Chronicling Nebbiolo Prima 2020

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By The Glass

THE professional team of sommeliers that served our blind tasting. — SHERWIN A. LAO

Second of two parts

ALBA, Italy — I came back here to Alba to attend my 4th Nebbiolo Prima in the last six years. Organized by the Union of Alba Wine Producers or Albeisa, Nebbiolo Prima is an annual event purely created for wine journalists and influencers to preview newly released vintages of wines from the DOCG regions of Barolo, Barbaresco, and Roero — all made from Piedmont’s proudest indigenous Nebbiolo grapes. For those who are curious about what participants do during these four days, I chronicled my activities.

9 — 10 a.m.: Talk on Climate Change and Media Influence

Our speaker was Mauro Buonocore, head of the Communication and Media Office at CMCC Foundation (Euro-Mediterranean Center on Climate Change). He discussed the correct dissemination of the scientific research outcomes on climate change, and touched on sensitive issues regarding the reporting of media and the public opinion. He cited some fake news and spurious pictures including those from the Australian bush fires. While the topic was timely, it was sadly totally irrelevant to the wine journalists. For this, the organizers of Nebbiolo Prima, Albeisa, issued an apology for adding this talk to the list of Nebbiolo Prima activities for participants

10 a.m. — 2 p.m.: Blind Tasting. Seventy-nine wines total: All from Barolo 2016

This was one day I took slightly more time, as we went through all Barolos, but these were from the communes of La Morra, Cherasco, Novello and Verduno. I had a few re-tastings only because some of the wines I tasted were incredibly good, and I want to make sure I was right in my first whiff and quaff. I finished these 79 wines in two hours and four minutes, averaging 94 seconds per wine.

3 — 5:30 p.m.: Trip to Cherasco

We were taken on a short 30-minute ride to this historic town. Cherasco is a small municipality in the Province of Cuneo. The municipality is only 81 square kilometers in area and has a population of just over 9,000 people. This small town has had many historic moments, including in 1796 when then French general Napoleon Bonaparte stayed there to sign the armistice between Napoleonic and Piedmontese troops. This town has much baroque architecture still intact and is a hub for art and culture. We had great stroll despite near freezing 3-5°C temperature. We visited the Palazzo Salmatoris, the Arco del Belvedere, the Museo Adriani, and a few old churches and cathedrals. All of these landmarks are just within half kilometer of each other. I even got to buy some chocolates to bring back as gifts, from a local chocolatier store named Barbero.

7:30 — 10:30 p.m.: Dinner and Meet & Greet with Wine Producers at Campamac Osteria

Campamac Osteria is the most beautiful (aesthetically speaking) restaurant I have seen in my past five visits to the Langhe. As you enter the restaurant you will see two open kitchens with chefs in action, making fresh pastries or cooking the main courses. You will also pass through multiple large chillers showcasing choice slabs of meat, and a huge cheese trolley before you are led to your tables. There are also three wine cellars in the Campamac which sadly I was not able to check out because of the very busy dinner crowd. Once more, the food was excellent from appetizer to dessert, with the main course — Cubo di Passona in Crosta di Pane e Nocciole (hazelnut-crusted cube of Fassona beef) — being simply surreal. We had some great single vineyard Barolos and Barbarescos opened for to us by very affable and engaging wine producers.

No seminar or activity in both morning and afternoon. A more relaxing day for all the journalists in attendance.

10 a.m. — 2 p.m.: Blind Tasting. Seventy-three wines total: All again from Barolo 2016

This time, the Barolos came from the communes of Barolo (of same commune name), Castiglione Falletto, and Monforte d’Alba Cherasco, Novello, and Verduno. I was already at peak form that morning and I finished these 73 wines in one hour and 40 minutes, averaging 82 seconds per glass.

I just want to mention there is no right formula for tasting, and neither fast nor prolonged assessment can be considered better. Nebbiolo wines are even trickier, as Nebbiolos are quite rustic when young, and thus the DOCG requires aging periods for these wines prior to release. I just stick with what works for me. At the end of the day, that is why there were several wine critics and tasters invited, each and every rating can vary, but the real good wines will always come out shining regardless of who tastes them.

I skipped the dinner as I was quite “wined out” already and wanted some private time to walk around the beautiful city of Alba. I was also in search of food and souvenir items to bring back home to Manila. Overall, I did tastings for 350 wines (303 blind and 47 old vintages) and enjoyed countless glasses of wine at every lunch and dinner. I cannot think of a better way of combating the cold weather.

Thank you to Beatrice Vianello and Anna Beatrice of SOPEXA, and to Albeisa for the kindest invite.

The author is a member of the UK-based Circle of Wine Writers (CWW). For comments, inquiries, wine event coverage, wine consultancy and other wine related concerns, e-mail me at