Obscure Nebbiolo and a poll

Boca DOC is a deeply obscure Piedmontese wine region. They claim that during the 19th century it was one of the most well-regarded wine regions in Europe, but isn’t that what all of these unrecognised wine regions say about themselves? It is certainly true that a lot of quality wine regions were blitzed by phyloxera and odium out-breaks and became neglected. However, it is also true that around that time the general improvement in communications allowed easier shipment of wine from quality areas and so those producers of indifferent dross made only to satisfy local demand suddenly lost their markets. This wine is priced like it should be the former category, I hope it is not in the latter.

For the record, this is a Nebbiolo-based wine with some Vespolina added. Had much Vespolina? No? I didn’t think so… Nice label, though, and I’m pleased they claim only 12.5% as the booze-value. I purchased this with the knowledge it was well-reviewed by a journalist who likes them buxom and alcohol-tastic so that number on the label was a pleasant surprise. This wine makes me want to ask for popular views on a character of Nebbiolo wines, so if you like internet polls then jump to the end of the note and I have a button for you to click.

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Boca 2006, Le Piane

This nose is delightfully pretty, charged with fresh fruit and a lovely floral character. Not overbearing, not heavy, just charmingly accessible. Sometimes in ‘traditional’ Italian regions winemakers feel they have to follow the traditional practise of extended oxidative ageing in barrels which, in my view, robs the wines of a lot of energy and vim – none of that nonsense here. No silliness with new oak, either, which I approve of in Nebbiolo. Quite complex too. The alcohol level really is moderate, not the slightest hint of a burn. It is so dainty, so graceful, so appealing in a small-scale manner – I love sniffing this. So I’ll have a taste. Crivens that is really tannic. Very, very tannic indeed. I don’t think it is too dry or hard for the fruit level, but so well-endowed with structure that the dissonance between the winsome little primary-school girl of a nose and the testosterone and steroid-soaked weight-lifter palate is quite extraordinary. The acidity is refreshing if a tad intense. There really is enough of that pretty fruit to keep one from getting worried about the ultimate harmony and it is not short on complexity and length. It’ll age well, I feel. I may be wildly wrong about this, but I feel this has similarities to the almost-extinct type of Burgundy that was made in a hilariously extracted but very low alcohol style. When young such wines seem hard, perhaps even acrid, and maybe a tad thin, but the very best of them can blossom into beautifully scented old lovelies if you can cellar them for long enough to be properly mature. I like this wine – it is an unconventional style yet has what it needs where it needs it in order to engage the enlightened drinker.

Which brings me to my poll. As mentioned, some Italian wines are made with long barrel-ageing – they have an orange-tinge to their colour, noticeable volatile acidity on the nose and are often rather dry on the palate. I’m rarely evasive so I’ll say that winemakers who do this to fine Nebbiolo grown on favoured sites (I’m generally talking about Barolo and Barbaresco here) are deranged as they are frittering away serious quality raw materials and stripping them of all their class and desirability. The contrast when making quality Barolo or Barbaresco is to minimalise the oxidative ageing and so retain more fruit and youthful vigour. The only problem one might have with ‘new style’ Nebbiolo is that with all that unoxidised tannin they can require one hell of a lot of cellar-time in order to reach full maturity. So, I’m interested to know what, dear readers, your views are on this: do you prefer new or old-style Nebbiolo?

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