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  • Writer's pictureMolly Jean

Molly's Meal Match: Nebbiolo

Nebbiolo is a grape variety native to Piedmont, Italy. The name stems from the Italian word Bebbia, meaning fog. There is some debate as to whether or not the name originates from the foggy climate or from the thick blooms of yeast that form on the grapes.

Nebbiolo has the most aromatic compounds of any grape varietal. It produces complex wines that are not suitable for leisurely sipping. The high levels of acidity and tannin require patience in both ageing (maturation) and in decanting the wine once it is opened. It's a wine meant for planning.

Fortunately, these wines age incredibly well due to their high level of tannin, acidity and concentrated flavors.

While you may not recognize the name of the grape, you are likely to have seen the name Barbaresco or Barolo on a wine label. These are the most famous regions in Italy, that produce wine from these grapes. They also produce the most expensive wines of this varietal. This, coupled with the age-ability (25- 50 years) make them great investment wines.

If you are still interested in sipping on this varietal, but do not want to break the bank - you can find budget friendly options from the Nebbiolo d'Alba DOC. They are less expensive because they do not have the same aging laws that Barolo and Barbaresco are required to follow.

Barolo must be aged for a minimum of 38 months (18 in oak) and Barbaresco for a minimum of 26 months (9 in oak). Barbaresco is not in need of as much aging, because the grapes from this region produce a smoother tannin. I assure you, it's worth the wait for both of these wines. Without oak aging and bottle maturation, the tannins on your palate may have a likeness to licking deodorant.

Oenophile Fact: Barolo Riserva is required to age for a minimum of 62 months (18 in oak) and Barebaresco Riserva for a minimum of 50 months (9 in oak). Imagine making a product that you legally cannot sell for 5+ years. It certainly puts the price of the wine into perspective.

While the grape is a powerhouse, it is incredibly site specific. Meaning it does not transplant well and is not found in many other regions throughout the world. Though, it has found success in the Guadalupe Valley of Mexico. The terroir in this area imparts a notable difference to the wine in comparison to Nebbiolo produced in Italy. There is an interesting added salinity and the tannins do not appear to be as harsh, making terroir of the region readily apparent in the wine.

Enough about the grape, let's get to the food!

The rigorous amount of tannin has espresso like bitterness, that calls for creamy, cheesy, dishes with high fat waistline is furious!

These components of the meal will ease the bitterness and harshness of the wine on the palate. You can also look for dishes that include acidic ingredients, like those with lemon or tomato based sauces. The acidic foods will allow floral and fruity aromas to become more prominent in the wine. Just keep in mind, fat is also a necessary ingredient for this wine.

As always, what grows together - goes together. Nebbiolo is one of the oldest and most important varieties that is grown in Piedmont, Italy. This region is also widely known for their white truffles. So pairing this wine with a mushroom based dish is a great idea!

Flavors and Aromas found in Nebbiolo Wine

Primary (grape and alcoholic fermentation): red fruits, dried fruits, cherries, strawberries, cranberry, red plum, black pepper, violet, rose, dried herbs, black tea, licorice

Secondary (post-fermentation winemaking): cloves, cinnamon

Tertiary (maturation/aging): mushroom, leather, tobacco leaf, tar


Chile Colorado Enchiladas

This Nebbiolo from Mexico requires a meal that can stand up to its structured tannin and bold- nuanced flavors. The initial floral aromas of the wine may fool you as notes of tar, leather, and plum settle on your taste buds.

The strong flavors of the Chile Colorado Burrito amplify the tastiness of this unique wine by smoothing the tannin and matching it in spice.

This pairing is nothing short of a mouth watering, hearty and delicious endeavor!

