Thursday, July 23, 2015

Got Tar? Or Just Plain Erbalicious

(originally appeared in Appellation newsletter 5/1/12)

Barolo ranks forth on my delicacy index. Big deal. But, consider this, my other three cravings all hail from Piemonte. And let me make this perfectly Teflon-clear. I’m lumping Barbaresco, Gattinara, Ghemme, Carema, and anything vaguely Langhe Rosso into the same rudderless boat. So what beats out the King of wine? Black Truffles, White Truffles from Alba, and Nutella.

Let’s get down and dirty. Shall we? My patience and pocketbook have both gotten paperclip-thin through this period of austerity. As such, I want more opulence, and yet I want more finesse. Am I pazzo or I am hedging my true ribald desire? I take the fifth.

To quell my appetite for earthy and ethereal elegance I hunt, regularly and rigorously for Langhe Nebbiolo. On a most recent hunt, I stumbled upon something that blew my mind— Erbaluna. The thing is, I’ve had their “Plain Jane” Barolo before and their single-vineyard ‘Vigna Rocche’, which I’ve always loved and reminds me of what I’d imagine the lovechild between Elio Attare’s ‘Albiona’ and Bruno Giacosa’s ‘Le Rocche Falleto’ might be like if such Daliesque dreams materialized.

Pilgrims, I tell you, Erbaluna is a mountain biker’s paradise, replete with undulating slopes, castle-topped hills, and the scent of truffles. There are approximately 10 hectares of vines on the crumbly-clayish Tortonian marl and sandstone. Brothers Andrea and Severino Oberto live in the midst of their vines. Grape-growing is in their roots and has been for over one hundred years. Andrea and Severino took over in 1985 and right from the get-go decided to go organic. That’s right while you were grooving to “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go” the Obertos were going green.

Erbaluna’s Langhe Nebbiolo smells like geraniums and tar and mushrooms. The soft side of La Morra offers approachability and great depth. To my mind, Erbaluna has much more in common with Bartolo Mascarello than with the hyper-modern Roberto Voerzio. The Langhe Nebbiolo, doesn’t smack of tannins, but is grippy. Ample choke cherries and raspberries are supported by a solid spine of acidity and tangy tannin. Serve it with braised rabbit and risotto with chestnut shavings. Try it with fontina or Gouda, and if time and weather permits, honey-dipped Gorgonzola and black truffles.

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