The winemakers of Piemonte use the proper fermentation and ageing techniques that are required to make commercially sound wines, and a great choice of grape varieties at their disposal allows them to plant whatever works best on specific plots of land.
Here are some grape varieties that have helped make Piemonte famous for its wines:
Nebbiolo: The variety behind Barolo and Barbaresco, and perhaps the most famous red grape of Piemonte. This is one of the finest and longest living wines from Italy. Naturally high in acidity, many of the wines made from Nebbiolo are also high in tannins. With age they develop amazing complexity. Red fruits, floral notes, mushrooms, tobacco, you name it.
Barbera: Here’s a variety in some cases easily challenging some of the best Barolo’s. Grown all over the provinces of Alba, Asti and Alessandria, these rustic wines have big acidity, with a warming rustic edge and tons of character. Overcropping and questionable winemaking was once an issue, but with care in the vineyards and oak ageing, they are now a lot more accessible.
Dolcetto: Like Barbera, careful fermentation and oak ageing has softened the edges of a once slightly rough wine. I usually get red or black cherry flavours from Dolcetto, and when it has seen oak it is smooth and concentrated, whilst remaining quite light in body. A great partner to traditional Italian pasta dishes and pizza.
Moscato: Widely grown throughout the country, the white Moscato from the Asti province has done wonders to raise the profile of this lightly fizzy, low alcohol wine. Asti Moscato has a fuller fizz and comes in between 7 and 9.5% ABV, however Moscato d’Asti has a lighter fizz and comes in around 5.5% ABV. The sweetness of d’Asti makes it a good accompaniment to dessert.
Cortese: This is the grape variety used in Gavi. Cortese makes delicate, light whites with soft and subtle fruity citrusy flavours. The better versions usually have some minerality and that nutty, savoury edge, but the wonderful acidity is the signature characteristic of most. Generally speaking, the best expression of the grape comes from the Gavi zone.
Arneis: Another indigenous grape variety to Piemonte, Arneis almost met its end in the 1970s when only two houses were producing it. With a surge in demand for white wine from the region in the 1980s, Arneis made a remarkable comeback and is now also grown, albeit to a limited extent, in California and Australia. It is pleasingly dry and scented with relatively low acidity.
International varieties: Don’t be too surprised to find wines of Piemonte made from better known international grape varieties. Younger producers have experimented with Pinot Noir, Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon with some success. One of the big success stories is that of Chardonnay, which has truly made itself at home in north west Italy.
Pictured: Barbera grapes at harvest / Get 20% off all Italian wines under €25 up to and including Monday 30th.