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  ABC Wine Issue 16, February 2004   
PiedmontPiedmont  Contents 
Issue 15, January 2004 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 17, March 2004

Piedmont

The prestigious Italian wine region is usually associated to great red wines, indeed Piedmont also surprises for the production of white wine and, last but not the least, sparkling wines as well

 Piedmont, prestigious Italian wine region, is almost exclusively associated to the production of great red wines, nevertheless it is often forgotten that in this region are also produced excellent white wines and renowned sparkling wines. Indisputably the role of Piedmont in the development of the modern Italian enology is, and was, fundamental: it is right in this region that, as a matter of fact, began that extraordinary revolution which took Italy back to the top of high quality production. Names like Barolo, Barbaresco, Nebbiolo and Barbera are just few examples of wines and grapes which evoke in every wine lover's mind thoughts of quality and enological excellence. Nevertheless the heritage of Piedmont is also rich in white wines and grapes, pleasing and aromatic, not only Muscat Blanc used in the renowned Asti, but also Arneis, Favorita, Cortese and Erbaluce, just to mention the most famous ones of the region.

 In an enological point of view, Piedmont, when compared to the other Italian regions, represents a sort of exception: here wines are for the most part mono varietal, that is produced with just one grape, and wines produced with more grapes, no matter they are frequent in many areas of the region, represent a minority of the production. Moreover viticulture of Piedmont is usually based on the concept of terroir and cru: a specific wine is exclusively produced with grapes from different vineyards whose name is also used for the definition of the wine itself. Famous is the example offered by two great Piedmont's wines, Barolo and Barbaresco, both making use of this productive concept. Names like Bussia, Lazzarito, Cerequio, Rocche and Brunate are few examples of Barolo's crus, whereas Rabajà, Asili e Montestefano are Barbaresco's. The areas of Barolo and Barbaresco also offer examples for the terroir concept adopted in Piedmont. In these two areas have been individuated some places and communes having peculiar characteristics which give wines their personality. Communes like La Morra, Barolo, Serralunga d'Alba, Monforte d'Alba and Castiglion Falletto are the “privileged” areas for Barolo, whereas Barbaresco, Treiso and Neive are Barbaresco's.


The region of Piedmont
The region of Piedmont

 The renaissance of Piedmont's enology, event which had, as a matter of fact, boosted the Italian enology in the world, began around the half of the nineteenth century with the revolution introduced in the production of Barolo. Until that time the production of Piedmont's wines was mainly sweet: a tradition which is probably explained by commercial reasons, when the area of Langhe, where Barolo is from, was the main provider of wines for the powerful Repubblica Marinara of Genoa. From the Ligurian city wines were routed to the sea; therefore a sweet wine could stand better the risks of a long sea journey while ensuring a better keeping. Moreover there is also another explanation on the fact Barolo wine were sweet and the cause was because Nebbiolo, the great grape used for the production of this renowned wine. Nebbiolo has a pretty late maturation and therefore the cold temperature of the Piedmont's cellars during the months on November and December, as well as the lack of specific yeasts, interrupted the process of fermentation therefore leaving a certain quantity of residual sugar. The drastic change of this wine was thanks to a French wine maker: Louis Oudart. Marquise of Barolo, Giulietta Falletti, asked Oudart to improve the wines produced in her cellar. After a preliminary investigation, Louis Oudart understood the huge potentialities of Nebbiolo grape and he also realized the reason why they were not successful in making a good wine: the interruption of fermentation and the excessive quantity of residual sugar. Thanks to his work born Barolo wine and it was a striking success in the whole area: Camillo Benso count of Cavour, who until then did not like Piedmont's wines, was so impressed by the new wine and decided to convert the cellars in his house at Grinzane for the production of the new Barolo. The same did king Vittorio Emanuele II in the vineyards of his hunt lodge of Fontanafredda at Serralunga d'Alba. The history of a great myth was just begun.

