Turin is the center of Piedmont, whose provinces include Alessandria, Asti, Biella, Cuneo, Novara, Verbano-Cusio-Ossola and Vercelli. Piedmont ranks 2nd in size (25,399 square kilometers) and 5th in population (4,288,000). Total vineyard area is 57,487 hectares producing 3,405,000 hectolitres of which about 70% are red and 30% white. Piedmont lies in the westernmost region bordering with Switzerland and France and is surrounded by the Alps and the Apennines, which explain why its name means foot of the mountain. Piedmont has no IGT. Among all regions in Italy, Piedmont is best noted for craftsmanship, respect for tradition and devotion to native vines in their historical habitats.
Changes in season is distinct and the climate is harsh by Italian standards. Plenty of snow in winter and summers are for the most part hot and dry. Spring and autumn are temperate to cool but due to global warming, average temperature have been risen in the last 10 years which meant good news for late ripening nebbiolo located at less than ideal vineyard position. Typical regional food includes hazelnuts, chestnuts, truffles, carne credo (hand-chopped raw meat, usually veal seasoned with olive oil, lemon juice, salt), bagna cauda (mixture of warm anchovy sauce, garlic, butter, olive oil – for dipping with fresh / roasted vegetables / crusty bread), agnolotti del plin (small parcel of meat-filled ravioli served baked or in brothlike sauce). Every November, the world famous truffle fair takes place every weekend in the city centre of Alba and it is one of it’s kind and should not be missed if you happened to be visiting Piedmont during that period.
The region’s most important vineyards are located in the Langhe and Monferrato hills spilling through the towns of Alba and Asti which are densely populated with vineyards. Wine is perhaps the only commercial activity here, with the exception of big Ferrero chocolate factory located near the Alba town centre. In the nearby Langhe hills, Barolo (“king of wines and wine of kings”) is produced at the rate of about 6 million bottles a year and Barbaresco rarely reaches 2.5 million bottles. Both come from Nebbiolo, Italy’s answer to pinot noir, which gives them the powerful structure that makes them capable of improving for many years from fine vintages (see vintage chart).
The nebbiolo wine of undisputed top quality is of course, Barolo, named after a zone in the Langhe. Barolo DOCG wine must be aged for three years of which one must be in wood and minimum alcohol content should be 13%. It is also useful to know that barolos from different communes have different traits, generally speaking. For example, barolos from La Morra are relatively rounder and softer, those from Serralunga has firmer structure, tannins and classic form while those from Monforte has power cum elegance. In Barolo, the wine possess earthy richness and you will find intrinsic harmony and balance in the wines from Castiglione Falleto. It has been suggested that a “perfect or ideal” (if there is one in the first place) barolo wine is a judicious blend comprising wine from all the different communes. However, all top Barolo today is, or purports to be from recognised cru or single vineyards arising out of DOC law 164 of 1992. The following is the list for reference :
Cru sites for barolo in alphabetical order :
Barolo : Albarella, Bergeisa, Bricco, Bricco Viole or Bricco delle Viole, Brunate, Cannubi, Castellero, Cerequio, Coste di Rose, Crosia, Fossati, La Villa, La Volta, Le Coste, Liste, Monghisolfo or Cannubi Boschis, Monrobiolo or Cannubi Muscatel, Paiagallo, Preda, Ravera, Rue, San Pietro, San Lorenzo or Cannubi San Lorenzo, Sarmassa, Terlo, Valletta or Cannubi Valletta, Via Nuova, Vignane, Zonchetta, Zuncai
Castiglione Falleto : Altenasso, Bricco Boschis, Brunella, Ceroni, Codana, Croceta, Fiasc, Lipulot, Mariondino, Monprivato, Parussi, Pernanno, Pianta, Pira, Pugnane, Rocche, Scarrone, Serra, Solanotto, Valentino, Valleti, Vignolo, Villero
Grinzane Cavour : Bablino, Borzone, Canova, Castello, Garretti, Gustava, La Corle, Raviole
La Morra : Arborina, Bricco Chiesa, Bricco Luciani, Bricco Manescotto, Bricco Manzoni, Bricco Rocca, Bricco San Biagio, Brunate, Capalot, Case Nere, Cerequio, Ciocchini, Conca, Fossati, Galina, Gattera, Giachini, La Serra, Monfalletto, Rive, Rocche, Rocche dell’Annunziata, Rocchette, Roere, Roggeri, Roncaglie, Sarmassa, Serra dei Turchi, Silio
Monforte : Arnulfo, Bussia, Castelletto, Cerretta, Conterni, Dardi, Gavarini, Ginestra, Gramolere, Le Coste, Manzoni Soprani, Mosconi, Pianpolvere, Pressenda, Ravera, Santo Stefano, Visette.
