Barolo and Barbaresco are like Vancouver condos: they’re too pricy for first-timers, and if you try to get into them before they’re ready they’ll hurt you. They’re both made from Nebbiolo, a tannic, acidic grape variety that shows flashes of brilliance when everything goes exactly its way (the grape version of Roger Waters, basically), but takes several years in bottle before surrendering its weapons. I recently discovered a gorgeous new kind of Nebbiolo wine, however, that can be enjoyed young and commands a lesser (although still kinda premium) price tag: Roero Rosso.
What’s a Roero, you ask? Well, although it sounds like a drunk guy trying to order his favourite flavour of Blizzard, Roero is not a what, but a where. Roero is a region north of Barolo in Piedmont, Italy, named after a family of wealthy bankers who ran the Piemontese show in the Middle Ages. Geographically distinct from the rest of the area (it’s a UNESCO Heritage site), Roero sits in what used to be an ancient sea, boasting the limestone and sandy soils that would logically form underwater.
I’ve never heard of Roero wines, you say? Well until a few months ago, I had only heard of its white wine, beautiful Roero Arneis, for which the area is most famous, and which comprises over 70% of their production. They keep the rarest, sandiest, south-facing hills for red Nebbiolo, however, and the small amount of Roero Rosso that they produce is stunningly unique.
What’s Roero Rosso like, you ask? Its own thing, a new idea. Best way to describe it is to leave a Barbaresco and a good Beaujolais in a room overnight on a full moon with D’Angelo playing. The beautiful babies they make will be structured like Piedmont wines (although waaaay earlier drinking than Barolo), with loads of fragrant juice and sassy spice on the nose. That’s Roero in a nutshell: properly raised but dangerously fun, like the wayward sibling from a rich family who took off while everyone else was in boarding school and came back knowing how to play the sitar and kill a man using only three fingers.
Did you find a Roero, you ask? I found the BEST one. Giacomo Vico’s Roero Rosso Riserva 2012.
Giacomo started the winery in 1890, and his grandson Corrado runs it today, they make a few regional wines like Barolo and Barbara d’Alba, but it’s this Roero that floored me. Outstanding depth on the nose and finish (I could smell this for hours) without being too important to drink lots of. Your Gateway to Nebbiolo-land awaits.
95 points Decanter, $59.99 +tax
Written by Jordan Carrier, Vintage Room Consultant at Everything Wine – River District.