Vino: Nebbiolo Sale at Astor Wines

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In Italy, Nebbiolo is King. The sole grape in Barolo, the coveted and expensive Piedmontese wine and also the sole grape in Barbaresco, generally regarded as Barolo’s equally attractive often-overlooked younger sister.

Nebbiolo stems from the Piedmontese word Nebia (Italian for fog), which references the white film that covers the grape just before harvest. Wines made from Nebbiolo can be divine with layered, complex flavors and a textural livelihood unique to Nebbiolo. These are wonderful wines to pair with meats and zippy cheeses.

Nebbiolo wines are often very tannic when they are young. If you purchase a bottle less than five years old it would be wise to decant it for an hour or two, or even just open it a few hours before you want to drink it. With wines like these, my trick is to pour it into a carafe (here's a great one) and shake vigorously for a few minutes, then let it sit until you are ready to serve. It's a good way to really aerate the wine, help it open up and hopefully add a few years in development.

In terms of price, Nebbiolo runs the gamut, though it's often hard to find a good one for pennies. Last year, I wrote about the Produttori del Barbaresco, which is generally a good deal at $24.99, however I recently discovered that Astor has the 2004 on sale for just $15.99 a bottle, a steal!

Another delicious and reasonably priced bottle at Astor is the 2002 Nebbiolo d'Alba "Valmaggione", by Brovia ($22.99). If you feel like splurging, go for the Bruno Giacosa 2004 Nebbiolo d'Alba ($33.99). I tried a glass last night at my local wine bar and loved it.