 Wine production of Piedmont is mainly developed in the south-eastern area of the region and in the northern part. The most renowned area of Piedmont is Langhe, an area surrounding the city of Alba, South from Turin, homeland of Barolo and Barbaresco wines. Piedmont is particularly associated to the production of great red wines, indeed in this region are also produced interesting white wines as well as sparkling wines, both sweet and dry. Wines of the region are mainly produced with local grapes, most of the times vinified alone, and the presence of international grapes is pretty modest and are usually used blended with local grapes. Among white berried grapes there are Muscat Blanc, Arneis, Cortese, Favorita and Erbaluce, as well as the less known, and however interesting, Timorasso and Nas-cetta. Among red berried grapes there is the powerful Nebbiolo, as well as Barbera, the most cultivated grape of the region, Dolcetto, Brachetto, Freisa and Grignolino. To these grapes are also included the less known, but however interesting, Vespolina, Bonarda, Uva Rara, Ruchè, Malvasia di Schierano, Malvasia di Casorzo and Pelaverga.

 

Classification of the Wines of Piedmont

 Wines produced in Piedmont are classified according to the quality system in force in Italy, an unified system adopted in every region. The categories of the Italian quality system are, from the lowest to the higher, Vini da tavola (Table Wines), IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica), DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) e DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita). In the category DOCG is also allowed the indication of the vineyard, of the place or subarea of production - it represents a higher level of quality - a characteristic usually found in Piedmont's DOCG wines, in particular in Barolo and Barbaresco. It should be however noticed the Italian quality system certifies the area of origin of a wine and the respect of the norms set by the disciplinary; real quality, as always, is a presupposition and a principle the producer adopt for his or her wines and on which he or she believes in.

 DOCG wines produced in Piedmont are (between parentheses the type and the grapes used for the production): Barolo (red; Nebbiolo), Barbaresco (red; Nebbiolo), Gavi (white and sparkling; Cortese), Asti or Moscato d'Asti (white and sparkling; Moscato Bianco), Brachetto d'Acqui (red and sparkling; Brachetto), Gattinara (red; Nebbiolo, Vespolina, Bonarda) and Ghemme (red; Nebbiolo, Vespolina, Uva Rara). The number of areas in Piedmont recognized as DOC are more than 40 and the production is about white and red wines. There also are countless wines produced as IGT, a category of quality, here in Piedmont as it is in other Italian regions, which deserves high attention: no matter it just represents the second level of quality of the Italian system, IGT wines are usually comparable, and sometimes also superior, to the best DOC and DOCG wines.

 

Barolo


 

 Barolo is certainly among the most famous Italian wines and for tens of years it represented Italian enology in the world. This wine is produced with Nebbiolo grape and it is named after the homonymous city located 15 kilometers south from Alba. The production area of Barolo is historically shared by five renowned towns which also represent the best areas: Barolo, Castiglione Falletto, La Morra, Serralunga d'Alba and Monforte d'Alba, from which come the majority of total production. The impact of terroir of these areas on wines is pretty evident and wines produced in the five towns have different and personal characteristics. The composition of the soil in the towns of Barolo and La Morra gives wine a more round character, aromatic and fruity which usually ages faster. The soil of the towns of Castiglione Falletto, Serralunga d'Alba and Monforte d'Alba, less compact and less fertile than the other two towns, produces more robust and intense wines which usually age slower. Wines produced in these towns also differ, in general terms, in color: the ones produces at La Morra and Barolo tend to ruby red colors, whereas the ones produced in the other towns usually have garnet and orange red colors.

