image The Nebbiolo that saved my nose


I have good news. My nose isn’t broken after all. And I owe it all to the bottle of Nebbiolo we ordered at one our favorite Italian restaurants.

The nose was incredible ― the wine’s, not mine. To take a deep breath into a glass of Nebbiolo is to sink into a bed of roses. That soft floral perfume was unmistakable. I rarely use the word “lovely” because I feel it makes me sound like an old English grandmother (not that there’s anything wrong with old English grandmothers; it’s just that I’m not one). In this case though, I’m going to use it with wild abandon, guns a-blazing. The nose was lovely.

The lovely bouquet of roses revealed earthy notes that struck me as stones or clay or some kind of tarmac, before opening up to leather mixed in with woody cigar (is there such a thing?). Light-bodied, bright with fresh acidity and soft tannins. The wine was delicious when paired with red curls of air-dried prosciutto ham on balls of mozzarella, not to mention the pizza that came right after. Hands down, the best three hours of my week.

Nebbiolo is a grape often likened to Pinot Noir. Not because of its nose or flavor profile, but because they’re both impossibly finicky grapes. Nebbiolo is known to be even more difficult to cultivate than Pinot Noir, which is probably why few have ever managed to plant it anywhere other than in Piedmont. Intrepid winemakers in California, Mexico, and probably a few other places are trying though.

Spanna is what they traditionally call the Nebbiolo grape in the northernmost part of Piedmont, hence the name that appears on this bottle’s charming but confusing old-school label. This wine comes from Lessona, the tiniest appellation in Piedmont. The best grapes are used to make the Lessona wine, and the remainder made into Spanna. Here, the typically austere Nebbiolo is blended with small amounts of local varietals for their lighter and fruitier characteristics.

Lessona has long been considered among Italy’s forgotten appellations. Because of its tiny size and tiny production, this is not a wine you will easily find. I’m going to keep my eyes open for it though. More good things are about to come from this tiny appellation.



  1. Nice post about an under-appreciated wine.

    Sorry if my last comment came across as heavy-handed and pedantic. It was meant to be helpful, but I fear it didn’t sound like that.

    Keep up your good efforts: What you’re trying to do is very important.

    Liked by 1 person

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