Nebbiolo, The Color Blue, Truth, Beauty & Non-Binary Wine
A long time ago a beautiful woman told me her favorite color was blue. When I asked why, she told me because it’s the only color that can be both sad and happy at the same time. In that moment I became aware that beauty, truth and love are not binary concepts but layered mysteries. They reside outside the prison of human language, “beyond good and evil.”
Real wine-great wine, like the sound of a Stradivarius, like the blue hue of Picasso’s “Old Guitarist” or like the blue eyes of my female companion, operate on a multitude of emotional levels within a mosaic of primal impulses. Great wine like great art has a beauty that waylays within the moments without words, hiding within the quantum stillness between the staccato notes of a symphony. It has a truth that operates within the moment before lips touch lips, or lips touch glass to take another sip. If it’s love, when your eyes re-open, it is as if one fell through the mantle of the universe in a single moment, immediately returning tongue tied, yet all knowing.
The great wines of the world can often inspire this experience. Sometimes great company and an average bottle can get you there too. More often than not, if I want to experience Truth, Beauty and Love in a glass, I turn to the noble Italian grape Nebbiolo. The great Nebbiolo based wines of Northern Italy such as Barolo and Barbaresco, and those of Alto-Piedmont are certainly emotional wines “beyond the cage of words,” but often expensive. While kisses are free, Nebbiolo is not. However, in the world of wine as in the tribulations of love and truth, there are always exceptions. I have found one such exception in the wines of Andrea Oberto, specifically his simple yet beautifully mysterious Langhe Nebbiolo bottling.
Andrea Oberto has run the family estate in the La Morra and Barolo since 1978, when he left his job as a truck driver after the death of his father. We carry several offerings from Andrea including his Dolcetto, Barbera and Barolos, but it’s his Langhe Nebbiolo offering that I often find myself going home with. Like the color blue, Nebbiolo can often be “sad and happy” at the same time. Often limpid in the glass it’s gritty tannin structure can be assertive and powerful. Offering an uncommon juxtaposition between sight and sip. It is neither light nor full, but layered. In the glass, Nebbiolo as Jancis Robinson notes has “the most extraordinarily haunting bouquet in which, variously, roses, autumn undergrowth, woodsmoke, violets and tar can often be found.”
Though Andrea’s 2017 Langhe Nebbiolo bottling does not have the depth of his Barolos it does radiate many of the same layered notes of violet, black cherry, tar and baker’s chocolate. Like all good Nebbiolo it expands aromatically as it opens and leaves the taster in a state of wonder. “What is that note, that aroma?” “It seems familiar, yet alien at the same time.” My eyes re-open. It’s late and everyone has gone to bed. There is a cold tranquility in the kitchen. My glass is full of Oberto Nebbiolo, and my heart is adrift in the stillness.