The ABC Guide to Piedmont Wine

Piedmont Tours
Robert Alexander / Travel Langhe

Piedmont Wine Guide – The Quick Facts:

  • Italy (spelling): Piemonte, ‘the foot of the mountains’
  • English (spelling): Piedmont
  • Industry: Agriculture, textiles, manufacturing, and Ferrero. In addition to Barolo wine, Piedmont is the home of Nutella.
  • Geography: Northwest corner of Italy. Foothills of the Alps borders France and Switzerland.                  
  • Climate: Continental
  • Primary Grapes:
    • Red: Nebbiolo, Barbera, Dolcetto
    • White: Arneis, Moscato, Cortese (a.k.a Gavi)

Benvenuti a Piemonte!

A – Arneis:

A primary white found in the Roero hills. Delish, easy drinking and fruit-driven – dry and full bodied.

B – Barolo, Barbaresco, & Barbera:

The “Bs” – the region’s best wines!

  • Barolo and Barbaresco are made of the Nebbiolo grape. These tannic wines taste of sweet, savory, and spice. The wines drink best with age; tradition suggests waiting some two decades before drinking. 
  • Barbera is the region’s most planted varietal, making 50+ percent of the region’s DOC red wine production. With high acidity and low tannin the wines generally show ripe, red fruits.

ABC Guide to Piemonte Wine: Barolo, Barbaresco, Barbera

Barolo winemaker, Chiara Boschis / Azienda Agricola E. Pira & Figli.

C – Cognà:

ABC Guide to Piemonte Wine: Cognà

It’s jam, it’s sauce – no, it’s Cognà! A mix between the two with a base of grape must  (unfermented grape juice) and various local ingredients including apples, hazelnuts, pears, quinces, figs, dried apricots, cloves, cinnamon, nuts, and a little sugar. It’s boiled to about half the volume and served with boiled meats, cheeses, and polenta. In the area? Makes a great souvenir. 

D – Dolcetto:

Piedmont’s table wine. Dolcetto is almost exclusively done in steel, which can be a struggle for the Western palate (hello, California oak bombs). Dolcetto offers a great true expression of a red varietal. No wood. All grape. Bring it.

ABC Guide to Piemonte Wine: DolcettoFiberglass Dolcetto tank at Cascina Bruciata (Barbaresco zone). The owner explained he’s phasing out fiberglass, but found the wine is more stable in fiberglass than steel.

E – Erbaluce:

Ahh, Erbaluce. A dry, acidic table white; produced as a still dry wine as well as sweet and sparkling. My summer crush.

ABC Guide to Piemonte Wine: Erbaluce

F – Fresia:

ABC Guide to Piemonte Wine: Fresia

Fresia is an acidic, tannic red wine that begs for food. (Photo: Fresia d’Asti, Azienda Agricola Stella Giuseppe)

G – Guns of Barbaresco:

ABC Guide to Piedmont Wine: Guns of BarbarescoFarmers use the Guns of Barbaresco to limit crop damage during storms. How it works: a series of air cannons shoot sound waves into the clouds. According to wine lore, that shatters the hail stones in the clouds and protects crops from storm damage. (Photo: RobertAlexander / Travel Langhe)

H – Hectares:

Piedmont Tours

Piedmont vineyards span approx. 46,000 hectares – that’s more than double Napa Valley’s vineyards at 18,300 hectares. (Photo: Barbaresco vineyards of Franco Rocca, Cantina del Brichetto)

– Indigenous Grape Varietals:

  • Whites: Arneis, Erbaluce, Favorita, Timorasso
  • Red: Bonarda, Barbera, Brachetto, Croatina, Dolcetto, Fresia, Grignolino, Grisa nera, Nebbiolo, Pelaverga, Plassa, Ruché, Vespolina, Uva Rara

ABC Guide to Piemonte Wine: Indigenous Grapes2012 Favorita harvest at Pasquale Pelissero in Barbaresco.

J – Juice:

Grape juice – Piedmont’s drink of choice. 

K – Kilometers:

About 16 kilometers separate the Barolo zone and the Barbaresco zone. BONUS: At it’s widest point, Barolo is 8 km (3 times the size of Barbaresco).

L – Langhe / Alta Langhe:

The Langhe is Piedmont’s hilly area that runs south and east of the Tanaro River in the Cuneo Province. Alta Langa includes places like Dogliani, Dolcetto country.

M: Moscato d’Asti:

Yum, a sweet sparkling white primarily found in Asti. It’s a low-alcohol dessert wine – how can you go wrong? P.S. – Il Ragazzo (a.ka. The Boy) loves it with a traditional English breakfast.

ABC Guide to Piemonte Wine: Moscato d'AstiMoscato d’Asti at Azienda Agricola del Cavaliere in Neviglie – one of the region’s first Moscato producers some 45 years ago.

N: Nebbiolo:

Nebbiolo is bottled as Langhe Nebbiolo (DOC), Nebbiolo d’Alba (DOC), Barbaresco (DOGC), Barolo (DOGC), Gattinara (DOC) (min. 90% Nebbiolo), and Roero (DOGC).

Piedmont Tours
Robert Alexander / Travel Langhe

Nebbiolo comes from the word nebbia, “fog”, for the region’s intense fog during harvest in mid-to-late October. Note: Traditionally harvest was late October to early November, but due to warmer conditions the growing season has altered in recent years. (Photo: Robert Alexander / Travel Langhe)

O – Off-roading in the Vineyards:

ABC Guide to Piemonte Wine: Off-roading in the Vineyards

Schedule a tasting at Giovanni Rosso to visit three Barolo vineyards in the commune of Serralunga d’Alba. Sometimes you even get a little vineyard off-roading action before tasting the great Piedmont wines.

P – Pelaverga:

Pelaverga is a native Piedmont grape with only 12 producers (that’s 140k bottles produced annually). The wine gives tastes and scents of strawberry, spice, and pepper. The grape is found in the commune of Verduno where wines often show a peppery taste profile.

ABC Guide to Piemonte Wine: Pelaverga

Q – Quarantadue (42!):

Piedmont has 42 DOCs (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) and 16 DOGCs (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita).

DOC: The Italian wine classification’s primary tier with nearly every traditional Italian wine style for a total of about 330 individual DOC titles. Each title has a set of laws governing the viticultural zone, permitted grape varieties, and wine style. Those of consistently high quality are elevated to DOCG status. 

DOCG: The highest Italian wine classification, which denotes controlled (controllata) production methods and guaranteed (garantita) wine quality. Strict rules govern DOCG wine production, including the permitted grape varieties, yield limits, grape ripeness, winemaking procedures, and barrel / bottle maturation. Every classified DOCG wine is subject to official testing procedures.

ABC Guide to Piemonte Wine: DOC, DOCG

To prevent counterfeiting, bottles are numbered and sealed by the government on the neck of the bottle. (Wine-Searcher, Italian Wine Label Information). 

R – Red (Rosso!):

Sixty to 70 percent of Piedmont wine production is red.

ABC Guide to Piemonte Wine: Red / RossoEvery village has a scale where farmers once weighed their grapes.

S – Slovenian Oak:

Traditional Piedmont wine production methods call for aging in large barrels known as a botti or cask, generally of Slovenian Oak. These barrels provide flavor neutrality, which means you taste more of the grape and less wood expression. Small barriques make the wines easier to drink young with their oaky taste profile. Neither is right or wrong – just depends on individual preference.

ABC Guide to Piemonte Wine: Slovanian Oak“HL 29.8” means 29.8 Hectolitres. BONUS: 29.8 hectoliters = 3,973 bottles.

T – Truffles & Tajarin:

Truffles and tajarin are the food pairing for Piedmont wine. Splurge on a local ribbon pasta of tajarin topped with shaved truffles and paired with an aged Barolo or Barbaresco. Salute!

VIDEO: The Alba White Truffle

U – Un Bicchiere:

If you are in Piedmont, you gotta know how to order a glass of vino! Un bicchiere di vino (rosso: red, bianco: white). Drink. Repeat.

ABC Guide to Piedmont Wine: Un Bicchiere

V – Vineyards:

Where are the vineyards? About 87 percent of the Barolo production comes from five communes: Barolo, Castiglione Falletto, La Morra, Monforte d’Alba, and Serralunga d’Alba. Barbaresco produces the bulk of its wine in three communes: Barbaresco, Tresio, and Neive.

W – Wine, Food, & More:

A Guide to Piedmont – there’s an app for that! Travel Langhe, a Piedmont Wine Tour company, created a complete Piemonte / Piedmont travel application for your iOS device. Find food, lodging, and wine recommendations (click to download). But, don’t miss out on the real deal, spend a day doing a Piedmont wine tour with Robert and Leslie – you won’t be disappointed.ABC Guide to Piemonte Wine

X – X Marks the Spot:

Piedmont DOGC Wine List (16):

      • Alta Langa
      • Asti
      • Barbaresco
      • Barbera d’Asti
      • Barbera del Monferrato Superiore
      • Barolo
      • Brachetto d’Acqui (a.k.a Acqui)
      • Dolcetto di Diano d’Alba (a.k.a Diano d’Alba)
      • Dolcetto di Dogliani Superiore (a.k.a Dogliani)
      • Dolcetto di Ovada Superiore (a.k.a Ovada)
      • Erbaluce di Caluso (a.k.a Caluso)
      • Gattinara
      • Cortese di Gavi (a.k.a Gavi)
      • Ghemme
      • Roero (a.k.a Arneis)
      • Castagnole Monferrato

Y – Yum Yum: 

ABC Guide to Piemonte Wine: Yum YumDon’t speak any italian? It’s okay. A simple “Yum Yum” works when your palate is happy and your is tummy full.

Z – ZTL:

Zona Traffico Limitato: If you’re driving in Italy (and most likely you will if you visit Piedmont). Get to know ZTL. These zones limit the amount of traffic in primary areas (think city centers) to control pollution, increase pedestrian safety, and draw transit revenue. Watch for these signs or it’ll cost ya! 

ABC Guide to Piemonte Wine: ZTLRobert Alexander / Travel Langhe

A simple guide to Piedmont wine. Got other suggestions for noteworthy deets on the region? Please leave a comment. I’ll add updates to keep the post alive!

Ciao Ciao! V-dawg OUT.


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