This wine used to have a funky label. It played on the name: black with a ball of fire and the word 'Inferno' in all caps emblazoned across the flame. It was attention-grabbing, but a little tacky. That it was a Valtellina from Nino Negri was definitely insignificant compared to the name 'Inferno'. It caught my attention quite early on, when I first started in this wine malarky. I read up on the region, a mostly forgotten area in the North West of Italy, specialising in the sublime but occasionally perturbing Nebbiolo grape, just like its more famous neighbours. I tried it and really liked it. I've followed it since. I've always felt that it scratches the Barolo itch without costing the earth. It's not as fine as a good Barolo, don't get me wrong, but it's often just what the doctor ordered.
The colour's just perfect for Nebbiolo - or Chiavennasca, as it's called in Valtellina - rusty but vibrant. The youth is in the brilliance, not the shade.
Its aromas dance around a bit. It was stoney and flinty with tar to start with. My flatmate noted that it tasted better than it smelled, as it was a bit unyielding. As it opened, the fruit came out; bright sour cherries with walnut dust, liqueur cocoa and a bit of a savoury meatiness.
The juiciness on the palate is compelling and more-ish. It grabs the tongue and tugs with that big, crunchy Italian sour cherries slathered on a bit of leather. The fruit is bright, with great lift, turning slowly towards strawberries and cream as it heads to the finish. The length is good too. I'm a little surprised at how consumed by the fruit the tannins are - they're soft, merely a whisper on an otherwise loud palate. They make an appearance at the very end, contributing to an appetite-pleasing dryness on the finish. It's not a bad thing. It's still a joy to drink over the course of a meal.
This wine has nearly doubled in price since I started drinking it almost a decade ago. There are lots that have. I still think it's good value. There aren't many others that I can still say that about. We drank this with a duck-egg carbonara that had huge chunks of wild mushrooms (ceps - yum) and it was just awesome. Proper food, proper wine.
****(and ***** for still being awesome after all this time)
Tasted 13/10/2010 at Shorehead