The king of grapes emerges from the fog, Nebbiolo grape.
Italy has over 500 distinct wine grape varieties all throughout its 20 administrative regions. Most grapes are local and are rarely found outside their spiritual homes. Just like types of pasta, every small town seems to have its own grapes and unique wine styles not found anywhere else. This characteristic makes Italian wine one of the most complex on earth.
Italy has a wide range of climates depending on latitude, different altitudes, and the proximity to both the Adriatic Sea to the east and the Tyrrhenian Sea to the west.
Different grapes thrive in distinct conditions; some come to full ripeness and alcoholic warmth, while others produce gentle, aromatic wines.
Italy has it all, for all palates and circumstances, and it’s all wonderful. Having said that, some grapes have grown in reputation, and have gained quite a following.
Piedmont sits in the northwestern corner in Italy, tucked between the Ligurian Sea and the Alps. Solomonically split in two by the mighty Po river, and sharing borders with France, this place has a unique cuisine that rivals any other in the world. Well known for its chocolate and black truffles, perhaps its greatest contribution to the culinary realm is its wine.
Nebbiolo, Barbera, and Dolcetto are the most popular grapes in the region, but there are many more like Brachetto, Moscato, Cortese, and Arneis.
Piedmont offers all imaginable wine styles, from red, sweet sparkling wines, to champagne-like bubbles; from crisp whites to full-bodied reds. It’s in this last category that the region stands out. Nebbiolo, in particular, produces some of the most intense, age-worthy and fragrant wines the world has ever seen.
Nebbiolo grape finds itself most comfortable in the foggy hills of Langhe and Monferrato; and it’s the fog, or “nebbia,” that gives it its name. This noble grape won’t thrive everywhere, it’s famously picky, and will only achieve perfect ripeness if the conditions are exactly right.
The vineyards around the town of Barolo and Barbaresco, both protected by law as wines of origin of the highest designation (DOCG), produce incredible, age-worthy wines with the Nebbiolo. Acclaimed since the thirteenth century, Nebbiolo captures the imagination of wine lovers around the globe.
—Tar and Roses— are often descriptors for the inky purple wine with orange hues. Acidity is always quite high, and so are alcohol levels and tannins: the gritty particles that give texture to the wine. All these characteristics add up to create an aromatic, intense, and elegant wine that has a place with the best in Europe.
Nebbiolo’s home is Piedmont, but slowly, winegrowers are experimenting with the grape in other countries. Australia, USA, and Mexico, all have some plantings, and although minuscule compared to the Piedmontese vineyards, they’re worth checking out.
Nebbiolo pairs very well with the food specialities of the region: stewed beef, or braised meats; but any heart dish, wild game, red meat, and even truffled pasta work beautifully with the grape.
Add Nebbiolo-based wines to your weekly wine rotation; your guests will love it as much as you’ll do.