Novello : Bergera, Cerviano, Ravera, Sottocastello
Serralunga : Arione, Badarina, Baudana, Boscareto, Bricco Cerretta, Briccolina, Boscareto, Broglio, Carpegna, Cerrati, Cerretta, Cappalotto, Cerretta Piani, Collaretto, Colombaro, Costabella, Damiano, Falleto, Fontanafredda, Francia, Gabutti, Gianetto, La Serra, Lazzarito, Le Turne, Lirano, Manocino, Marenca, Margheria, Meriame, Ornato, Parafada, Prapo or Pra di Po, Rivette, San Bernardo, San Rocco, Sorano, Teodoro, Vei, Vignarionda, Vughera
Verduno : Boscatto, Breri, Campasso, Massara, Monvigliero, Pisapla, Pria, Riva, Rocca, San Lorenzo, Sottocastello
Barbaresco wine like Barolo is named after a zone which is similar in almost every way – soil, altitude, type of exposure, style of producer to that of Barolo. Barbaresco is a very small zone (1/3 as compared to Barolo) and it comprise of 3 communes; Barbaresco, Neive and Treiso. The disciplinare require at least 12.5% alcoholic degree and ageng of 21 months of which 9 months must be in oak. In reality, it is not easy to distinguish Barolo from Barbaresco in blind tastings especially when wines are from different communes and different vintages all come together. However, it is fair to say Barbaresco is in general, as a matter of degree, less structured, less robust and more feminine when compared to Barolo. Like Barolo, there are recognised cru sites for Barbaresco and the following is a list for reference :
Cru sites for barbaresco in alphabetical order :
Barbaresco: Asili, Ca Grosso, Cars, Cavanna, Cole, Cortini, Faset, Martinenga, Montaribaldi, Montefico, Montestefano, Muncagota, Niccolini, Ovello Montefico, Paje, Pora Asili, Rabaja Bas, Rabaja, Rio Sordo, Roccalini, Roncaglie, Roncagliette, Ronchi, Secondine, Tre Stelle, Trifolera, Vicenziana.
Neive : Albesani, Balluri, Basarin, Bordini, Bricmicca, Bricco, Canova, Casasse, Cotta, Curra, Gaia-Principe, Gallina, Marcorino, Rivetti, San Cristoforo, San Giuliano, Serraboella, Serracapelli, Serragrilli, Starderi
Treiso : Ausario, Bernardot, Bricco, Bungiovan, Canta, Casot, Castellizzano, Ferrere, Garassino, Giacone, Giacosa, Manzola, Marcarino, Meruzzano, Montersino, Nervo, Paiore, Rizzi, Rombone, San Stunet, Sant’ Alessandro, Valeriano, Vallegrande.
In terms of importance, Barbera ranked second after Nebbiolo grape and is Piedmont’s most planted red. It is highly productive and grows about everywhere. Some aged Barbera is of first rate aristocratic class that stands comparison with fine Nebbiolo reds. Generally Barbera d’Alba tends to be more refined in character when compared to the more fruity and easy Barbera d’Asti. Next up is dolcetto, deeply coloured but with soft tannins, producing accessible reds with plush black fruit flavours. Other reds include the crimson Grignolino, the Freisa (pairs well with game meat), the aromatic Ruche and the buoyantly sweet and bubbly Brachetto from Acqui.
In the hills to the north of Piemdont is another important production zone of nebbiolo based wines. Highly individualistic and terrior driven styles are emerging in such reds as Carema, Lessona, Sizzano, Fara, Gattinara and along with neighboring Ghemme has been granted DOCG status.
It is a lesser know fact that Piedmont is a leading producer of sparkling wines of which the sweet ones are some of the most unique in the world. Brachetto d’Acqui, the sweet sparkling version has elevated to DOCG status. It natural affinity with the great chocolate of Piedmont is part of the reason I suspect. This wine has delicate hints of strawberry on the palate, sweet rose-scented and a good one has appealing brightness (without being sappy and heavy) that “lifts” you up after a heavy meal. The ever popular (and is easy to sell) Mosacto d’Asti is another sweet frizzante dessert wine worth mentioning. Almost all producers who produce barolo will also produce a Moscato d’Asti of good quality – one which is fresh, has nice underlying acidity and not too sweet.
Among still whites, Gavi shows a crisp yet elegant style which explains why admirers consider it one of the best with seafood. Smoothly fruity Arneis from Roero, still perhaps not gaining as much popularity as it deserves. Only 12 producers in the small area of Caluso grow the grape variety called “erbaluce” and the entire production of Erbaluce di Caluso is under 20,000 cases annually. This wine has aromas that bring to mind wildflowers, apple skins, and tropical fruit. The palate is of crisp apples, exotic fruit, and slate-like minerality. Though grown in a tiny area, records show that erbaluce has been grown in the area since at least the 1600s.