Nebbiolo's Various Expressions in Piedmont, Italy

Referred to as the king of grapes in Piedmont and the variety that makes one of Italy's world-renowned wines, Nebbiolo is a true embodiment of elegance, power and ageability. Although there are several indigenous grape varieties present in this northwestern corner of Italy where 44,579 hectares of vineyards are being cultivated, Nebbiolo establishes its best definition in this land.

Depending on the composition of the soil, location and local winemaking tradition, this grape variety displays a range of excellent expressions in the bottle. Each expression conveys the richness of the diverse areas of Piedmont. The region of Piedmont as a whole lies at the foot of the Alps, as the  name indicates. It generally has a continental climate and because of its rain shadow position, the mountains block the passage of rains and wind and cast a shadow of dryness over the area.

Apropos to the origin of its name, Nebbiolo is derived from nebbia which means fog in Italian. It is a late ripening variety with a long vegetative cycle that is harvested in mid-October or sometimes even in November, long after the other grapes like Barbera, Bonarda, Dolcetto and Arneis have been harvested in the area, when the autumn mist covers the valleys.

Wines made with Nebbiolo grapes are characterized by its distinctive transparency and bright ruby red color when it is still very young. After maturing for a number of years, the color tends to acquire garnet red hues, going towards brick red orange and reducing its transparency. The wines are always generous with the opening of fruity aromas of mature sour cherries, plums, blackberries, blueberries and raspberries with the prevalent floral tones of violets, roses and geraniums. Spices spring up too like thyme, rosemary and white pepper. With the long periods of aging in wood, the complex tertiary characteristics frequently come out. Expect aromas like vanilla, licorice, cinnamon, menthol, coffee, underbrush, dried tobcco leaves, tar, leather, and chocolate. In the mouth, it is also distinguishable for its high contents of tannins, acidity and alcohol which give the wine considerable longevity, getting even better over long periods of keeping, conveying smoothness and roundness. The personality of Nebbiolo-based wines reveal its magnificent characteristics on the palate and depending on the area and winemaker, the uniqueness stand out.

Nebbiolo is the quintessential grape variety in the Piedmont region, the primary variety, in pure form or a part of a blend in five of the region's DOCGs and numerous DOCs. Barolo is the most famous and prestigious of them all but it is increasingly challenged by the wines produced in the sandier Barbaresco DOCG zones, or the lesser known but equally excellent Gattinara DOCG and Ghemme DOCG produced in the regional border with Lombardy, as well as very small production of Valli Ossolane DOC from Prunent, a Nebbiolo clone.

Here are the major wine production zones in Piedmont:


Located on the right bank of the Tanaro River, between the Ligurian Apennines, the Maritime Alps and Monferrato, Langhe's rolling hills and ancient hamlets create a beautiful landscape in the southern part of Piedmont and it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2014, along with the hills of Roero and Monferrato. The neat rows of vineyards on the gentle slopes are the dominant features of the topography of the Langa area. Barbaresco and Barolo, the King of Wines and the Wines of Kings, make the Langa the most famous and celebrated part of Piedmont. Barolo DOCG is produced in eleven communes in the province of Cuneo, one of which is Barolo, the town that lends its name to the wine. Other communes include Castiglione Falletto, Serralunga d'Alba, parts of La Morra, Roddi, and Monforte d'Alba. Barbaresco DOCG instead is produced in the communes of Barbaresco, the town where the wine got its name, Neive and Treiso, in the province of Cuneo.

Barolo and Barbaresco are two wines of the famous appellations with completely different characteristics but united by the same grape, the Nebbiolo. The main difference lies from the compositions of soil from where their Nebbiolo vines grow. The soils are formed during the Helvetian and Tortonian Ages and are principally composed of sedimentary chalky-claying marlstones interlaced with gray-blue marls called marls of Sant'Agata composed of 30% sand, 55% clay and 15% limestone while Barbaresco lies in a soil composition with more sand than clay.

Barolo has an outstanding capacity for ageability. They are powerful wines with rich tannins and distinguished acidity. Depending on the commune and cru, the wines develop different particularities like the wines from Monforte which has the crus of Bussia, Ginestre and Santo Stefano di Perno that have high extractive substances display good structure and color, robustness and very long life in the bottle. The wines from Castiglione Falletto and Serralunga, planted on loose and less fertile Helvetian soils, produce more intense and bigger structured wines. The most aromatic and fruit forward Barolo wines come from La Morra for the higher concentration of limestone and rich of the marls of Sant'Agata soil, while its crus Cerequio, Rocche, Brunate and Monfalletto convey outstanding elegance and aromas. The commune of Barolo produces more complex Barolo wines which includes the Cannubi cru with its rich aromas and great structure.

The more approachable Nebbiolo-based wines in Langhe are Nebbiolo d'Alba, comprised of 100% Nebbiolo and Langhe Nebbiolo, comprised of 85% to 100% Nebbiolo which are released sooner than their more famous counterparts and can be enjoyed at a much younger age with the notable excellent characteristics.  The wines are produced from younger vines and less favored vineyard plots.

