Nebbiolo, pronounced NEH-bee-oh-low, is such a unique variety. The name is derived from the Italian word Nebbia meaning fog.

Two theories for the name exist. The first that it refers to the fog that the vineyards of the Langhe are often immersed in. Second that the natural bloom that covers the grapes gives them a foggy appearance. Given the latter applies to most red grapes I prefer the former! There are 4 main clones of which Nebbiolo Lampia dominates over  Nebbiolo Michet, Rosé (now proven to be a different variety), and, Bolla.

Where is it grown?

Southern central and north Piemonte. The two big guns here are Barolo and Barbaresco. It is grown throughout the Langhe including the Roero, Asti, Carema, Biella, Novara and Vercelli. In Alto Piedmonte, it is known as Spanna, and, is often blended with Croatina and Vespolina. We have seen Giacomo Conterno buy Nervi in the Commune of Gattinara to produce wines in the region. It is also grown in the lower parts of the Valle d’Aosta where it is known as Picotendroi, and, Valtellina in Lombardy where it is called Chiavennasca among others.

What does it taste like?

The ultimate case of not judging a book by its cover, Nebbiolo, at first appears pale in colour, old wines can have the appearance of rusty tap water.

Then you smell it! The aroma of most red wines is dominated by fruit characters. In contrast, Nebbiolo’s aroma is typically a mix of complex secondary aromas, earthy, tarry, spice, rose, citrus peel, woody herbs like rosemary, liquorice, phenol, dark chocolate, tobacco, truffles, leather, and, dark cherry fruit, often more evident on the palate. You’ll see this difference immediately by comparing it two the other two main Piedmontese varieties Barbera and Dolcetto.

Good Nebbiolo has a core of fruit running the length of your tongue, along with layers of those same secondary characters. Nebbiolo’s grape tannins give it a distinct texture, that for those who have not tried it before can seem hard, and, unyielding. Look for the quality and depth of tannin.

Achieving well balance tannin, alcohol, and, acidity makes for great Nebbiolo.

More than most other Italian wines, Nebbiolo, demands food to be at its best. A little fat and salt, enhance the texture and bring out the flavours.

Check out all the articles in the Wine Bites Mag exploring Nebbiolo.

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