Ronchi Langhe Nebbiolo "In Amphoris" 2018
When one considers the entire history of winemaking – all 8000 years of it, that we know of – clay pots (and before that, animal skins) have been used for far longer than our relatively recent tradition of oak. Which brings us to this clay-amphora-fermented Nebbiolo from the vaunted Ronchi estate, in Barbaresco. "Ronchi" is not only the name of the winery; it's also the name of the vineyard and one of a handful of top sites in Barbaresco. Proprietor Giancarlo Rocca lives literally atop the vineyard where his family has resided for the past four generations.
In classic Nebbiolo fashion you'll find a hint of garnet at the rim. The nose is a wonderful bouquet of sweet cherries, hibiscus, black tea, and violet candies. The palate comes in defined, with a slight tannic grip from the natural fruits, fermented in those wonderful clay amphora. The finish is so light as to be almost evanescent – this is a perfumed, delicate wine that whispers, not shouts. At the table pair with grilled shiitake mushroom risotto with generous amounts of Piedmontese robiola cheese, or with slow-grilled rosemary-crusted lamb chops braised in red wine.
From antiquity, amphora were so easy and cheap to make that they would often be smashed to pieces once they reached their destination rather than shipped back! Evidence of terra cotta amphorae has been found from Rome and the river Tiber, from the Republic of Georgia to Armenia, going back some 8000 years. By fermenting the Nebbiolo in amphora, Ronchi calls back a tradition used since the earliest days of western civilization.
Ronchi’s “In Amphoris” Nebbiolo is a ridiculously outsized bargain; indeed some of their famed Barbaresco vineyard found its way into this bottling. Astute readers may recall Ronchi’s stunning Barbaresco we offered some four months ago – it sold out in less than 24 hours. This Nebbiolo is no less stunning and comes in at a more approachable sub-$30 entry!