Piedmont wine region is known for its great wine vocation, not only for red wines! Let’s discover Piemonte wine and territory
Italy has always stood out for its history and culture of wine making, a leading sector of the Italian economy. The common imagination links the Belpaese to this cultivation. Vines are cared for and bred in different ways from North to South: this makes Italy the land of wine diversity. Let’s discover together the great white wines from Piedmont, one of Italian products of excellence.
A region like Piedmont has always been a laboratory for evolution and experimentation in the field of wine. In fact, some data show the important role of this region in Northern Italy at a national level: it has a surface area of 48,000 hectares of grapevines, 43% in the mountains, 30% in the hills and 27% in the plains; Piedmont wine production amounts to 2,600,000 hectolitres, 81% of which is taken up by wines DOC, 60% by red and rosé wines and 40% by white wines.
In terms of wine appellations, we find 18 DOCGs and 41 DOCs in this region. Piemonte wines are appreciated worldwide for their articulated and compelling history.
The history of Piedmont wine
In Italy, the need to deepen knowledge in the field of oenology originated in Piedmont. Since the 19th century, there has been a great ferment around the study of the grapevine and wine production. Local studies began with the aim of improving quality, so much so that in 1872 the oenological station in Asti and the experimental oenological station in Gattinara were founded. The studies mainly consisted of chemical and physical analyses of the plant, the soil and the fermentation process, from the soil to the wine cellar.
In 1875, the first Italian oenological congress was held in the Piedmontese capital, a great moment of exchange of knowledge as well as technical and commercial perspectives in the oenological sector.
Another important episode, which has become part of the history of Italian and Piedmont wine, is the foundation of the school of viticulture and oenology in Alba in 1881. The school aims at training technically qualified personnel specialised in vineyard and wine care.
Piedmont has always dedicated itself with great devotion and effort to the practice of winemaking and has helped to shape modern Italian oenology. It was also here that the first examples of zoning of wine-growing areas began, contributing to the definition of concepts such as terroir and cru.
The terroir is defined as the territory characterised by a microclimate and soil that transfer certain characteristics to the grapevine and, consequently, to the wine. The Cru is the delimited area within a vineyard in which the fruit grows, destined for the production of a specific wine of particular value.
But in Piedmont wine is not only red! The region has got a considerable production of white wines. Piedmontese white wines are often overshadowed by the fame of the region’s red wines, but they are also remarkable. Piedmont’s white wines include: Arneis di Roero DOCG, Asti DOCG, Caluso passito DOCG, Cortese dell’Alto Monferrato DOCG, Gavi DOCG and other great Piemonte wines that we will learn more about in detail later.
Wine production areas in Piedmont
In Piemonte wine is mainly produced with indigenous grape varieties. They have adapted to the environment and are enhanced by the environmental components themselves. Piedmont literally means “at the foot of the mountains”, a term that sums up the physical and climatic characteristics of this region. It is in fact surrounded by the mountains and characterised by a cold-temperate continental climate, ideal for vines.
Vineyards adorn the hilly areas of the region, where productivity is limited in favour of quality. The hilly areas are favoured because they guarantee good drainage and sunshine, which is essential for the production of the so-called “wines of light”, typical of the North.
In particular, we distinguish three hilly areas:
- Turin – made up of porphyry and granite.
- The Langhe and Monferrato – made up of marl, sandstone and chalk.
- Val Di Susa, Pinerolo and Saluzzesi Hills – made up of sandstone and limestone.
The uniqueness of this oenology tradition lies in the production of a kind of Piedmont wine which tends to be monovarietal, i.e. derived from a single variety of grape.
The most important wine-growing areas are as follows:
- The Langhe: it is one of the most famous wine-growing areas in the world. In addition to the production of Barolo and Barbaresco from Nebbiolo grapes, a Piedmontese white wine called Roero Arneis is produced from the Arneis grapevine. In the provinces of Asti and Alessandria, under the denomination of Alta Langa DOCG, some of Piedmont’s best known white wines are produced: white or rosé sparkling wine from Piedmont made with the classic method.
- Monferrato: situated between Asti and Alessandria, this area is dedicated to the cultivation of Barbera, Freisa and Grignolino. Piemonte wines DOCG such as Barbera del Monferrato Superiore derive from this territory. As for Piedmontese whites, we encounter Gavi, a wine produced from Cortese grapes.
- Astigiano: this is an area included in the Monferrato but of particular importance, therefore worthy of being mentioned separately. This is due to the production of white wines that fall under the Asti DOCG wine appellation, i.e. the sparkling wine from Piedmont made with the Charmat method from Moscato Bianco grapes.
- Northern Piedmont: in this area, the production is oriented towards wines of great structure such as Gattinara DOCG and Ghemme DOCG. These two Piemonte wines are based on Nebbiolo grapes, blended with small percentages of minor grape varieties.
- Canavese: between the provinces of Turin, Biella and Vercelli, there is an area dedicated to the cultivation of a white grape variety called Erbaluce. From these grapes the Erbaluce di Caluso DOCG, another white wine of considerable value, is obtained.
White wine: a Piemonte wine of elegance and light
As I wrote earlier, Piedmont is remembered for the production of red wines. However, the wine-growing heritage of this region is so wide and varied that it also includes the cultivation of white grape varieties from which other worthy wines are made.
Factors such as climate, exposure and soil combine to determine the superiority of these wines.
Below is a list of Piedmontese white wines: we will make a distinction between DOCG (controlled and guaranteed designation of origin) and DOC (controlled designation of origin).
