Piedmont is one of Italy’s primary wine producing regions, home to world famous red wines such as Barolo and Barbaresco. Yet there is far more to this diverse region than traditional wine reports generally cover. With a plethora of DOCG wines and plenty more DOCs, wine lovers could immerse themselves in Piedmont for a lifetime without exhausting the curiosities that can be found here.
Situated in the northeast of Italy, just north of coast hugging Liguria and just south of the Alps, Piedmont’s undulating hills, long sunny growing seasons and mountain breezes provide ideal conditions for the maturation of local varieties such as Nebbiolo, Barbera, Dolcetto, Cortese and Arneis.
The sheer wealth of wine growing zones is overwhelming at first and arguably for this reason, many remain completely ignored. Another defense of the limited coverage these denominations receive is that prominent grape varieties such as Barbera and Dolcetto make up the bulk of reds. Deeper inspection reveals many similarities.
The most iconic of Piedmont’s wines is undoubtedly Barolo. Its rich history and reputation as the king of wines and wine of kings, along with its ability to mature over many decades, makes Barolo the go to wine in the region. Alongside this, its Nebbiolo based neighbour is not far behind in terms of international interest. While generally a little softer than Barolo, Barbaresco is a treasure trove of rolling slopes, single vineyards and small family growers with with generations of heritage behind them.
There are other red grapes however. Dolcetto, known as the little sweet one, produces light, cherry driven wines with plenty of acidity. The best come from areas such as Dogliani and Ovada. They rarely age well beyond a few years, but nevertheless are worthy local wines deserving of greater study.
The race is on. Alta Langa is one of the up and coming areas of Piedmont with many producing expanding their vineyard holdings here. Already a DOCG, it is home to wines from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and is highly rated for its potential to produce high quality sparkling wines.
Barbera del Monferrato is a DOC covering red wines made from Barbera around the town of Monferrato in Piedmont. Up to 15% of Freisa, Dolcetto, Grignolino can also be used in the wines. As of 2008, Barbera del Monferrato Superiore has its own DOCG.
The wines of Ghemme provide an interesting interpretation of Nebbiolo, known locally as Spanna. Given DOCG status in 1997, it also allows for a small amount of Uva Rara and/or Vespolina. Riserva versions require at least 46 months of ageing with at least 24 of them in barrel.
Nizza DOCG is one of Piedmont’s more recent DOCGs and is the home of excellent red wines from Barbera. It was granted its own status after breaking away from the Barbera d’Asti classification in 2014. before which Nizza might be found as sub-zone reference on the label.
The Roero Valley is one of Piedmont’s lesser known but premium wine producing areas. Nebbiolo is grown here, but there is also an improving scene of Arneis production and it is this high potential white grape that is working hard to put put Roero on the map.