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Nebbiolo

The noble progenitor of the great Piedmontese reds

Nebbiolo is one of the oldest grape varieties, dating back to the 13th century, and is the noble progenitor of the great Piedmontese reds - Barolo, Barbaresco, Gattinara – and a host of other wines in Piedmont, Lombardy (Valtellina) and Val d'Aosta. It is vinified in purity and is a symbol of Italian viticulture. Nebbiolo is undoubtedly one of the most aristocratic and well-known Italian autochthonous grape varieties. While some people sustain that Nebbiolo originated in the hills around the town of Alba, documents dating back to the 13th century mention it as being found along the Via Francigena which travelled from Turin, across the Susa valley, climbing to Mont Genève. The presence of numerous monasteries had favoured the cultivation of vines because travellers along the road drank a considerable amount of wine. The traders and pilgrims that used the route often brought vine shootings with them to use in their exchanges, and these probably included Nebbiolo cuttings. Nebbiolo is a late-ripening variety which is harvested in mid-October or even in November, when the autumn mist floats through the valleys. This is why it is thought that the name Nebbiolo comes from the Italian word for fog, “nebbia”.
To obtain high quality Nebbiolo, the vines must be planted on hillsides exposed from southeast to southwest, and never on the valley floor, where they are protected against frost and cold weather in spring. The variety is sensitive to sharp changes in temperature and benefits from oscillations between daytime and night-time temperatures during the ripening phase. The large amount of tannin in its skin requires it to be planted on hills that receive excellent exposure to the sun, at altitudes between 200 and 450 metres above sea level, so that the grapes can ripen perfectly. An ancient alternative to the compass in order to identify the best exposure consists in watching the hills after it has snowed, and seeing where the snow melts first.

Nebbiolo autochthonous grape

Nebbiolo is distinguished by its very long vegetative cycle. It buds very early and is the last variety to shed its leaves. This is why it succeeds in producing wines with a very particular personality. The areas where it is cultivated successfully are in the northernmost regions of Italy. Hillside Nebbiolo is produced in Piedmont, while mountain Nebbiolo grows in Valle d'Aosta and Lombardy (Valtellina). Nebbiolo is Piedmont’s most important grape variety and is the main component of four of the region’s DOCG wines. The most famous vineyards today are in the Langa district, where the soil is mostly calcareous, with variable amounts of sand and clay. There is also some wine made in other parts of the world with very particular results, sometimes extravagant and not always of interest. This is why Nebbiolo can be described as absolutely autochthonous, as it is unable to express its potential to the full outside its zone of origin.

Wines made with Nebbiolo grapes

Wines made with Nebbiolo grapes are usually characterised by moderate transparency and rather bright colour. It is, however, possible to have more reduced transparency in Nebbiolo, a result which requires extreme viticultural and oenological skill, with rather low yields in the vineyard. The colour is usually very bright, presenting evident ruby red tones when still very young. After maturing for several years, the colour tends to acquire garnet red hues, sometimes tending towards an orangey red. This quality could lead people to assume

that the assume that the wine ages very quickly, yet Nebbiolo has a considerable longevity – thanks to the high contents of tannins, acidity and alcohol – often lasting for decades. They are always generous in the nose, featuring pleasant and intense scents of flours and fruit. And thanks to long periods spent ageing in wood, they also present rather complex tertiary sensations. The traditional choice of the barrel over the more modern barrique also allows the wine to mature well, without overpowering the aromatic qualities of the grape variety.

The opening aromas are usually cherry, plum and violet. The other fruity aromas include raspberry, sour cherry, blackberry, blueberry and strawberry, while the most frequent floral scents are rose and geranium. Ageing in wood conveys tertiary aromas, the most frequent of which are vanilla, chocolate, cocoa, liquorice, cinnamon and tobacco. You can also come across scents of aromatic herbs such as thyme and rosemary in this wine, as well the pleasant balsamic aroma of menthol. Nebbiolo is not a simple grape and reveals its strong

personality and complexity on the palate. Its evident acidity, together with an equally evident astringency, are qualities rarely found in red wines. Wines made with Nebbiolo also have quite a high alcohol content, which is often useful to balance both the acidity and the astringency of the tannins. Ageing in wood not only allows the wine to develop, it also helps balance the “harsh” sensorial qualities, conveying smoothness and roundness.

Barolo

There is no Barolo grape variety, as Barolo is made with the Nebbiolo grape..
The Barolo area is a traditional hillside in the rolling hills of Piedmont, north – western Italy. The vineyards and wineries have long been famous for producing some of Italy’s very finest red wines – predominantly from the region’s signature grape variety, Nebbiolo. Fragrant, tannic Barolo wine is so revered that it was one of just three wines awarded DOCG status on the day that the classification was introduced in July 1980. The soils and mesoclimates vary slightly between these communes, creating subtle differences between the wines produced from their vineyards. (although it must be remembered that the skills and preferences of the individual winemakers also have significant influence over these differences) The specific nature of the sensorial characteristics deriving from pure vinification of each individual cru or subzone is an irreplaceable qualitative value: every municipality in the Barolo zone has its own, and they are always highlighted clearly on the labels.

Barolo's Area

In Castiglione Falletto, Serralunga and Monforte the vineyards are planted on looser and less fertile, Helvetian soils, which include both sandstone and limestone. This leads to a brick-colored wine which is more intense, bigger in structure and requires a longer time to age. Serralunga has Vigna Rionda, Gabutti. Monforte has Bussia and Ginestre, Santo Stefano di Perno… The wines usually have a high alcohol content, are rich in extractive substances, have a good structure and colour, are full-bodied, rounded and robust, with a very long life, both in the barrel and in the bottle. In La Morra and Barolo the soil contains a high concentration of limestone – rich Tortonian marl.

