby with orange tinges. Intense and somewhat confected nose, Truccato – with makeup. Generous mouthfeel with fruitcake impression. Pastry-like, malolactic finish. Popular. (WS)

Bel Colle, Monvije 2007 Roero 16 Drink 2010-2016
Canale-Cornelino. Medium ruby with orange tinge. Sweet fruitcake with alcoholic prickle. Notes of tea leaves. Austere palate but with good cherry fruit flavours. Quite tannic, without being astringent. Has potential. (WS)

Bricco del Prete, Betlemme 2007 Roero 15 Drink 2010-2013
Priocca. Medium deep, still youthful crimson. Seems very closed, herbal. Same impression on the palate, with good acidic structure and astringent and somewhat bitter tannins. Fruit doesn’t want to show up, at least at this stage. (WS)

Ca` Rosa, Audinaggio 2007 Roero 14 Drink up
Vezza d’Alba. Deep youthful-looking ruby. Oxidised nose, also the second sample. Could it have been the oak? Very drying tannins. (WS)

Careglio 2007 Roero 15 Drink 2010-2013
Balissero d’Alba. Very pale, slightest sign of maturation. Appealing sweet nose, with dried fruit character but not without depth. Accessible, but with same dried fruit impression, and seems just a touch flabby. Bitter tannins, somewhat alcoholic too. (WS)

Chicco, Montespinato 2007 Roero 15.5 Drink 2010-2013
Castagnito. Pale crimson. Sweet dried fruit, and cherry liqueur, vegetal streak underneath? Modern fruit palate, quite upfront cherry and cherry jam. Astringent tannins, but the length makes up for that. Sweet fruit finish, ever so slightly confected. (WS)

Cornarea 2007 Roero 17 Drink 2010-2017
Canale. Medium-concentrated ruby, with beginning of orange. Classic nose of dried cherry and orange skin. Youthful too, and ever so slightly medicinal. Impressive on the palate with good acidity, and quite round fruit. Grainy, but persistent and somewhat drying tannins. Very good. (WS)

Emilio Marsaglia, Brich d'America 2007 Roero 16 Drink 2010-2016
Castellinaldo. Deep ruby, with broad rim. Very ripe, herbal, almost blackcurrant nose. Seems quite developed too, with the beginning of tar. Much more closed and restrained on the palate. Compact, drying, persistent tannins, but the initial balance is there, and restrained fragrant finish. Wait, could be interesting. (WS)

Monchiero Carbone, Sru 2007 Roero 16.5 Drink 2010-2015
Canale. Deep crimson, quite unusually so. Very attractive, sweet peppery concentrated dark fruit nose. Flirtatious, earthy, perfumed too. Sweet fruit with good depth, and just about enough acidity. Very good Nebbiolo character. Accessible now, but fierce tannins on the finish suggests further ageing, and food! (WS)

Cantina del Nebbiolo 2007 Roero 16.5 Drink 2011-2017
Monteu Roero-Vezza d’Alba. Very pale ruby. Distinct Moroccan leather and reluctantly showing candied peel. Opens up with air. Intriguing. Earthy too. Backward palate, but with good balance. Persistent but coating marzipan-like tannins. Classic. Wait. (WS)

Angelo Negro e Figli, Prachiosso 2007 Roero 15.5 Drink 2010-2014
Monteu Roero. Pale, developed ruby with orange tinge. Lifted cherry and crushed blueberry nose. Genuine but much more on the dried fruit and candied-peel side on the palate. Good balance, with clear creaminess on the finish. Tries too hard? (WS)

Maurizio Ponchione, Monfrini 2007 Roero 15 Drink 2010-2014
Govone. Medium-deep crimson with violet tinge. Sweet fruit cake and spicy oak nose. Quite soft palate, until high-tuned acidity creeps up. Seems to lack stuffing on the mid palate. (WS)

Marco Porello, Toretta 2007 Roero 16 Drink 2010-2015
Canale. Pale ruby with first signs of development. Opens with crème vanille and hints of dry oak. Much more genuine on the palate but a tad unbalanced by drying (oak?) tannins. Very young, and very good length. Popular, but has a future. (WS)

Fratelli Rabino 2007 Roero 15 Drink 2010-2013
Santa Vittoria d’Alba. Very pale, mature ruby. Dried fruit and fennel-seed nose. Much more interesting on the palate, but closes up on the drying finish. Fierce tannins. (WS)

