Malabaila Rosso Castelletto Roero Riserva (Nebbiolo) 2014



Spring is coming, and one of my favorite grape varieties to drink in spring is Nebbiolo. To me, it represents all that spring is: a movement forward, an origin of creation, a season when life begins to burst upon the scene, showing both resilience and grace.

How I see Nebbiolo—with its gorgeous perfume, elegant palate and vigorous tannins—is like a metaphor for much-welcomed spring. Even better, every spring food you can imagine – olive oil poached halibut with ramps; morels with tagliatelle in a cream sauce; pureed fava bean crostini; asparagus with duck eggs and shaved black truffles—every little bit of it cries out for a sip (or seven) of Nebbiolo.

Now Nebbiolo’s most famous homeland is Barolo. And Barolo makes amazing Nebbiolo. Wwhatever this email says, don’t stop drinking Barolo. But there are at least two other locations for making great Italian Nebbiolo: Barbaresco for sure and, just north of Alba, Roero.

Never heard of Roero? Understood. It’s across the Tanaro River, just north Alba and the hallowed hills of Barolo. In Roero you trade Barolo Helevitian and Tortonian soils for a terroir that is geologically dominated by sand. Now I suppose a geologist or snooty sommelier could made a convincing argument about the superiority of Helevitian and Tortonian soils versus sand. But I can’t. What I can tell you is that Roero – Nebbiolo grown in soils with a high sand portion – gives you Nebbiolo of profuse perfume yet softer, lighter, and more ethereal plate weight. What you lose in girth, you gain in agility.

And here with Malabaila, you have what many consider to be Roero’s elite producer. This is their gorgeous riserva Nebbiolo, “Castelletto:”

It gives me visions of being a young child, prancing through the lawn sprinkler, somewhere near my grandmother’s violets and raspberry bushes, all in the spring of youthful joy. It is, of course Nebbiolo, so the palate is a somewhat stern reminder that Grandmother has a stick she uses if you pick her precious raspberries too early – but also with the reminder that tomorrow, they will be even better. There is an elegance here, a fresh sense of minerality, and also an innate Italian-ness that is unrelenting: Spring will always come, no matter what is happening in the world – and this Nebbiolo is the harbinger that hope, and life, springs eternal. Yeah. It really is that good!

I hope you join me in a bottle of this gorgeous Nebbiolo and all the spring food pairings you can dream up in your kitchen. Be bold in your pairings and joyful in life. This wine is a magnificent partner.

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