What a difference a riverbank can make, huh? Even though Piedmont’s barely known Roero growing zone is just across the Tanaro river from the big-named, ultra-prestigious Nebbiolo appellations like Barolo and Barbaresco, the wines made from one of Piedmont’s, Italy’s, and indeed the world’s greatest red wine grapes are nothing like these blockbuster wines that carry huge price tags, and I’d argue, when all things are taken under consideration, they’re better (GASP!).
The southeastern side of the Tanaro that contains Barolo and Barbaresco is made up of softly folded, undulating hills comprised of predominantly limestone and clay soils. These “heavier” soils indeed produce bigger, more powerful, and “heavier” wines that can go punch for punch with lots of New World Cabernets and Syrahs, and they carry price tags that can easily reach three digits. They are undoubtedly extremely long-lived, deep, complex, and ultimately inimitable, but they’re also often overblown, overpriced, require many years to show their best qualities, and only pair well with just a few, often esoteric and expensive foods like duck and truffles.
Roero is another thing altogether. Just as hilly as the Barolo and Barbaresco zones, the Roero’s topography is dotted with much steeper, pointier hills dominated by lighter, sand-rich soils whose exceptional drainage and lack of organic material make for brighter, fresher, and far more versatile wines than come from the opposite bank. Do they have the ultimate “oomph” and sophistication of Barolo and Barbaresco? No. But I’d liken preferring these two unequivocally great wines over the more populist Roero Nebbiolo to a day in and day out diet of caviar, Armani, and Ferraris rather than one of pasta, a simple Borsalino woolen cap, and a Vespa…
To match this oh-so-much-easier to pair Nebbiolo wine with the very odd-sounding but undoubtedly traditional Springy first course of risotto with strawberries(!), shallots, and chives, followed by a whole chicken roasted with herbs and potatoes.
Giovanni Almondo Roero 2010
Very vibrant, translucent, slightly brownish ruby color. Affable and fragrant nose of raspberry, watermelon, sliced tomato, toasted bread, wood smoke, brown sugar, licorice, forest floor, cinnamon and lilac powder. The palate is medium in body with tall but fine tannins, tart acidity, and an overall balanced and elegant character and a sinewy mouth feel, with vivacious flavors of cranberry, red currants, cocoa, juniper, and dried mint. Very dry, expressive, and charmingly austere finish.