[DEFCON] Is This Nebbiolo, or Is This Just Fantasy?

Posted on Dec, 26. 2013 by

Categories: Wine

Inline image 2It’s been quite a long time since we broke out the DEFCON label. For the unaccustomed, DEFCON is the designation that we reserve for only the very best deals – those wines that not only are amazing in their own rite, but also have an extraordinary “QPR” (Quality:Price Ratio). In the Guild’s 6 years of operation, there have been only a small handful of wines deserving of the honor, and today, we’ve got another.

One thing you should know here up front: this wine was recommended to me by a wine repwho doesn’t rep this wine. As you can imagine, there’s a strong (and eminently understandable) propensity for bias towards ones own portfolio in the wholesale biz; as such, it’s pretty rare (once you branch out from the “big names” that have near-universal appeal) for a wine rep to call me and tell me to try another company’s product. So you can see why, right off the bat, I was intrigued.

Now, as for this wine, while I feel like screaming “DEFCONNNNN!” might should suffice, I’ll tell you a li’l bit about her. Nebbiolo: the famous Piedmontese varietal that makes up such world-class wines as Barolo and Barbaresco. Unfortunately, those world-class wines often come with world-class price tags. If you can afford to drink great Barolo every night, well, color me jealous, but for the rest of us, most Barolos and Barbarescos worth mentioning aren’t everyday wines. Which is why today’s DEFCON wine is so welcome in my wine rack…

When I first stuck my nose into a glass of the Renato Ratti Ochetti Nebbiolo, it screamed Barolo! to me. How is this stuff under $20? It defies all logic and reason. Pietro Ratti (Renato’s son) is a well-known and regarded fixture in Roero, and makes some truly world-class Barolos. The estate has been producing wine, in fact, since the 15th century – by the monks at the Abbey of Annunziata (the estate’s home) originally. Renato took over in the 60s, modernized some winemaking techniques (while respecting the traditions that matter), and set the estate on a course for greatness. As the Wine Advocate puts it, “you can always count on Pietro Ratti for a fine bottle of wine. He is one of the most consistent and bankable producers in La Morra especially for those who enjoy the softer and more sensual side of Barolo.” If based on nothing more than this Nebbiolo alone, I couldn’t agree more.

While I hesitate to throw around “baby” monikers (i.e. “baby-Barolo”) too often, I would not be surprised or disappointed to pay over $30 for this wine as a Barolo. Up front, there’s power and expressivity in spades; it leaps out of the glass at you, without hesitation or a need to “open up”. Lots of ripe red and black fruit, wisps of herbs, chocolate, tobacco and pencil lead surround a very classic, earthy core; meanwhile, the palate is an incredible concentration of flavors and depth, giving you more than you could want while never being muddy or jumbled. I suppose that’s got much to do with the soft-but-well-placed acidity and tannins that buttress the rest of the wine and provide impeccable balance. It may not have the brusqueness, the massive tannins, or the brute force that many of the “in dire need of 10 years in your cellar just to be approachable” Barolos and Barbarescos do, but that’s to its credit: you can lay your Barolos down and forget about them, and drink a few cases of this stuff in the meantime. It’s drinking that well now, and might develop even more in the next 3-5 years, but you don’t need to age it.

I can confidently say that the Ochetti is one of our great finds of the year: a tour de force in the sub-$20 wine market, giving you so much for so little, and positively exuding what Will calls “craveability”. Also, DEFCON, baby!

Ready, set, GO!

2011 Renato Ratti Ochetti Nebbiolo
Member Price: [private_member] Grand Cru: $18.13 • Premier Cru: $18.96[/private_member]
Retail Price: ~$24.00

Buy Now!

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