 A typical characteristic of Barolo is the evident astringency because of tannins, a peculiarity which usually needs some years, usually about five, before getting a more round and less aggressive character. This characteristic also gave origin to two “sides” of producers: the ones who believe the production of Barolo should obey to traditional canons, with the result of a more aggressive and typical wine, and the ones who see Barolo as a rounder, modern and immediate wine, usually making use of barrique instead of cask, and diminishing fermentation and maceration times. Both styles have their supporters and this productive characteristic is usually reason of debates both among producers and among wine lovers. No matter these “traditional” or “modern” factors, it is however indisputable the greatness of Barolo. Among the most renowned crus of Barolo should be mentioned: Cannubi, Sarmazza and Brunate at Barolo; Rocche, Cerequio and Brunate at La Morra (Brunate is shared between the towns of Barolo and La Morra); Rocche, Villero and Monprivato at Castiglione Falletto; Lazzarito and Vigna Rionda at Serralunga d'Alba; Bussia, Ginestra and Santo Stefano di Perno at Monforte d'Alba.

 

Barbaresco

 Considered for years as the “lesser brother” of Barolo, because of the Nebbiolo grape used for the production of both, Barbaresco is an extraordinary wine named after the city where it is produced, not far from Barolo. The fame of Barbaresco is more recent than Barolo, however the history of this wine is pretty old. Following the work wine maker Louis Oudart did in Barolo, around the half of 1890's professor Domizio Cavazza, teacher at the Enological School of Alba and director of Cooperative Winery of Barbaresco, he was successful in completely ferment a wine and therefore producing a dry wine. Barbaresco began its path towards notoriety in the 1960's thanks to the commercial efforts of Giovanni Gaja and Bruno Giacosa. It will be ten years later that Barbaresco will become one of the most looked for wines of the world thanks to the intuition and determination of Angelo Gaja, who against everything and everyone, will start making wine according the principles learnt in France. Whether Barbaresco is now admired and renowned everywhere, whether it finally acquired its own dignity and identity, it was thanks to Angelo Gaja who had the courage to start a new process and a new production style, a real and proper revolution, not only a productive one but also a cultural one, which was subsequently joined by many other producers.

 Barbaresco is produced with Nebbiolo grape and it is usually considered more elegant and refined than the neighboring Barolo. This wine is produced in the towns of Barbaresco, Treiso and Neive, each one of them, thanks to the conditions of the area, gives specific characteristics to wine, in particular the ones produced in certain areas at Neive that sometimes resemble Barolo and for this reason it is said they baroleggiano. Among the most renowned crus of Barbaresco are to be mentioned: Asili, Montefico, Montestefano and Rabajà at Barbaresco; Albesani and Gallina at Neive; Pajorè at Treiso.

 

Langhe and Roero

 Langhe, an important wine area located near the city of Alba to the left bank of Tanaro river, is not only the homeland of the excellent Barolo and Barbaresco. Nebbiolo certainly is the most important and famous grape, however in this ancient wine land are also cultivated other grapes with which are produced interesting wines. Dolcetto and Barbera certainly represent two grapes of primary importance in this area. Among the most important places for the production of Dolcetto are to be mentioned Dogliani and Diano d'Alba, the latter even recognizes the existence of 77 different crus in its territory. Dolcetto makes wines with an evident fruity character, very pleasing and agreeable, with good tannins but low acidity, a characteristics that does not allow long aging times. Barbera is a grape which only recently obtained good recognition thanks to a careful and qualitative vinification: until some tens years ago it was considered as the most suited grape for the production of coarse and bulk wine. Now Barbera, capable of producing wines with a pleasing crispness, is rightly considered among the great grapes of Piedmont. A very interesting grape of Langhe, which is unfortunately not very known, is Pelaverga, cultivated in the commune of Verduno, capable of producing wines of high interest. Among white berried grapes cultivated in Langhe are to be mentioned Favorita and Arneis, the latter also present in Roero.

