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Still Essential: The Wines of Oddero

The Historic Family Winery of La Morra Continues Its Excellence

6 min read

A recent survey showed that, among Opening a Bottle’s regular readers, the lists of the Essential Winemakers of Italy and France are the most appreciated part of Opening a Bottle. (Thank God, because they are a lot of work). I am delighted that so many of you feel this way. To me, being a smart wine shopper means knowing who the most consistent and best value producers are for a given region — and that’s what the Essential Winemakers lists are about. Not vintage charts, not 100-point scores … rather: who is consistent, compelling and worth the money.

Keeping such a list updated has become paramount to my mission at Opening a Bottle, particularly for Italy — a nation I have come to know better than any other (including my own) when it comes to wine.

But that also means regularly reassessing every winery I list — something I do quite a bit behind the scenes, but rarely write about.

This year, I’ve de-listed a few wineries from the Italian list, not because their wines diminished in quality necessarily, but because I found different producers who are more compelling to me. And so, Barbacàn joined ARPEPE to represent Valtellina, replacing Nino Negri in the process. Despite smaller production, Barbacàn’s wines just seemed more soulful and vital to me. The same can be said for Villa Russiz taking the place of Russiz Superiore and Marco Felluga.

These are tough calls, and I’d rather not dwell too much on de-listing a winery. They work hard and they do great work, but I want to have a balanced list that is representative of — what I find to be — the most dynamic and layered wine nation in the world.

Few places in Italy are more competitive in this regard than the Langhe of Piedmont. Across the region, producers meet impossibly high standards year after year, and their landmark grape variety — Nebbiolo — often doesn’t reveal its true character until at least 10 years after vintage. Assessing this landscape involves a lot of give and take: What separates one estate from the next can often be the tiniest detail.

Essential Winemaker of Italy by Opening a Bottle

This week, Pietro Oddero of the esteemed La Morra-based winery Oddero came to Denver as the guest of honor for a winemaker dinner at Barolo Grill. I visited the estate and met with his cousin, Isabella, in the fall of 2017, listing them on the Essential Winemakers of Italy page for the first time shortly after that. It was one of the most impressive estate visits I’ve encountered, and so I was quietly optimistic that this tasting would show their wines just as well as then.

Six of their 13 wines were poured Tuesday night, and there is no doubt in my mind that they are still essential. Below are notes on three of the most exquisite wines: the Barbera d’Alba Superiore, the Barbaresco Gallina and the Barolo Villero. We also sampled the 2016 Oddero Langhe Riesling ( ★★★★ 1/2) which paired wonderfully with a smoky hamachi dish; the 2015 Oddero Barolo (★★★★ 1/2), the classico blend from across the appellation; and the 2007 Oddero Barolo Bussia Soprana Vigna Mondoca (★★★★ 3/4), the last vintage in which Oddero released the wine as a non-riserva. From the 2008 vintage on, the Bussia will be held back for 10 years and labeled as a Riserva.

It certainly helped that the team at Barolo Grill — possibly the best restaurant in Denver, still after nearly 30 years in business — were able to produce exquisite and authentic dishes from Piedmont to match the tenor and tone of these wines. (After all, the restaurant closes every summer so that the entire team can fly to Italy to study the cuisine, wine and traditions of Piedmont).

My only question now is how many Piedmont producers is too many to list? Two more are on the verge (I’m reviewing their latest wines now), and I am likely to list them once I fill in a few holes in the Italian map — namely Campania and Etna.

In the meantime, if you have a chance to pick up any bottle from Oddero, I say “do so.”

For their full write-up on the Essential Winemakers of Italy list, visit the Oddero page.


2015 Oddero Barbera d’Alba Superiore

2015 Oddero Barbera d'Alba Superiore ©Kevin Day/Opening a BottleBarbera d’Alba Superiore DOC, Piedmont 🇮🇹
Grapes: Barbera (100%)
Alcohol: 14%
Practice: (Organic farming)
Rating: ★★★★★ (out of five)
• Food-friendliness: Versatile
• Value: Exceptional

Tasting notes: The immediate impact of Oddero’s sublime Barbera d’Alba Superiore is the caressing aspect of the aromas. The variety’s typical tones of dried cherries, blueberries, musk, nutmeg and graham cracker were all there and accounted for, but there was a delicate sweetness to these aromas that made the wine all the more inviting. As the wine opened up, it almost had a black truffle quality to its nose. On the palate, it is earthy and supple, balanced and beautiful. This is what Oddero does so well: elegance and refinement. One of Piedmont’s best Barbera wines.

Paired with: Soufflé di formaggio, a parmigiano-reggiano cheese soufflé with a tempura hen-of-the-woods mushroom and truffle fonduta. Killed me dead, strapped me to a rocket, sent me to heaven.


2016 Oddero Barbaresco Gallina

2016 Oddero Barbaresco Gallina ©Kevin Day/Opening a BottleBarbaresco DOCG, Piedmont 🇮🇹
Grapes: Nebbiolo (100%)
Alcohol: 14%
Practice: (Organic farming)
Rating: ★★★★★ (out of five)
• Food-friendliness: Versatile
• Value: Very good

Tasting notes: When I visited Oddero two years ago, the Barbaresco Gallina was a personal favorite from their line-up. Once again, the Gallina proves to be one of Barbaresco’s most compelling wines. Sourced exclusively from its namesake cru, it offers a supremely elegant bouquet of black cherry, soft leather, violets, earth and a piercing cut of black licorice once it opens. Active and energetic, with soft tannins that speaks to the wine’s youthful readiness, the Oddero Gallina proves that Nebbiolo can wield a soft power that is every bit as compelling as the titanic wines of Barolo.

Paired with: Agnolotti del plin, the traditional ‘pinched’ pasta with ground veal and sage-brown butter delicately permeating every surface. I order it every time I’m in Piedmont, but Barolo Grill’s version is the most authentic I’ve had outside the region.


2015 Oddero Barolo Villero

2015 Oddero Barolo Villero ©Kevin Day/Opening a BottleBarolo DOCG, Piedmont 🇮🇹
Grapes: Nebbiolo (100%)
Alcohol: 14.5%
Practice: (Organic farming)
Rating: ★★★★★ (out of five)
• Food-friendliness: Selective
• Value: As expected

Tasting notes: Hailing from the esteemed single vineyard on the south side of Castiglione Falleto, Oddero’s Villero — according to Pietro — is “the most giving of our cru.” He further went on to suggest that the wine is generous with its character from the start, and I agree. Aromas of sweet cherries and black raspberries, fresh mint and black licorice, and delicate mushroom all combine to create a very compelling Barolo. Like the Gallina, it has a quiet grace and elegance that is very interesting, but on the finish, it roars to life with massive tannins. This wine still needs time to mature, but the progression will be a very interesting one.

Paired with: Vitello in crostata, a grissini-crusted veal tenderloin served with roasted baby squash, potato puree and hazelnut-veal demi-glace. The latter I’d like to have in a bathtub someday. Is that wrong?


 

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