Second's best Pinot noir's beguiling and seductive personality captivates wine lovers. The grape, however, has a strong rival.
Master of wine Jancis Robinson writes, "If pinot noir is the world's most tantalising grape, nebbiolo runs a close second - for very similar reasons." Both are thin-skinned varieties that produce ruby, translucent wines that are highly aromatic and perfumed. They are also delicate and capricious, difficult to grow and prone to disease. They are sensitive to their soil type, and the wines they produce often reflect the personality of the soil and terroir.
Andrea Sottimano is winemaker at the Sottimano winery in Italy's Piemonte region. Adept at multitasking, Sottimano also undertakes the job of marketing as he is the only family member who speaks English.
In terms of winemaking Sottimano says his approach to nebbiolo is traditional but he "steals something from Burgundy", a region in France known for its pinot noirs. His "almost biodynamic" viticultural methods are inspired by those of Burgundy winemakers. His role model is the legendary Bruno Giacosa, a producer whose wines he describes as the Domaine Romanée-Conti of Piemonte. Sottimano adopts both modern and traditional approaches to vinification, practicing risky winemaking with minimal intervention and no filtration or fining. Sulphur is added only at the bottling stage.
Sottimano Barbera d'Alba Superiore Pairolero 2012
Sottimano doesn't make just nebbiolo, it uses other grapes, including this barbera, a blend of fruit from two vineyards, Basarin and San Cristoforo. Fermentation starts naturally with indigenous yeast. Wines are aged in new and used French barriques for 15 to 16 months.
Black cherry with spicy, herbal notes. Rich concentrated palate with juicy fruit. Balanced with crisp acidity and fine tannins. Elegant and finishing quite long. HK$248
Sottimano Langhe Nebbiolo 2013
Nebbiolo from young vines does not possess the complexity and depth of character that more mature vines produce. The fruit from the 14- to 15-year-old vines is declassified and destined for Langhe nebbiolo. Aged in new and used French barriques for 14 to 16 months, these wines are approachable and ready to drink in their youth.
Savoury, sour cherry notes, with floral hints. Full bodied, with firm underlying tannins complemented by sweet fruit and refreshing acidity. Perfect for drinking and a good value nebbiolo. HK$205
Sottimano Barbaresco Pajoré 2012
The nuances of different soil types may be expressed in Barbaresco wines. Sottimano believes that the sandy soils of the Fausoni vineyard impart a more elegant and lighter structure to wine while the clay soils of Cotta produce wines that are powerful and more austere in structure. The Treiso vineyard, where this is made, is composed of predominantly limestone soil, which adds complexity and mineral notes to the wine. The nebbiolo vines are 50 to 60 years old, yielding rich and concentrated fruit.
Mineral, red cherry, spicy notes, with hints of violet. Elegant and harmonious with velvety tannins, paired with some spicy oak notes in the background. Finishing very long. HK$588
The wines are available from Watson's Wine www.watsonswine.com