Sunday, June 21, 2009

LeDom du Vin: Piedmont, Nebbiolo's kingdom

LeDom du Vin: Piedmont, Nebbiolo's kingdom

Located at the most northwestern part of Italy, bordering France (to the west), Switzerland (and also Valle d’Aosta, to the north), Lombardia (to the east), and Liguria (to the south), Piedmont is the kingdom of the Nebbiolo grapes, producing some of the most sought after red wines in the world, like Barolo and Barbaresco. Three other red grape varieties reside also among some of the most preferred reds of Europe: Barbera, Dolcetto and the less recognized yet up-and-coming Freisa. Moscato, Arneis, Cortese and Erbaluce (to a lesser extend) constitute the main white grape varieties that also produce super friendly, versatile, everyday whites like Gavi and Roero Arneis on the dry side and Moscato d’Asti on the sweet, slightly fizzy, side.

Most Piedmontese wines are produced in the south of the region, roughly south-southeast of Turin, around the town of Alba, Asti and Alessandria, in a large area divided into 5 broad zones: Canavese (Turin, Carema and Caluso), Colline Novarese (Novara), Coste della Sesia (Vercelli), Monferrato (Asti and Alessandria) and probably the most well known Langhe (Roero, Alba, Barolo, and Barbaresco)

Piedmont possesses 45 DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) that are more local and rarely go beyond the border of Europe and ….

9 DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) that house some of the best wines of the northern Italy:

  • Asti: two slightly sparkling fruity (off dry to sweet) white wines made from the Moscato grape variety: Asti Spumante and Moscato d’Asti (made with 2 different methods). Ideal as an aperitif or to complement a dessert like a fruit salad.
  • Barbaresco: produced in the village of the same name (+ Nieve and Treiso), east of Alba, this Nebbiolo grape based wine is somewhat light in color and body yet fairly powerful, rich, flavorful, earthy, floral and very aromatic with great acidity, solid tannic structure and long ageing potential.
  • Barolo: produced in the village of the same name, southwest of Alba, this Nebbiolo based wine as quite a few similarities in aspect, aromas and flavors with its equally famed neighbor Barbaresco, but in most cases, it usually is even richer, more powerful and some could say more masculine, with also great ageing potential. Barbaresco, being more delicate and in some way elegant, has a more feminine attitude, still with guts and character (don’t get me wrong).
  • Brachetto d’Acqui or Acqui: crafted with the Brachetto grape, from vineyards around the town of Acqui, south of Alessandria, this wine is very aromatic, floral and earthy. It is a frizzante (slightly sparkling) red wine, generally medium-bodied, a touch sweet (some can be medium sweet) and low in alcohol.
  • Dolcetto di Dogliani or Dogliani: is a fairly unknown to the US market red made with the Dolcetto grape, in the recently area of the same name, moved from DOC status to DOCG in Piedmont (a DOCG since 2005). To keep an eye on.
  • Gattinara: produced in the village of the same name with the Nebbiolo grape, this wine is made primarily from the Nebbiolo grape variety (locally known as Spanna) with, in some cases, a touch of Bonarda di Gattinara and a drop of Vespolina.
  • Gavi or Cortese di Gavi: produced in the province of Alessandria, close to the Ligurian border, this Cortese grape based wine is crisp, floral, mineral, with light white fruit and citrus flavors, food friendly and versatile, it is a pretty reliable pleaser that did have its hours of fame in the 80s and 90s (now overwhelm by the flux of other white wines from Italy).
  • Ghemme: produced in the Colli Novaresi hills, this red Nebbiolo based is really pleasant, earthy, with very good acidity, a touch rustic and tannic yet food friendly. Like in Gattinara, it can be blended with a small dose of Bonarda di Gattinara and Vespolina.
  • Roero: produced in the Langhe, north of Alba, in a hilly region known for its fruit (Peach and pear mainly) this Arneis grape variety based white wine is a delight. Crisp, mineral, light to medium bodied, fruity, well rounded yet with a great acidity, it is a mouthwatering choice as an aperitif or to complement seafood and white fish.
Here you go! The brief and simple above information should help you to make a better choice in your next Piedmont wine selection.

Continue to check my blog at for more notes and info on some of the Piedmont wines that I tasted recently.


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