King of Wines, Wine of Kings

POSTED ON 14/06/2014

There are some who call barolo Italy’s red burgundy and while comparisons are odious, it’s true that both these grandest of reds rely on the marginal climate of their northerly location for their exquisite scents and subtly elusive flavours. There are reasons why the ‘wine of kings and king of wines’ isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, or glass of wine at least. First it’s pricey, secondly its taste can take acquiring, thirdly demand for the best exceeds supply. It took me a visit to Alba in Piedmont (during white truffle season, natch) to appreciate the magical aromas and flavours of barolo, made from nebbiolo grape in the Langhe Hills.

With its trademark tannins and high acidity, nebbiolo can be demanding. Yet it’s precisely these qualities that hold the grape’s haunting floral aromas and intriguingly spicy, rich dark fruit flavours together. Reasons for wanting barolo, and its neighbour, barbaresco, have been compounded by recent excellent vintages, notably 2010, the current release. With bordeaux offering poor value in recent vintages, lovers of barolo, and anyone else with an enquiring palate and deepish pocket, should take a punt on a great wine that’s still made for drinking before Asia turns it into yet another speculative product.

I was lucky enough to get along to a tasting organized by Joss Fowler of Fine and Rare Wines ( and I was deeply impressed by many of wines on show. Among the many excellent wines, names to look out for include Aldo Conterno, E.Pira, G.D.Vajra, Gramolere, Ceretto, Chiarlo, Paolo Conterno, Luigi Einaudi, Ettore Germano, Silvio Grasso, Ratti, Paolo Scavino, Oberto, Damilano and Roberto Voerzio. Fine & Rare import Oberto and Damilano themselves. Many of the others can be found, as they arrive over the coming months, on

While waiting for these gems to arrive and mature, you might try Pierri Busso’s superb 2007 Barbaresco Borgese, £31.86, Lay & Wheeler, all spicy ripe cherry and rose with most delicate cherry fruit enveloped in silky-textured tannins. On the high street, M&S has the fresh, perfumed, sweetly ripe mulberryish and relatively easy-drinking 2009 Barolo Albe, G.D.Vajra, £36 and there’s a super-fragrant nebbiolo to be found in the elegant 2009 Oddero Barolo, £23.99, Waitrose, a delightful red imbued with floral scents, spice and tar, and savoury freshness.

You don’t necessarily have to have a bottomless pocket to enjoy nebbiolo, because mini-versions made from the barolo grape within the Langhe Hills can be more affordable. The 2012 Langhe Nebbiolo, G.D. Vajra, around £21.50, Philglas & Swiggot, Hanging Ditch, Grape & Grind, with vivid fresh loganberry fruit richness, sinewy texture and lively acidity is delicious. In mini-barbaresco vein, the 2010 Sainsbury's Taste the Difference Barbaresco, £7.50, down from £10, offers aromatic, fresh, cherryish fruit with a typical lively nip of acidity and firm backbone.

Something for The WeekendSomething for The Weekend

Night In

Vaucluse Grenache-Syrah, £4.29, Morrisons

A hot contender for bargain red of the year so far, this sweetly ripe grenache / syrah Rhône blend with its moreishly juicy, brambly fruit slips down so effortlessly that it will grace barbecues, picnics and pasta dishes alike. £4.29, Morrisons.

Dinner Party

2013 Château de Flaugergues Blanc

From the sunny Mediterranean, this well-crafted white Rhône-style blend of four-fifths rolle, aka vermentino, and white grenache, is peachy and rich with a glossy succulence of texture that’s kept refreshingly dry by the vermentino’s natural acidity. £8.99, Marks & Spencer.

Splash Out

2011 Marisco A Sticky End, Marlborough Noble Sauvignon Blanc

This trophy-winning Kiwi sweetie made from Sauvignon Blanc oozes intensely luscious elderfloral-scented, sticky-sweet gooseberry and passion fruit richness etched for freshness with a gorgeously tangy, crystallised grapefruit zestiness. £15.99, half bottle, buy two = £12.74 Majestic.

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