Nebbiolo seems to be happiest in Italy as no interesting results have yet been achieved beyond its borders. This noble grape comes from Piedmont. Its wines are known for their slow ripening.
Nebbiolo: top wines from Piedmont
The noble, but highly strung Nebbiolo is a grape variety grown in the Italian wine region of Piedmont where it is used to make red wines such as Barolo, Barbaresco or Gattinara. The slow-ripening Nebbiolo is sensitive to late frosts and is grown on steep south- or southwest-facing slopes around the town of Alba.
The variety was presumably named “Nebbiolo” because the grapes are covered in a white bloom when fully ripe. The Italian word for fog, “nebbia”, is a reference to this. The grapes also thrive best where morning mists cover the vines in autumn. This is the case in Piedmont and in the north of Lombardy.
Few winegrowers cultivate Nebbiolo outside Italy. The variety is grown to some extent in France, Switzerland – mainly in Valais – and Austria, and outside Europe in California, Argentina and New Zealand.
Wine from Nebbiolo – varietals and blends
Wines vinified from the Nebbiolo grape can display a wide range of aromas from fruity, light and feminine all the way through to dry, astringent and slightly bitter. When young they are dark and rich in tannins with a potent acidity. As they age, they mature into more complex, aromatic wines.Nebbiolo wine aromas are reminiscent of truffles, game, decaying leaves and plums. Nebbiolo d’Alba, the original Barolo-style wine, is a typical example. It is marketed in Lombardy under the name of Chiavennasca and is often blended with varieties such as Merlot and Cabernet franc. Nebbiolo d’Alba is elegant and racy, but still accessible and not as high in tannins as Barolo. Barolo and Barbaresco are characterized by powerful, tannin-forward flavours.Famous wines Sassella and Inferno from the DOC appellation Valtellina Superiore are made 100% from Nebbiolo grapes. Vinification focuses on extracting the maximum colour and tannins and usually takes place at high temperatures in large tanks or wooden barrels. Fermentation can last up to two weeks in order to extract the maximum possible colour and tannins.
Nebbiolo: fruity and light like Beaujolais nouveau
Angelo Gaja created Vinòt, a wine in the style of Beaujolais nouveau where Nebbiolo displays a surprising lightness and fruitiness. This type of wine is fermented using carbonic maceration where fermentation starts already during maceration. The unpressed grapes are placed in a closed vessel and carbon dioxide is added. As a result of the pressure from the top, the grapes below are gradually crushed and fermentation begins. After a few days the must is drawn off and the remaining grapes are pressed. Fermentation is then continued after mixing the two musts. Wine produced from Nebbiolo in this way has many fruity and semi-sweet aromas and must be drunk within a year.