The wine producers to keep in mind here are Rivetto, Paolo Manzone Viticoltore, Parusso, Le Strette, Cascina Gilli and L' Astemia Pentita


On the opposite bank of the Tanaro River lies the zone of Roero, making the river as the dividing point between the two areas. Like Langhe, it is also composed of rolling hills but with a much younger history of geological formation from 5 million years ago, compared to the more ancient formation of the Langhe hills of 15 to 30 million years ago. The land is characterized by green rugged hills with a more varied landscape of fruit orchards, vegetable farms, chestnut groves, woods, small lakes and the Rocche, the narrow and steep calanques that break up the terrain with hundred-meter deep ravines that expose the yellow sandstone that characterizes the soil of Roero. The wines produced from the Nebbiolo of this area is generally not as tannic as the ones from the other side of the river which make them less age-worthy. Yet, most Roero DOCG that are produced here can age excellently especially the Roero Riserva DOCG which the appellation requires 32 months of aging, 6 of which are in oak barrels while the Roero must be aged for 20 months with 6 months in oak barrels, with 95% minimum amount of Nebbiolo. The wines are characterized with lighter structure, smooth tannins, excellent complexity, medium body and more fragrant spice-tinged fruity aromas of dark berries and sour cherries. The finest Roero DOCG are produced from vines grown in steep, sandy south-facing slopes as the grapes need high levels of sunlight to ripen its tannins.

Another Nebbiolo-based wine of Roero is the Nebbiolo d'Alba DOC wherein the zone of production covers much of the territory of Roero and extends across the Tanaro River to the south of Alba in Langhe. 

While Roero produces important red wines, it also has a white wine of increasing importance in the last two decades that's produced from Arneis grapes. When the vineyards are positioned in the cooler north-facing slopes and sheltered from the harsh afternoon sun, they develop full aromatic complexity with excellent acidity. Previously, a dash of Arneis was traditionally added to the Nebbiolo to soften their high tannins.

One of the wine producers to take note of in Roero is Malvirà.

Alto Piemonte (Upper Piedmont)

About 100 kilometers northeast of Roero, between the cities of Vercelli and Novara, along the regional border with Lombardy and up into the alpine scenery of the Valtellina, lies the area of Alto Piemonte where the 2 Nebbiolo-based (or Spanna in the local dialect) DOCG red wines Gattinara and Ghemme, and 8 DOC wines Bramaterra, Fara, Boca, Colline Novaresi, Costa della Sesia, Lessona, Sizzano and Valli Ossolane are produced. 

Alto Piemonte is a large hilly area with a microclimate ideal for the cultivation of Nebbiolo making it highly suitable for viticulture. The territory is shielded from the cold northern winds by the Monte Rosa, the second highest mountain in Europe while in the warm season, the fresh winds coming from the glaciers and the valleys bring ventilation and cool temperatures at night time. The geological condition of this area is more diversified with the presence of varied colors of the soil and rock formations. The most important and popular wines are Gattinara and Ghemme. 

The Gattinara vineyards grown around the areas of the town of Gattinara, the soils are compact and hard which are composed of brown-ochre colored porphyry ignimbrites which have volcanic origin, and have brittle superficial layers. Although the appellation requires at least 90% of the Nebbiolo grapes, mixed with Vespolina and Uva Rara, most producers use 100% Nebbiolo. The wines are aged for 35 months, 24 of which are oak barrels while the Riserva requires 47 months, 36 of which are in oak.

Ghemme instead are produced in the hills around the town of Ghemme and parts of Romagnano Sesia which have alluvial and glacial deposits from the Pleistocene era and a superficial layer of clay and tufa. On the plateu, the soils are more compact and are rich in dissolved minerals giving the wines distinguished sapidity. The minimum amount of Nebbiolo is 85% up to 100% and the aging requirement is 34 months, 18 of which are in oak barrels while the Riserva is 46 months, 24 of which are in oak. Typically, Ghemme has a ruby red color with garnet shades with sapidity in the palate and a bitter background. 

The wine producers to take note of are Antoniolo Società Agricola, Cantina del Signore, Castaldi Francesca, Azienda Vitivinicola Enrico Crola, Il Chiosso, Ioppa, Mirù di Arlunno Marco, Rocciarossa and Vigneti Valle Roncati.

The appellation Valli Ossolane DOC is the most recent addition in 2009 to the already impressive wine portfolio of the Piedmont region which is produced in 17 commune of the area. It is yet another one of Piedmont's most picturesque landscapes on the Ossola hills. The vineyards are situated on terraces on the steep hillside of the Toce River valley. The soil compositions are varied with moraine, sand and porphyry. The high concentration of granite, minerals and acidity provide the wines a complex structure and good minerality. The cold winds from the Monte Rosa and the Alps create a diurnal temperature variation between day and night which promotes sugar accumulation during the day while the low night temperature preserves the balanced levels of fruit acidity. Prunent, a clone of Nebbiolo, is the principal grape in the area which has been cultivated for over 700 years in Ossola. From a vast vine cultivation of 800 hectares in the past, only 30 hectares remain in the area with 8 wine producers. In the area, some producers still maintain the traditional old pergola training system or topia in the local dialect.

