The best of Nebbiolo Prima


Nebbiolo Prima is an extraordinary event in the world of wine. It is a week-long annual event held in the pivotal Piedmontese town of Alba, where producers of Barolo, Barbaresco and Roero nebbiolo voluntarily put their new-release vintages in front of the world’s wine press. The tasting is blind and exhaustive.

I’ve attended five times in the past seven years but this year was the most testing. I tasted more than 100 wines each morning for five days. These are new release Barolo (2012 vintage), Barbaresco (2013) and Roero (2013), as well as older Riservas from the same appellations.

After lunch, writers either visited one or two wineries or participated in another trade tasting at which extra wines, including older vintages, were served. (This year the Monday afternoon exhibition featured the 10-year-old 2006 vintage, and on another day I attended an exhibition mounted by a group of female winemakers). I probably averaged at least 150 wines a day. My 532 tasting notes are newly posted. I doubt if any of the 70-odd wine writers and bloggers attending, from all over the globe, has published as many reviews from this event.

Exhibitors enter their wines voluntarily, and several of the highest-profile producers never enter – people like Giacomo Conterno, Aldo Conterno, Bruno Giacosa, Elio Altare, Gaia, Domenico Clerico and Roberto Voerzio have never entered in the years I’ve attended. Several of the elite do enter their wines, however: the likes of Vietti, Paolo Scavino, G.D. Vajra, Massolino, Giovanni Rosso and Bartolo Mascarello.

The dozens of other producers include many well-known names and just as many that are little known outside the Langhe. There’s always a number I have never heard of before. I’d estimate about 150 wineries are involved.

The best wines I tasted came from the following producers.

Day 1

Barolo 2012. Wines from the Serralunga and Novello communes, or multi-commune. Serralunga streeted the field.

Top wines: Massolino (tastings), Pio Cesare (tastings), Palladino (tastings), Claudio Alaro (tastings), Le Strette (tastings), Vietti (tastings), S.S. Gillardi (tasting), Giovanni Rosso (twice – tastings), Giovanni Sordo (tastings), Azelia (tastings), Ascheri (tasting), G.D. Vajra (tastings), Le Ginestre (tasting), Cascina Bongiovanni (tasting), Tenuta Cucco (tasting), Cascina Luisin (tasting), Ettore Germano (twice – tastings). Best wines: Cantina del Nebbiolo (tasting) and Fontanafredda (tasting), both 96 points.

Day 2

Barbaresco 2013. Barbaresco didn’t have anywhere near as many high rating wines as Barolo, even taking its smaller area into account.

Top wines: Albino Rocca (tasting), Marco & Vittorio Adriano (tasting), Antichi Poderi dei Gallina di Marco Francone (tasting), Montalbera (tasting), Paitin (tastings), La Ganghija (tasting), Pasquale Pelissero (tastings), Produttori del Barbaresco (tasting), Vigneti Luigi Oddero (tasting). Best wine: Rombone, 96 points (tasting).

Day 3

Barolo 2012. La Morra, Monforte d’Alba and Castiglione Falletto. The Monforte d’Alba commune was impressively strong.

Top wines: Cascina Ballarin (tasting), Ciabot Berton (tasting), Cascina Adelaide (tastings), Dosio (tastings), Massolino (tastings), Boroli (tastings), Deltetto (tastings), Mauro Veglio (tastings), Giovanni Sordo (tastings), Bartolo Mascarello (tasting), Andrea Oberto (tastings), Giacomo Fenocchio (tastings), Gianfranco Alessandria (tastings), Batasiolo (tastings), Cavallotto (tasting), Broccardo (tastings), Cantine Sant’Agata (tasting), Amalia Cascina in Langa (tastings), La Fusina di L & M Abbona (tasting), Pecchenino (tasting), Giovanni Rocca (tasting). Best wine: Vietti Brunate, 97 points (tasting).

Day 4

Barolo 2012 from the Barolo and Verduno communes; also Roero Nebbiolo 2013 and Roero Riserva 2012.

Top wines: Alessandria Fratelli (tastings), E. Pira & Figli (tasting), Sylla Sebaste (tastings), Bric Cenciurio (twice – tastings), Marchesi di Barolo (tastings), G.D. Vajra Bricco Delle Viole (tasting), Barale Fratelli (tastings), Giacomo Borgogno (tastings), Angelo Germano (tastings). Best wines: Cavalier Bartolomeo San Lorenzo (tasting) and Dosio Fossati (tasting), both 96 points.

Day 5

Riservas, both Barolo (2010) and Barbaresco* (2011). The Barolo Riservas were not as highly rated as the regular Barolos. Too many had lost their freshness.

Top wines: Albino Rocca* (tasting), Rizzi* (tasting), Paolo Scavino (tasting), Ettore Germano (tasting), Castello di Verduno Riserva Rabaja* (tasting), Fontanafredda (tasting).

Best wine: Castello di Verduno Barolo Riserva Monvigliero, 96 points (tasting). It’s the best producer in the Verduno commune, my top riserva, and a consistent winery which deserves the highest accolades.

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