Piemonte wines DOCG
1. Roero Arneis
This is a white wine made from the Arneis grape variety. This vine stands out for its characteristic wine aromas, although it is not an aromatic grape. It is grown on the left bank of the Tanaro river in the province of Cuneo. The typical vine training system used is the Guyot. It has got a pyramid-shaped, compact, medium-small sized bunch. The berries are yellow/greenish in colour and the skin is particularly pruinose.
In popular tradition, “Arneis” indicates an extrovert, rebellious, original person and these characteristics are reflected in the wine. Roero Arneis is a dry white wine with a beautiful straw-yellow colour. It has a striking freshness and sapidity on the palate, in addition to the floral notes that can already be perceived on the nose. Fish dishes or fresh cheeses are a perfect pairing for this Piemonte wine.
This white wine from Piedmont is obtained from the Cortese grapevine, grown south of Alessandria using the Guyot vine training system. It prefers hilly areas with good exposure that dry out the climate, given its sensitivity to fungi and mould. The bunch can be cylindrical or pyramidal; the green berry turns golden when exposed to the sun and have not an excessively pruinose skin.
It is a Piemonte wine with high acidity, not extremely complex but offering precise and clean wine aromas. The grapes, usually harvested when not fully ripe, give this wine a greenish colour and a vegetal flavour. It is paired with fresh cheeses and fish dishes; sushi is often served with this type of wine. The DOCG wine appellation is reserved for the following types of white wine made from the Cortese grape: still wine, sparkling wine from Piedmont, reserve wine and reserve sparkling classic method wine.
3. Erbaluce di Caluso Passito
Erbaluce di Caluso derives from the indigenous Erbaluce grapevine, grown in the Canavese area. It is known for the characteristic coppery colour that the bunches take on in the sunlight, hence the name “erbaluce”. This vine is cultivated with the Canavese pergola vine training system and produces compact, conical, medium-sized bunches with a particularly pruinose skin.
A sweet white wine is produced from Erbaluce. The grapes are harvested and then left to dry: this process leads to a partial dehydration of the fruit with a consequent increase in sugar concentration. The result is a wine richer in sweetness and alcohol content. Erbaluce di Caluso raisin wine is bright yellow in colour and very dense. It appears sweet, almondy and consistent to our taste buds. It pairs well with mature cheeses or dry pastries.
4. Alta Langa
This white wine has an influential historical identity. It was in fact the first classic method sparkling wine produced in Italy. This precious “oenological find” is the result of the vinification of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes, grown on the hilly terrain of the provinces of Asti, Alessandria and Cuneo, on the right bank of the Tanaro river. Guyot and spurred cordon are the permitted vine training systems. Pinot Noir develops compact, short, cylindrical bunches with blue berries and a pruinose skin; on the other hand, Chardonnay bunches are compact, medium-sized, cylindrical or conical and consist of green berries with a pruinose skin.
The combination of these two international grape varieties, the classic method (or Champenoise method, i.e. re-fermentation in the bottle with the addition of liqueur de tirage, a mixture of yeasts and sugars) and the refinement on the lees for at least 30 months, produces this excellent sparkling wine from Piedmont in different types: Millesimato (made from grapes of a single vintage), rosé and white. Depending on the type we are going to drink, it will have different aromatic characteristics and a perlage which tends to be fine and persistent. Local white truffle dishes are paired with these emblematic Piemonte wines.
This DOCG is obtained from the white Moscato grape variety, grown in the provinces of Asti, Cuneo and Alessandria. White Moscato is an aromatic grape: its name derives from “muscum”, musk, a characteristic aroma of this grape. The vine training system is Guyot or spurred cordon. Compact, medium-sized, cylindrical or conical clusters grow on the plant, with greenish-yellow berries covered by a slightly pruinose skin.
This sparkling wine from Piedmont is mainly produced using the Martinotti or Charmat method (i.e. with re-fermentation in autoclaves, which may not last less than one month), but a revision of the specifications also allows production using the classic method. The fundamental aspect is that the processing of this white wine from Piedmont is carried out with the aim of not dissipating the typical aromaticity of this vine. Traditional Asti has always been sweet, but today there is also a type of dry Asti wine that can be paired with more than just desserts.
Piemonte wines DOC
1. Langhe Favorita
This Piemonte wine is obtained from the vine of the same name, known as Vermentino in Liguria. The grape variety is cultivated according to the traditional vine training systems and has got a sparse bunch of medium size. The berry is green and the skin is pruinose. This DOC gives the palate freshness, flavour and a lively citrus taste. Its aromatic framework is enhanced by pairing it with fresh cheese appetizers.
2. Colli Tortonesi Timorasso
Timorasso is an autochthonous grape variety rediscovered in recent years for the production of this DOC. This native vine is also grown according to traditional methods. The plant offers compact and elongated bunches, while the green-yellow berries are protected by a pruinose and consistent skin. The result is a full-bodied, fragrant white wine that can be aged for a short time. Its robustness makes this Piemonte wine suitable for first courses and dishes based on mature cheeses.
It belongs to the category of white wines from the Moscato bianco grape variety. Loazzolo is an almost unknown but extremely particular wine. It is produced after the grapes have been dried and then harmonised with ageing for two years, six months of which in barriques. This Piemonte wine is exceptionally fine when made from grapes attacked by the noble rot, Botritys Cinerea. It is a wine for the end of a meal, usually served with amaretti biscuits.
Italia Delight gives you the chance to taste the different types of Piedmont wine. Discover all our travel ideas and toast with Piemonte wine!🥂