Nebbiolo: A Guide on Piedmont’s Fine Red Wine
Northern Italy’s pride, Nebbiolo, needs no introduction. It has powerful characteristics– red, full-bodied and with high tannins, which are known to many enthusiasts who like their red wine with a bold and intense taste. Along with Barolo and Barbaresco wines, Nebbiolo originated from the Piedmont region and can be traced back to the 1st century AD.
Did you know that…
- Nebbiolo derived its name from the Italian word “nebbia” which means fog.
- Nebbiolo grapes are harvested every mid-October when the dense fog sets in around the vineyard, hence the name.
- The grapes are difficult to grow, thus the expensive price tag on highly rated Nebbiolo wines grown during the dry and warm harvest season.
- Nebbiolo remains to be one of the most high-quality and important wines of Italy for centuries.
- Through advanced technology and viniculture, Nebbiolo can now be grown in the neighbouring regions of Piedmont as well as outside Italy, in countries such as the U.S., Australia and Mexico.
How Nebbiolo is made
Nebbiolo grapes thrive in slopes and hillside areas with clay- and silt-based soils. It tends to be “terroir-expressive”, which means it inherits the soil, climate and altitude of the environment versus other grapes.
Nebbiolo is one of the last grapes to be harvested in mid- to late October. The grapes grow best in a warm and dry climate.
The ancient and traditional process is blended with modern techniques to create Nebbiolo red wine. In the traditional process, the Nebbiolo grapes are fermented for approximately 30 days in large barrels. It’s controlled by nature through the season, weather and location of the barrels.
In the modern method, the grapes are left to ferment for only 10 days because the environment and temperature are technologically controlled. The cooler temperature helps enhance and preserve the aromas and natural fruity flavours of the grapes.
Characteristics of Nebbiolo red wine
If you haven’t experienced the distinct flavour and aroma of Nebbiolo, it’s definitely a must-try. Nebbiolo is included in our Italian wines to try before you die list. Nebbiolo’s taste is influenced by its ageing and fermentation process. In addition, the influence of the terroir is also reflected in its taste.
Barolo, Barberesco, Chiavennasca, Spanna
Light red, pale garnet
Cherry, coffee, dried raspberry
Red fruit, rose,
13.5% - 15%
- Piedmont Nebbiolo - high tannic, full-bodied and with licorice, leather and cranberry aroma
- California Nebbiolo - high tannic with fruity and floral undertones
- Australian Nebbiolo - Less tannic and acidic, more fruitful with notes of tar and roses
Barolo wine is known as the home to the king of Italian wines. It is aged in oak for at least 18 months to 38 months before it is released. Its high-quality version takes around 20 years before being released.
Barbaresco wine is aged for at least 9 to 24 months before it is released. Its high-quality version takes around10 years or longer before being released.
What foods are best paired with Nebbiolo?
Aside from the wines, Piedmont is also known for their cuisine. Northern Italian dishes are big on cheese and meat such as venison stew, Brasato al Barolo (beef) and Pollo alla Marengo (chicken).
Nebbiolo’s rose and tar notes are best with creamy soft cheeses like brie, feta or goat cheese
Creamy risotto, spinach linguine and tomato-based sauces
Nebbiolo also pairs surprisingly well with Chinese dishes and other spicy Asian cuisine