Val del Prete, Bricco Medica 2007 Roero 15.5 Drink 2010-2014
Priocca. Concentrated, developed ruby with the beginning of orange on the rim. Sweet, heady patisserie and fruitcake, ever so slightly peppery. Mellow, sweet fruit palate. Good balance, honest, without enormous excitement. (WS)


Giovanni Almondo, Riserva 2006 Roero 17 Drink 2010-2016
Montà. Concentrated crimson. Moroccan leather with quite pure cherry notes underneath. Seems much more closed on the palate, but strikes a good balance, and with a fragrant finish. Will open up with age. (WS)

Ca` Rossa, Riserva 2006 Roero 15 Drink 2010-2014
Canale. Pale ruby with broad orange rim. Very sweet, vanilla, pastiche like almost. Needs lots of air to show some genuine nose. Quite backward with big, quite dry tannins.

Casetta, Riserva 2006 Roero 16 Drink 2010-2014
Canale. Pale ruby with broad orange-tinged rim. Contrasting signals from the glass: vegetal and sweet dried fruit. With air develops more harmoniously, with liquorice notes. Palate is at this stage quite one dimensional, with herbal and almost herb-liqueur like notes, but very long. Probably won’t get more complex with age but should be great with food. (WS)

Chicco, Valmaggiore Riserva 2006 Roero 14.5 Drink 2010-2013
Vezza. Deep ruby with very small, orange-tinged rim. Seems quite raw and vegetal at first. Palate is reluctant, but does show cherry fruit. Unripe tannins giving bitterness to the finish. (WS)

Matteo Correggia, Ròche d'Ampsej Riserva 2006 Roero 16 Drink 2010-2014
Canale. Medium deep, developed ruby. Fruitcake and dried cherry, alcoholic but appealing. Very tight and youthful palate, with lots of tannin, giving a slightly bitter impression on the finish. Rustic but with good length. (WS)

Deltetto, Braja Riserva 2006 Roero 16.5 Drink 2010-2017
Santo Stefano. Medium-deep ruby, with some orange reflexes. Aromas rise up from the glass like a cloud. Hard to pinpoint at the beginning, some lead-pencil hints. Subdued, but quite multilayered palate, with almost orange-like acidity. Interesting on the finish, with fierce, but grainy tannins. Very good length. (WS)

Malabaila di Canale, Castelletto Riserva 2006 Roero 13 Drink up
Canale. Brilliant mature medium-concentrated ruby with orange tinge. Very vegetal, dull even. Musty? Not cork. Peppery. Seems to lack fruit. (WS)

Malvirá, Trinità Riserva 2006 Roero 14.5 Drink up
Canale. Medium-deep ruby with first signs of orange. Herb liqueur, faintly recalling Jaegermeister. Palate seems muted, and acidity drops off on the finish, leaving a sense that the acidity wasn’t quite ripe. (WS)

Malvirá, Renesio Riserva 2006 Roero 14 Drink up
Canale. Very pale, Pinot Noir lookalike. Oxidative, and somewhat tired looking nose. Same impression on the palate, quite flat. Second sample shows incense, but palate remains quite flat and inexpressive. (WS)

Monchiero Carbone, Printi Riserva 2006 Roero 16 Drink 2010-2015
Canale. Concentrated ruby with orange rim. Quite complex nose of herbs, dried cherry, candied peel and leather. Minerally too. Firmly Nebbiolo with fierce tannins and somewhat closed on the finish, but it all adds up to good balance. (WS)

Lorenzo Negro, San Lorenzo Riserva 2006 Roero 15.5 Drink 2010-2013
Monteu Roero. Medium-concentrated ruby with broad orange rim. Ever so slightly vegetal dried-fruit impression. Tannins overpower the fruit on the mid palate, but aromas conquer on the finish. Ever so slightly clumsy, but likeable. (WS)

Angelo Negro e Figli, Riserva 2006 Roero 15.5 Drink 2010-2012
Monteu Roero. Quite light, orange-tinged ruby. Raisiny fruit nose, with liquorice hints. Quite full bodied and quite an open-knit palate. Drink now. (WS)

Pace, Riserva 2006 Roero 14 Drink 2010-2012
Canale. Concentrated ruby, with some signs of age on the rim. Very vegetal and looks like Brett. Palate more fruit focused. Astringent tannins. (WS)

Michele Taliano, Roche da Bossora Riserva 2006 Roero 17 Drink 2010-2016
Monta. Medium deep maturing ruby. Licorice, orange peel, laurel, and the merest suggestion of leather. Genuine stuff, with ongoing tannin core. Long finish, somewhat monolithic but will develop. (WS)