A small guide to discover the world of Piedmont wine, from history to wine tastings
The history of Piedmont wine dates back to to the time of the ancient Greeks. They used the ports of what is now Liguria to enter the region, import vine shoots, which were the first grapevines of Piedmont.
The most important turning point came thanks to the famous Camillo Benso, Count of Cavour. It was thanks to him that the Italian Barolo wine (a Piedmont’s DOCG wine) gained fame as a fine wine. Cavour, in fact, decided to plant 200,000 Nebbiolo vines in Grinzane Castle.
In Piedmont wine and territory
Piedmont’s role in the development of Italian oenology has been fundamental. To this day, some of the best wines in Italy are produced in this region. This is also thanks to the three-sided coverage provided by the Alps, which provides a perfect climate for growing vines.
The territory is in fact characterised by the Alpine arc, hilly areas especially in the Monferrato region, and flat areas that are not destined for vineyard cultivation. The continental climate is mainly dictated by temperature changes and humidity that allows the Piedmont wine production. The vine training systems in Piedmont are of two types: Guyot and Pergola.
The most famous wine producing areas of Piedmont are:
Foothills area between Saluzzo and Turin – where we can find the famous Nebbiolo grape (considered valuable and suitable for high-quality aged wines). In this case, however, it is more of a mountain Nebbiolo wine, being located towards the Aosta Valley.
Monferrato – its territory is almost exclusively hilly. It lies within the provinces of Alessandria and Asti and extends southwards to the foot of the Ligurian Apennines. On 22 June 2014, during the 38th session of the UNESCO committee, it was officially included, together with the Langhe and Roero, in the list of World Heritage Sites.
The Roero – the Roero area is mainly hilly and is mainly cultivated with fruit trees and vineyards. The Rocche del Roero are a distinctive feature of the landscape and a reason for much tourism.
The Langhe – with its breathtaking green landscape, it is divided into:
- Langhe at low altitude: an area with altitudes generally lower than 600 metres; a territory of fine Piemonte wines and truffles (the Alba white truffle is renowned).
- High-altitude Langhe: area with altitudes up to 896 metres. It is a fundamental part of the Langhe for the cultivation of the prized Tonda Gentile delle Langhe hazelnut variety.
- Langhe Astigiane: the Asti wine region is an area in the south of the province of Asti, with a peak of 851 metres in the municipality of Serole.
Upper Piedmont – an area characterised above all by the production of red wines from Nebbiolo. Among the most famous areas for these Piemonte wines are Ghemme, Gattinara and the DOC Carema.
Piemonte wines – Some highlights
There are some important characteristics and data to consider in the production of Piedmont wine. The first factor is the area for wine production: it is 48,100 hectares, of which: Mountain: 43%, Hill: 30%, Plain: 27%. The total wine production in Piedmont is 2,580,000 hectolitres of which: DOC wines 81%, DOCG wines 19%, IGP wines 0%.
This divides red and rosé wines into a 60% of production, while traditional white wines are 40%. Another important feature is the different wine appellations in Piedmont: there are 16 DOCG wines, 42 DOC wines and 0 IGT wines (There are no wines with this wine appellation because Piedmont has renounced it).
Until the first half of the twentieth century, Piemonte wines were mainly sweet wines, partly because sweet wines kept better, even though they were exported by sea from the Maritime Republic of Genoa.
Today, the grapevines cultivated in Piedmont are mostly black grapes such as the Nebbiolo, which is one of the most famous native grape varieties. There are many types of local grapes: among the most recognised ones, there are important grape varieties such as Barbera, Dolcetto, Croatina, Freisa, Bonarda and Malvasia with black grapes. Among the white grape varieties, we find the native Cortese, Erbaluce and the white Moscato. There are more than 50 types of high-quality Piemonte wines (with Doc and Docg wine appellations) that are now famous and sold all over the world.
Piemonte wines DOCG
- Alta Langa: among Piemonte wines DOCG, it is a wine with a pale yellow to deep gold colour, a fragrant aroma and a savoury flavour.
- Roero Arneis: straw-yellow in colour with slightly amber highlights, it has a delicate, fresh aroma and a dry, bitterish flavour.
- Barbera D’Asti: It is among the most popular red wines from Piedmont. It has got an intense aroma and a dry flavour that becomes more pleasant with ageing.
- Barbera del Monferrato Superiore: It is among the red wines of Piedmont with a ruby red colour, a vinous aroma, a dry and sometimes sparkling flavour.
- Barbaresco: it is a red Piedmont wine from with an intense aroma similar to fruits of the forest floor and a dry, harmonious flavour.
- Barolo: Barolo red wine is among the famous wines of Piedmont and is produced from Nebbiolo grapes of the sub-varieties Michet, Lampia and Rosé. These grapes are ripened in a restricted area of the Langhe, which is part of the Barolo wine region in the province of Cuneo. Barolo DOCG has got a garnet red colour with orange highlights as well as a distinctive, pleasant and intense bouquet. It has a dry and robust flavour. The minimum alcohol content is 13° with a compulsory ageing of three years and five years for the “riserva” version. The name Barolo chinato is allowed for aromatised wine version, prepared using Barolo wine as a base. The best Barolo wines were produced in 1947, 1971, 1982, 1990, 1997, 1999, 2001. Finally, we remember the 2004 vintage.