 On the right bank of Tanaro river there is another wine area, Roero, which is recently getting, rightly, higher and higher interest. Also here the most common red berried grape is Nebbiolo, however the initial notoriety of the area was because of a white berried grape: Arneis. This grape was used in the area blended with Nebbiolo in order to produce wines with a less aggressive character. White wines produced with Arneis offer pleasing and truly convincing aromas and tastes. Among red wines of Roero there are Barbera and Nebbiolo, both having different characteristics from the ones of Langhe, anyway having interesting and good value. Results obtained in Roero owe their success to a young vintner who was capable of expressing the quality of this area to the highest levels while being successful in giving a proper identity to Roero: Matteo Correggia. Thanks to his strenuous work for the revaluation of his land's heritage, Matteo Correggia, unfortunately recently passed away because of an accident, was capable of setting an indelible mark in the viticulture of Roero, something which is witnessed by his wines.

 

Monferrato and Asti

 In these two important wine areas of Piedmont, located in the south-eastern part of the region, the dominant red grape is not Nebbiolo but Barbera. Whereas in Monferrato it is frequent a slightly sparkling Barbera, in the area of Asti the same grape is used to make dry and structured wines. Another grape of primary interest in Monferrato is Grignolino used to make wines having a pretty pale color, very pleasing and agreeable. Another typical grape of Monferrato is Freisa, found in many wines of this area. In Monferrato is also present a red berried grape which is not very famous but certainly deserves a better attention, Ruchè, an exclusive heritage of Castagnole Monferrato. In these areas is also found the renowned Brachetto d'Acqui, produced both as sparkling and slightly sparkling, a wine which enchants for its strong aromas and for its agreeability. Another wine which characterizes the area is Gavi, a DOCG white wine, produced with Cortese, one of the noble and valued white berried grapes of Piedmont. Not far from Gavi there is a small town capable of producing an interesting wine: Ovada. In this town the main grape is Dolcetto with which is produced a wine, unfortunately in small quantities, having unique and interesting characteristics.

 In the area of Asti the most renowned grape is Muscat Blanc used for the production of the renowned sparkling wine named after the homonymous city. The success of Asti Spumante, simply called Asti, has a history of more than one hundred years when Carlo Gancia decided in 1865 to make a sparkling wine using Muscat Blanc. Since then this joyous and aromatic spumante spread everywhere in the world and it is one of the symbols that identifies Italian enology. Asti is produced with the fermentation in pressurized tanks, a system that was invented by an important man of the Italian enology and unfortunately almost forgotten: Federico Martinotti. Among the wines of this area produced with Muscat Blanc is to be mentioned the interesting Loazzolo. Red wine in Asti means Barbera and whether Barbera is now considered among the most important grapes and wines of Piedmont, this was thanks to Giacomo Bologna. Convinced of the potentialities of Barbera, he adopt production systems that were unthinkable at those times in his land, he treasured the experience of his journeys in France, California and Georgia and he finally adopt barrique for the aging of his Barbera: from that moment on the “popular” and “humble” grape acquired a relevant place among important wines.

 

Northern Areas

 The northern area of Piedmont is usually less known than the south-eastern part. No matter Nebbiolo grape is widely used in these areas for the production of good wines, the notoriety of wines from Langhe, Barolo and Barbaresco in particular, does not allow them to have a better spreading. Nevertheless in the past the wines of these areas were considered even better than others, and despite of the scarce notoriety, they still have their charm and value. Among the most renowned areas there are Ghemme and Gattinara, where are produced the homonymous DOCG wines, in which Nebbiolo grape is blended with other typical grapes, and Carema, in the western part and near Vallée d'Aoste, produced with plain Nebbiolo. Among the wines of the area produced with Nebbiolo, alone or blended with other grapes, are to be mentioned Lessona, Bramaterra, Boca, Sizzano and Fara. An interesting white berried grape of this area is Erbaluce with which are produced white wines. This grape is also capable of producing extraordinary sweet wines, very looked for and appreciated, typical of the city of Caluso.

 




 Editorial  Share this article   Share on Google+   Summary of ABC Wine column Wine Tasting 
  ABC Wine Issue 16, February 2004   
PiedmontPiedmont  Contents 
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