Second City Sommeliers

leaders in Chicago's wine scene

Week 12/21/2015

Nebbi - yolo!

Baroli - Everything you probably didn't know 

Disciphering Nebbiolo Tannins – 

Fun Shit about Nebbiolo:
First written record was 1266 “Nibiol” – it wasn’t until the 19th century that we called it “nebbia” for the fog referring to the whitish bloom that covers its berries at the end of the season. It was ALWAYS made sweet until Camillo Benzo invited (depending on who you believe) a French enologist Louis Oudart or in the other version Italian enologist Paolo Francesco Staglieno, either way both were connected to Camillo and the result was a “finalized” fermentation with no RS.  
So what’s the difference between Picotendro and Picoutener? Well Pico-tendro is Italian and Picoutener is French. Easy ☺ 
Attack of the Clones – for all you Star Wars fans…

Lampia, Michet, Rose and Bolla. Bolla is the least important. Rose is now its own thing. Lampia the most planted clone and the one used for certified clonal selection. Michet is the same as Lampia but infected with GFLV (Grapevine Fan Leaf Virus) which decreases yield (another example of how virus prone vineyards can actually make some decent wines but this is arguable.) 

Varietal Marker = Roses and Violets:

Probably originating from monoterpenes and norisoprenoids. The presence of these markers depends on harvest; Nebbiolo’s floral aromas are at their peak just before phenolic ripeness, overripe Nebbi loses them. 

Why so Tannic?
“Until 1985 we never reduced yields”.  
So if you don’t control yields, then you probably have vineyards over-producing clusters that all don’t see phoenolic maturity. Under-ripe Nebbiolo grapes have less color, less ripe skin tannins and more easily extractable seed tannins…and of course would be more acidic. So then traditional Barolo producers would extend the maceration giving a less than optimal proportion of ripe skin tannins even more seed tannin with their harsh–tasting galloyl esters attached. The good skin tannins would react with a part of the anthocyanin to form a stable polymeric pigmented tannin that provides a wine with some color and softness in mouth-feel. But Nebbiolo’s anthocyanins don’t contain large proportions of stable colorant malvidin-3-glycosides and are instead largely made up of easily oxidized peonidin and thus providing less stable color. (which is why “traditional” baroli’s are pale in color and easily oxidative. (An example of a strong malvidin anthocyanin grape is syrah.) On top of that stuff, Polymeric pigmented tannins will partially stick to solids in wine and fall out after racking – that is why the total of tannins doesn’t augment anymore from a certain point on, during an extended maceration as in “traditional” Barolo but why the balance shifts clearly to seed tannins instead of polymeric skin tannins. And by then, the lack of free anthocyanins (the ones that have not already bonded with tannins and / or don’t stick to solids) means that the later extracted seed tannins no loner have many polymerization partners and basically remain catechin polymers that need LOTS of time and oxygen to become softer. Also the high-acidity of under-ripe Nebbiolo reinforces the astringency of its tannins….HENCE – in theory – the necessity to age traditional Barolo in large oak casks for many years before releasing it on the market. And what did the Barolo DOCG adopt….A mandatory aging regime for Nebbiolo 38 or 62 months(Normale/Riserva) with 18 in wood. “Form follows Function” 

What is “Modern”? 
Scavino, Sandrone, Voerzio studied their game and started to: shorten the maceration period (from weeks to days) fermenting at lower temperatures (basically extracting more aroma and color) adding in better skin-tannin through punch-downs, and later with the aid of rotary fermenters. This gave us more anthcyanin, fruitier aromas and less astringent tannins, which by barrique aging became even more soft. (yes – micro-ox promotes swift polymerization of anthocyanins = better fixation of color through more pigmented tannins) The DOWNSIDE was that producers started to experiment with a lot of new oak and simply drowned the Rose / Violet aromas which make Nebbiolo so great. Then came soil work, green harvesting, clonal selecion and we’ve got a movement people!

Hey – Dig It! Its only 3 things…calcareous marls, lime rich sand, silt & clay.  
The geology of Langhe was formed during the Miocene era with additions in either the Tortonian stage – 11-7 million years ago / Serravallien stage – 14-11 million years ago or Langhien stage – 16-14 million years ago. (Serravallien and Langhien are commonly called Helvetian.) 
Where they exsist? Marni di Sant’ Agata Fossili = Younger & Blue-grey Marls mostly in the western and northern parts of Barolo and Barbaresco Neive. Formazione di Lequio = Older & runs from Treiso in Barbaresco down to Serralunga and parts of Monforte d’Alba. Arenarie di Diano d’Alba = small area where Diano sandstone has come to the surface notably in Castiglione Falletto and parts of Bussia. 

Fun New Shit
Barolo di Barolo now states that all the fruit must come from the commune of Barolo. It also bans the use of more than one Cru name on a label. This affects Bartolo Mascarello who makes one wine that happens to come from four crus: Cannubi, San Lorenzo, Rue, and Rocche in La Morra. Giuseppe Rinaldi bottles Brunate-Le Coste and Cannubi Ra-vera obviously can’t do that moving forward ☹