Recommended decanting: 1+ hours

Shopping List

Dry Goods:

1 can of black beans - drained

1 20oz can of red enchilada sauce

1 can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (you will only be using the sauce, about 2 tbsp)

1 4oz can of diced green chiles

1 package of burrito-sized flour tortillas

Refrigerated Goods:

2 pounds of flank steak cut into 1 x .5 inch pieces


3+ cloves of garlic (minced)

1 Anaheim pepper diced


1 cup of shredded Mexican-style cheese

On hand: (Items you should have in your pantry)

2 tbsp of corn starch

1 tbsp of cold water

1 tsp salt

1 tsp cumin

1 1/2 tsp onion powder


1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

2. In a large sauce pan, sauté steak on medium heat until lightly browned. You still want to see some pink, otherwise the steak will become over cooked and chewy.

3. Add enchilada sauce, 2 tbsp of adobo sauce (option: you can dice and add the chipotle peppers), can of diced green chiles, garlic, diced anaheim pepper, salt, cumin, and onion powder to the pan with the steak.

4. Whisk together water and corn starch in a separate bowl, once combined - add to the pan.

5. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for 10-15 minutes.

6. Grease a casserole dish to prevent sticking.

7. When the mixture is done cooking, use a slotted spoon to transfer the meat to the middle of each tortilla, add black beans, and a sprinkle of cheese. Roll tightly and place seam-side-down in the greased dish. Fit as many as you can in the dish. (It will all depend on how much you load the tortilla.)

8. Top with additional sauce from the beef mixture, all of the rolled enchiladas should be covered. Sprinkle shredded cheese on top.

9. Bake at 400 for 10 minutes until cheese is bubbly, then devour!


Mushroom Arancini

Since Piedmont is so close to Alba, Italy (the white truffle capital of the world) it makes sense that a Barbaresco would pair so perfectly with a mushroom based dish.

I decanted the wine for about 5 hours to allow oxygen to do its work. I am happy I let this baby breathe, because this combination was nearly flawless.

The flavors of cherry tomatoes and worn leather lingered on the palate, long after sipping. The saltiness of the dish eased the tannin of the wine, while the oil from frying the Risotto balls lessened the acidity.

This pairing was a lot of work, but it was worth it!

Recommended decanting: 5+ hours

Shopping List

Dry Goods:

4 cups of vegetable broth

1 cup of Arborio rice

2 cups Panko bread crumbs

1 jug of Canola Oil

1/2 cup of dry white wine

Refrigerated Goods:

3 tbsp butter

2 large eggs


1 onion finely chopped

3+ cloves of garlic

11/2 cups of sliced mushrooms (baby bellas, shiitake)


1/2 cup parmesan

12 (1/2 inch) cubes mozzarella

On hand:

1 cup Flour


1. In a large sauce pan, melt 2 tbsp of butter over medium high heat. Sauté the onion and garlic until softened. Add in the mushrooms and sauté until they are lightly browned.

2. Add wine and Arborio rice to the sauce pan, bring to a boil. Simmer until the rice has absorbed the wine. Add in a cup of vegetable broth stirring occasionally until it is absorbed by the rice. Repeat with each additional cup of broth (4 total). Once complete, the rice should be tender. This process will take about 20 minutes.

3. Add in the parmesan cheese and the remaining tbsp of butter to the rice.

4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread the hot risotto on the baking sheet to cool.

5. Place baking sheet in the refrigerator for 30-45 minutes.

6. Put flour into a bowl, crack eggs into another bowl and whisk, pour the panko crumbs into a third bowl.

7. Divide sheet of risotto into 12 squares. Place mozzarella cubes on the risotto squares and wrap it around the cheese into a ball. Roll the ball in the flour, cover in egg wash, and roll in the panko crumbs.

8. Heat 3 inches of oil in a large pot to 375 degrees. If a pinch of flour sizzles when dropped in the oil, it is ready. Gently drop the balls (in small batches of 4) into oil and fry until golden brown.

9. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel lined plate.

10. Optional: Dip the delicious treat into marinara sauce or a red pepper jelly. Yum!

For a great tutorial for making arancini, check out this video.


