What I Drank Last Night
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Steenberg Nebbiolo 2009 vs. 2010

Passable imitation.

Nebbiolo might make some of the world’s great red wines when grown in its native Piedmont in the north west of Italy but does it travel? In the South African context, it is probably most closely associated with Constantia property Steenberg, which has just released its 2010 vintage. I tasted this next to the 2009:

Steenberg Nebbiolo 2010: 15.5/20
Price: R200
Malolactic fermentation in new oak, maturation in second- and third-fill for 15 months. Red and black cherries and toasty oak on the nose and palate. Good fruit concentration, bright acidity and firm, slightly angular tannins. Very youthful and lacking a little integration between fruit and oak. Drink 2013 – 2015.

Steenberg Nebbiolo 2009: 16/20
Malolactic fermentation in new oak, maturation in second- and third-fill for 12 months. Red cherry and subtle oak notes on the nose and palate. Medium bodied in structure, fresh acidity and fine tannins. Elegant and balanced. Drink now – 2015.

Comments

  1. Thanks for taking the time. Will definitely try get hold of some.

  2. Hi Dieter, total
    maceration time including 5 days cold soak pre fermentation is between 25 and 30 days, we have tried going longer but we end up with very mushy skins and high levels of solids in the wine. We normally keep it on the skins until we can see the skins go soft. Our alcohols are generally between 14-14.5%. It is crucial to get the tannins ripe, especially with Nebbiolo and unfortunately this generally happens above 14% alc. Cheers, JD

  3. Thanks for the comment JD. I imagine you’ll have to sacrifice some colour moving from 225 to 500 litres but gain perfume. I was surprised to learn that maceration periods in excess of 30 days are still quite common Italy with very sleek results. If you”re reading this, I’d be interested to know if you follow the Italians in this regard. Also what are the alcohol levels you get in Constantia since Neb under 14% seems impossible even in Italy? 

  4. Hi Dieter, I completely agree with you about the new oak part. Nebbiolo is tricky in this way, massive tannins and very pure and gentle fruit, you want something to tone down the tannin a bit but not kill the fruit and this is why the 2010 spent 3months longer in oak, majority 3rd fill to try and tame the tannins. The other tricky part about the grape is that it has a very high acidity and this accentuates the tannin as well. The 2009 and 2010 Neb went to new oak for malolactic fermentation only; this normally lasts around a month and is then racked into older wood. We have stopped doing this with the 2010 vintage, and from 2011 onwards it went strait into second- and third-fill. At this stage we are only using 225L but we will start using 500L barrels (from 2012 vintage) they are now seasoned with two vintages of Shiraz and will go to the Neb for the remainder of their time. I am very excited about using large format oak on the Neb; we have been doing so with our Shiraz for a while now with very good results.
    It has been on of the most fascinating learning curve to work with the grape and we have changed a lot of things, most of them in the vineyard and we are constantly trying new things in the cellar as well. As the Italians say, Nebbiolo is the king of wines and the wine of kings, so we try to treat it like royalty.

    Cheers,

    JD

  5. Christian, do you know whether they use barrique or tonneaux? Nebbiolo really is allergic to barrique i.m.o. and for new wood unless one’s working with exceptional fruit which might explain the integration issues. I’m always on the lookout for the Steenbergs but they’re not easy to find and I’m dying to try some New World examples. (I was in the Langhe last week so still on a Neb high.)

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