- Cortese di Gavi: this wine is produced in the Gavi wine region. It has got a more or less intense straw colour, with a delicate aroma and a fresh taste.
- Erbaluce: straw-yellow in colour, it has an aroma reminiscent of field holes and a dry flavour.
- Gattinara: it is one of Piedmont’s finest red wines, garnet red in colour tending towards orange. It has a delicate aroma and a dry flavour with a bitterish aftertaste.
- Ghemme: it is an intense red wine with brick-coloured reflections after long ageing, a scent of violets and a bitter taste at the end.
- Moscato: is a bright straw yellow wine with an intense musky aroma. In the mouth this Piedmont wine is delicately sweet and fragrant, also appreciated as a refreshing summer drink.
- Dogliani: a ruby red wine with a dry, almondy flavour. The smell released by this type of wine is very fruity.
Piemonte wines Doc
Here you will find a list of the different types of Piemonte wines DOC:
- Langhe Arneis: Langhe Arneis is a DOC wine whose production is allowed in the province of Cuneo. Straw-coloured, it has an intense smell with a fresh and dry taste.
- Barbera: it is a robust wine with a lot of personality. For decades, it has represented the classic red wine for meals. The wine obtained from the Barbera grape variety is ruby red in colour, intense and leaves a spicy taste, with an odour similar to the scent of flowers and berries.
- Bonarda: it is an intense ruby red wine with a sweet fruity aroma and sometimes with hints of black pepper. The taste is dry, amabile or sweet, and sometimes lively or sparkling.
- Carema: a wine with a ruby red colour close to garnet and a fine aroma reminiscent of macerated roses. With a minimum alcohol content of 12°. Ageing is compulsory for three years and four years for the “riserva” version.
- Nebbiolo: this Piemonte wine is produced in the province of Cuneo from Nebbiolo grapes. A ruby red wine with garnet-coloured reflections after ageing. The smell is very characteristic, delicate, reminiscent of violets; the flavour varies from dry to pleasantly sweet. Minimum alcohol content: 12°. The minimum ageing period for the dry version is one year.
- Freisa: it is produced from an old native grapevine, in the hilly area situated in the province of Asti. A garnet-red coloured wine, with a characteristic scent of raspberry or rose and with a fresh, pleasant flavour. Minimum alcohol content: 11°.
- Dolcetto d’Alba: a red wine from Piedmont, sometimes tending to purple in the foam. A pleasant smell and a bitterish taste. It has a minimum alcohol content of 11.5°. With one year of ageing, it has a minimum alcohol content of 12.5°.
- Grignolino d’Asti: In the vast hilly area around the city of Asti, the Grignolino grapevine has been grown since before the 18th century. This Piedmont wine has a ruby red colour, with a tendency to orange if aged. It has a characteristic and delicate almost bitterish perfume with a minimum alcohol content of 11°.
- Loazzolo: it is a Piedmontese wine with a canary yellow colour. It has a more complex and very intense aroma than other wines. Characterised by a very sweet taste, with an aroma of Muscat.
- Timorasso: a Piedmont wine with a straw-yellow colour and a scent reminiscent of acacia and hawthorn. The colour changes during ageing as it becomes much closer to golden. The taste is very dry, but over the years it retains its freshness.
Pairings with Piemonte wine
For wine lovers, Piedmont means a great wine production to discover and taste with extraordinary local foods, perhaps during a food & wine holiday.
Here is a small guide to help you decide which Piedmont wine should be paired with traditional Piedmontese dishes.
- Piedmont Bric Bastia should be paired with desserts and cheeses.
- Nebbiolo D’Alba pairs well with roasts, stews, game, white meats, mature cheeses as well as with first courses such as rice, pasta and lasagne.
- Dolcetto, the famous red wine from Piedmont, pairs well with roasts, white meats and soft cheeses.
- Roero Riserva DOCG is a red wine that can be paired with braised meat, game and truffle dishes.
- Roero Arneis white wine pairs well with fish, risotto as well as pasta dishes such as agnolotti del plin, gnocchi all’ossolana (made with potato and chestnut flour).
- The famous Barolo, one of Piedmont’s most important DOCG wines, can be paired with first courses based on truffle and sage. The Italian Barolo is also perfect with a braised steak or bollito misto.
- Ruche di Castagnole Monferrato, a typical wine from Asti wine region, is perfect with aged cheeses such as Grana Padano or with traditional Piedmontese dishes such as agnolotti.
- Chardonnay is a perfect white wine to pair with cold buffets, Piedmontese desserts such as marrons glacés or fish dishes.
- The Pinot Chardonnay of Ciabot Farigliano is a characteristic sparkling wine. Due to its persistent vanilla flavour, it is perfect with fish dishes or a delicate risotto.
Wine and more in Piedmont with Italia Delight
Perhaps for red wines Piedmont is the first region that comes to mind. But this territory will surprise you and go beyond your expectations. Italia Delight offers many activities to get to know the best Piedmont wineries, including one of the best Barolo producers:
Dive into the deepest knowledge of Piedmont wine! Come and visit the best wineries of this region to discover more! 🍷