Italian Sausage and Gnocchi in a Mushroom Mozzarella Sauce

This wine is in definite need of decanting. The high levels of tannins and acidity will have you in tears, if you do not allow it the opportunity to open up. Once the wine has had an adequate amount of time to breathe, notes of red fruits and mushrooms become detectable. But, this is not before the notes of baking spices and cinnamon find their way to your strillas (nostrils).

Earthy and bold, this aggressive wine is tamed by the gooey mozzarella sauce. While, the aromas of mushrooms and herbs are perfectly matched by the flavors in the dish.

Get ready for a flavor seizure!

Decanting recommendation: 12+ hours

Shopping List

Dry Goods:

1 cup of vegetable broth

Refrigerated Goods:

1 package of cauliflower gnocchi

1/2 pound of ground Italian sausage


1/2 yellow onion diced

3+ cloves of garlic minced

5oz sliced mushrooms (baby bellas or shiitake)

fresh chopped parsley to taste


1/2 cup of heavy cream

1/2 cup of parmesan cheese

1 cup of mozzarella cheese

On hand:

salt/pepper to taste

avocado oil


1. In a medium skillet, brown the sausage. Simultaneously, in a large skillet drizzled with avocado oil - cook the gnocchi until golden brown. Once the sausage is cooked, remove from heat and set aside. Once the gnocchi is cooked, put it in the medium pan with the sausage (still removed from heat).

2. Place the empty large skillet back on the heat and drizzle with avocado oil. Add diced onion and minced garlic. Sauté until softened. Add the sliced mushrooms and sauté until they are lightly caramelized.

3. Stir in broth, cream and parmesan cheese - bring to a simmer. Add the mozzarella cheese and bring to a simmer once again. She should be nice and thicc!

4. Add in a pinch of salt and pepper to taste.

5. Add the gnocchi and ground Italian Sausage to the sauce mixture. Stir it all together, allow it to simmer once more.

6. Serve topped with fresh parsley.


Egg Fettuccini & Prawns in Lemon Butter Sauce

If you are looking for a wine to warm your gullet and a dish to fill your belly, this is it! Break your New Year's diet plan and indulge.

This wine is a powerhouse with manners. Aromas of red fruits and roses are juxtaposed by tar and leather. This wine is complex and intriguing.

The fat from the warm buttery sauce soaking the noodles, works in tandem with the acidity of the prawns and lemon juice to ease the tannin punch to the tongue. This food pairing highlights the sweet fruit and floral aromas of the wine.

While the food and wine are delightful on their own, they are amazingly delicious together!

Shopping List

Dry Goods:

fresh egg fettuccini

1/2 cup of vegetable broth

Refrigerated Goods:

1/2 cup butter (yes - that is the correct amount)

1/2 pound of shrimp/prawns


1/2 juiced lemon

basil or parsley for garnish


grated parmesan

On hand:

salt/pepper to taste


1. Bing a large pot of water to boil.

2. In a large skillet, melt the butter and cook on low heat until the butter begins to smell nutty.

2. Add the vegetable broth and lemon juice to the skillet, whisking well.

3. Cook your pasta according to the package instructions. The pasta you chose should only need to cook for about 3 minutes.

4. Add the pawns to the butter mixture. They will begin to curl when they are finished cooking (about 3 minutes).

5. Using a spaghetti spoon - transfer noodles to the butter pan. It is ok if the noodles are a little wet during the transfer. Add pasta water if needed to loosen the sauce.

6. Add extra lemon juice and basil or parsley to taste.

7. Serve warm sprinkled with parmesan and a dash of black pepper.


I hope you enjoyed learning about Nebbiolo and checking out these pairing options. If you have feedback, comments, or questions please feel free to comment below, post to The Wine Tails Facebook Page, or message me on Instagram.

I would also like to thank Wine Simple, Wine for Normal People, The Wine Bible, and Wine Folly for providing me with amazing research materials.

When thinking of Nebbiolo, Karen MacNeil put's it best: it is a wine "meant for carnivorous drama." Yaaasss Queen!

Cheers and happy sipping!

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