There are 4 sub-categories of the Vallli Ossolane appellation. The Valli Ossolane Nebbiolo and its more powerful counterpart Valli Ossolane Nebbiolo Superiore are produced with at least 85% Nebbiolo, with the superior's aging of 13 months, 6 of which are in oak barrels. The other two are Valli Ossolane Rosso that may contain at least 60% Nebbiolo, Croatina, or Merlot and Valli Ossolane Bianco which contains 60% Chardonnay.

Valli Ossolane Nebbiolo has intense ruby red colors with tinges of garnet, pronounced tannins, medium body, a very particular nose of intense candied fruit berries mixed with sour cherries and spices, and dry and harmonious in the palate.

The Valli Ossolane wine producers to take note of are La Cantina di Tappia, Azienda Agricola Edoardo Patrone, Cantine Garrone, Villa Mercante and Casa Vitivinicola Eca.





Address: Via Roddino 17, 12050 Serralunga d'Alba (CN), Italy / Winery: Località Lirano 2, 12050 Sinio (CN), Italy| Tel: +39 017 3613380 | Email: | Website: | Facebook: 

Paolo Manzone Viticoltore / Cascina Meriame

Address: Località Meriame 1, 12050 Serralunga d'Alba (CN), Italy | Tel: +39 0173 613113 | Email: | Website: 


Address: Località Bussia 55, 12065 Monforte d'Alba (CN), Italy | Tel: +39 0173 78257 | Email: | Website: | Facebook:

Le Strette
Address: Via Le Strette 1/F, 12060 Novello (CN), Italy | Tel: +39 0173 744002 | Email: | Website:

Cascina Gilli
Address: Via Nevissano 36, 14022 Castelnuovo Don Bosco (AT), Italy | Tel: +39 011 9876984 | Email: | Website: | Facebook:

L'Astemia Pentita
Address: Via Crosia 40, 12060 Barolo (CN), Italy | Tel: +39 0173 560501 | Email: | Website: | Facebook:


Malvirà / Villa Tiboldi

Address: Via Case Sparse 144, 12043 Canale d'Alba (CN), Italy | Tel: +39 0173 978145 | Email: | Website: | Facebook:

Alto Piemonte:

Antoniolo Società Agricola
Address: Corso Valsesia 277, 13045 Gattinara (VC), Italy | Tel: +39 0163 833612 | Email:  | Website: 

Cantina del Signore

Address: Corso Vercelli 88, 13045 Gattinara (VC), Italy | Tel: +39 0163 833777 | Email: | Website: | Facebook:

Castaldi Francesca
Address: Via Tenente Solaroli 8, 28072 Briona (NO), Italy | Tel: +39 338 7869887 | Email: | Website: | Facebook:

Azienda Vitinivinicola Enrico Crola
Address: Via Vergiasca 9, 28040 Mezzomerico (NO), Italy | Tel: +39 0321 1696716 | Email: | Website: | Facebook:

Il Chiosso
Address: Via G. Marconi 45, 13045 Gattinara (VC), Italy | Tel: +39 0163 826739 | Email: | Website: | Facebook: chiosso

Address: Via delle Pallotte 10, 28078 Romagnano Sesia (NO), Italy | Tel: +39 0163 833079 | Email: | Website: | Facebook: chiosso

Mirù di Arlunno Marco
Address: Piazza Cavour 4, 28074 Ghemme (NO), Italy | Tel: +39 0163 840032 | Email: | Website: | Facebook:

Address: Via Roma 45, 13862 Brusnengo (BI), Italy | Tel: 39 331 1653643 | Email: | Website: | Facebook:

Vigneti Valle Roncati
Address: Via Nazionale 10/A, 28072 Briona (NO), Italy | Tel: +39 011 8005851 | Email: | Website: | Facebook:

La Cantina di Tappia
Address: Frazione Tappia, 28844 Villadossola (VB), Italy | Tel: +39 320 4880589 | Facebook:

Azienda Agricola Edoardo Patrone
Address: Borgata Baceno 51, 28845 Domodossola (VB), Italy | Tel: +39 324 6126355 | Email: | Website: | Facebook:

Cantine Garrone
Address: Via G.B. Scappacino 36, 28845 Domodossola (VB), Italy | Tel: +39 0324 242990 | Email: | Website: | Facebook:

Villa Mercante
Address: Via Strada Vecchia 23, 28859 Trontano (VB), Italy | Tel: +39 338 4625752 | Website:

Casa Vitivinicola Eca
Address: Via fabbri 42, 28844 Villadossola (VB), Italy | Tel: +39 349 7352002 | Email: | Website: