Your Piemonte Wine Guide
More than Barolo and Barbaresco
When wine geeks think of Piemonte, they immediately think of Barolo and Barbaresco, which are famous for their Nebbiolo-based wines. Surprisingly, Barolo and Barbaresco only account for 3% of Piedmont’s production, so there’s quite a bit more to uncover!
Piemonte is cupped by the Alps to the North and it looks like something out of a scene in Game of Thrones. To the south, you’ll find the Apennines – less stunning – which are more like a set of lumpy hills. Despite their modest stature, the slopes heading towards the Apennines are where you’ll find the quality wine production in Piemonte.
There are two major features affecting the weather in Piemonte: the ice-cold Alps and the warm Mediterranean. The tug-of-war (a.k.a. diurnal) temperature variation makes the whole area fill up with morning fog that slowly burns off during the day.
This means the land higher up on the hills gets more sun. More sun = happy grapes = good wine. There are good wines to be found north of the Apennines in the foothills of the Alps. But since this area (around Gattinara) is much cooler, expect much lighter tasting, higher acid wines.
Grapes of Piemonte
While the production of Nebbiolo wine is less than Barbera, it’s considered to be the greatest wine from Piemonte. Nebbiolo is a high tannin grape with red cherry, tar, and rose flavors, with a clay-like terroir. When you taste a Nebbiolo wine, you can feel the grippy tannin towards the front of your mouth. At its best, a Piedmont Nebbiolo wine is enjoyed around the 10-15 year mark and has subtle notes of spice, rose, cherry, and fig. There are many subregions in Piedmont that make Nebbiolo wine.
Fabrizio Ressia Barbaresco Canova
Region: Barbaresco, Piedmont, Italy
Grape varieties: 100% Nebbiolo
Fabrizio Ressia Barbaresco Canova has a bouquet rich in personality with notes of red fruit and spicy licorice and ginger.
Song: Lust for Life by Girls
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Barbera is the most planted red grape variety in Piemonte and it’s a little less finicky than Nebbiolo. Barbera wines from Piemonte are dark in color and taste of black cherry, anise, and dried herbs.
La Giribaldina Valsarmassa Barbera D’Asti
Region: Asti, Piedmont, Italy
Grape varieties: 100% Barbera
La Giribaldina Valsarmassa Barbera D’Asti is well-bodied and balanced, with evident black cherry and licorice notes. Pizza wine!
Song: Contact High by Architecture in Helsinki
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Dolcetto is a bit of a misnomer because the word means “little sweet one”: Dolcetto is neither sweet nor “little.” The wines made with Dolcetto grapes are very dark in color with flavors of blackberry, licorice, and tar. The wines are not known to age well because they have low acidity, but offer plenty of mouth-drying tannin.
GD Vajra Dolcetto d’Alba
Region: Alba, Piedmont, Italy
Grape varieties: 100% Dolcetto
GD Vajra Dolcetto d’Alba is simple and direct with loads of sweet candied cherry, crème de cassis and bitter almond. No wood aging.
Song: Your Arms Around Me by Jens Lekman
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Perhaps more famous than the variety name of Cortese is the wine called “Gavi,” which is the name of the town in the southeast part of Piemonte. Gavi wines are made in a dry style and are known for their lemon-like citrus flavors and tingly acidity. Cortese has the same mouth-zapping refreshing quality as some Pinot Grigio and Chablis wines.
La Ghibellina Mainin Gavi di Gavi
Region: Gavi, Piedmont, Italy
Grape varieties: 100% Cortese
La Ghibellina Mainin Gavi di Gavi is dry, fresh, and well-balanced. Characterized by a fresh bouquet of white flowers and fresh fruit.
Song: Another Sunny Day by Belle and Sebastian
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The white wine of Roero DOCG, Arneis is a medium-bodied wine that often has bitter almond notes on the finish. These wines are fresh and grassy and somewhat similar to the Sauvignon Blanc in white Bordeaux.
Deltetto Roero Arneis Daivej
Region: Roero, Piedmont, Italy
Grape varieties: 100% Arneis
Deltetto Roero Arneis Daivej shows a lush palate of exotic fruit, golden apples, and is elegant and fresh in the mouth. Great with seafood.
Song: My Companion by Shout Out Louds
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Piemonte Wine and Food Pairings
The traditional cuisine of Piemonte is known for being elegant, flavorful, and rich. In eastern Piemonte, filled fresh-egg pasta known as plin is popularly doused with Dolcetto wine straight from the carafe.
Bagna cauda is a savory, hot dip for raw and cooked vegetables made from olive oil, garlic, and anchovies and pairs well with acidic wines that won’t be overpowered, such as Barbera or Grignolino.
Tajarin is another egg-based fresh pasta, often made with an exaggerated amount of egg yolk (such as 30 tuorli –30 yolks–) and finished with butter, sage, and parmigiano. This pasta pairs beautifully with an elegant Barbaresco or Nebbiolo wine.
Expensive, aromatic truffles in the fall are a match made in heaven when served with Barolo.
When in doubt… just have pizza. Pizza goes with everything!