The more aromatic, fruitier styles of Barolo typically come from these soil types. La Morra is considered to produce the most perfumed and graceful Barolos, while those from Barolo tend to be a little more complex and broader-textured. In Barolo, we have Cannubi, which conveys very high levels of structure and aroma. This cru is considered to be the heart of Barolo, following the discovery of a label dating back to 1751. Famous crus in La Morra are Cerequio, Brunate, Rocche and Monfalletto, which convey enviable aromas, with inimitable finesse and elegance. The town of La Morra, which overlooks a succession of gently rolling, vine covered hills is extremely pretty,

and as you leave the town, one of the roads that descends through these hills, in a setting characterised by beautiful colours and scents, leads to the hamlet of Rivalta. Dario is working hard to make his San Giacomo famous too: it usually opens with a whirl of intriguing scents, a combination of red fruits and flowers, notes of bark and sweet tobacco. Full and firm on the palate, with evident tannins, it opens and closes with an enveloping sensation of ripe fruit. Full-bodied, its freshness and savouriness flow through its lingering persistency.

Tasting Notes

Barolo is a very particular wine, and not just due to the bouquet and flavours perceived. The more you taste it, the more it involves you. You want to get to know all about its various aspects, trying to discover and analyse its contours and its surroundings. Little by little, you realise that it is a unique wine. (Lorenzo Tablino)

This is “goudron” …can you smell the hot tar on the surface of the road?

Black liquorice, liquorice allsorts, or violets…these are the only components of aged Barolo.

...rose, cinnamon, violet, mint

TANNINS….Barolo will always be tannic, that’s its’ imprint. But why does everyone complain about tannins in Barolo? Barolo is simply Barolo. It cannot, and should not be similar to other wines. It cannot always be perfectly round and harmonious, with a purplish ruby red colour…… (the regulations state that the colour is garnet).

Look at the colour, it seems to have mustard-coloured highlights.

Persistent and reminiscent of blackberry and violet.

Despite the differences between the wines from these various terroir, they all retain the key qualities which define the classic Barolo Style; the famous tar and roses' aroma, a bright ruby color (which fades to garnet over time), firm tannins, elevated acidity, and relatively high alcohol.

Wines made with Nebbiolo grapes are usually characterised by moderate transparency and rather bright colour. It is, however, possible to have more reduced transparency in Nebbiolo, a result which requires extreme viticultural and oenological skill, with rather low yields in the vineyard. The colour is usually very bright, presenting evident ruby red tones when still very young.

After maturing for several years, the colour tends to acquire garnet red hues, sometimes tending towards an orangey red. This quality could lead people to assume that the wine ages very quickly, yet Nebbiolo has a considerable longevity – thanks to the high contents of tannins, acidity and alcohol – often lasting for decades.

They are always generous in the nose, featuring pleasant and intense scents of flours and fruit. And thanks to long periods spent ageing in wood, they also present rather complex tertiary sensations. The traditional choice of the barrel over the more modern barrique also allows the wine to mature well, without overpowering the aromatic qualities of the grape variety.

The opening aromas are usually cherry, plum and violet. The other fruity aromas include raspberry, sour cherry, blackberry, blueberry and strawberry, while the most frequent floral scents are rose and geranium.

Ageing in wood conveys tertiary aromas, the most frequent of which are vanilla, chocolate, cocoa, liquorice, cinnamon and tobacco. You can also come across scents of aromatic herbs such as thyme and rosemary in this wine, as well the pleasant balsamic aroma of menthol.

Nebbiolo is not a simple grape and reveals its strong personality and complexity on the palate. Its evident acidity, together with an equally evident astringency, are qualities rarely found in red wines. Wines made with Nebbiolo also have quite a high alcohol content, which is often useful to balance both the acidity and the astringency of the tannins. Ageing in wood not only allows the wine to develop, it also helps balance the “harsh” sensorial qualities, conveying smoothness and roundness.

How Do We Turn Nebbiolo Grapes Into Barolo Wine?

Barolo is the result of a specific vinification and ageing procedure. The vineyards have to be planted in specific areas, with the best exposure, not in hollows between the hills. Success depends on the common sense of the producers and meticulous checks by the pertinent regulatory organisations. After pressing and fermentation, the wine has to age for three years before it can be sold. At least 18 months of this time have to be spent in wooden barrels. Then it can be bottled and, after receiving DOCG (Denomination of Controlled and Guaranteed Origin) certification, released for sale. If this ageing is extended to five years, the term “Riserva” is added, indicating the wine’s greater prestige.

Langhe Nebbiolo

Langhe is a territorial appellation, justified by that traditional practice in which winegrowers decide which wine to make on the basis of the quality of the grapes in the vineyard. If the grapes in a Nebbiolo vineyard are not used exclusively to make Barolo, those used to make Langhe Nebbiolo are separated during the harvest. Thanks to its high quality, Langhe has succeeded in rising from being a second-class appellation to create itself very important spaces on the international market. The Langhe DOC was born in 1994, with the intention of uniting the territory. The production regulations state that, in order to be classified as D.O.C., Langhe Nebbiolo has to be made of at least 85% Nebbiolo grapes, with the remaining 15% being red grapes grown within the area of the appellation. The producer may also decide to use 100% Nebbiolo. To explain Langhe Nebbiolo more easily, we can simply say that it is the younger brother of Barolo. Same grape variety, same soil, same microclimate. So what’s the difference? Just the ageing. There are no obligations regarding minimum ageing and the use of wooden barrels, as there are with Barolo. Langhe Nebbiolo often reserves pleasant surprises, so much so that you’re often left wondering whether what you’re drinking is Langhe Nebbiolo or Barolo.