The Piedmont region: wine styles

Located in the north-west of Italy, Piedmont wine region is one of the world’s most prestigious fine wine regions. It is home to the austere tannic Barolo and Barbaresco, two highly sought after DOCG wines produced from the red Nebbiolo variety.

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At the other end of the scale, the Piedmont wine region is also the source of the fizzy white crowd pleaser, Asti Spumante, and its lightly sparkling sibling, Moscato d’Asti, which has gained great international popularity during the last decade.

However, there are plenty of other wines in between these celebrities to tickle your fancy in the Piedmont region. Wine production in Piedmont goes back to Roman times and the region has always been one of Italy’s most important areas for wine production, a reputation it maintains till this day, boasting the highest number of DOCGs of any wine region in Italy. It remains one the country’s most viticulturally advanced, partly due to its proximity to neighbouring France. France not only has an influence on the region in terms of its wine, the French influence is also reflected in its cuisine and its language; the Piedmontese language can at times sound more French than Italian.

Piedmont is a region of small, quality-focussed, family wineries, meaning it bears more than a passing resemblance to Burgundy, to which it is often compared. Burgundy has Pinot Noir, whereas Piedmont has Nebbiolo, known for its unmistakable ‘tar and roses’ aromas. Although Nebbiolo is by no means Piedmont’s most common grape, it is certainly its most famous. It is the star of the noble Barolo, its neighbouring sibling Barbaresco and cousin Roero, but it is also the variety behind Gattinara and Ghemme in the north of the region, where it is known as Spanna, as well as many other DOCs in Piedmont, such as Nebbiolo d’Alba and Carema.

The Piedmont wine region’s most planted variety is tangy, acidic Barbera with its scent of sour cherry. Once considered Piedmont’s workhouse grape, it is now making more of a name for itself, for example in Barbera del Montferrato Superiore DOCG. Dolcetto, Piedmont’s third main red variety is generally used to make fruity, dry red wines with plenty of tannin.

Piedmont is rightly famed for its red wines and has plenty more on offer beyond the above holy trinity. Nebbiolo’s relative, Freisa, makes a range of wines, both dry and sweet, and still and sparkling in Chieri and Asti. Brachetto d’Acqui DOCG is a delightful sweet, sparkling red with aromas of rose petals and wild strawberries. It also hides a host of local varieties, such as Grignolino and Ruché, which are worth seeking out.

Despite being known for its reds, the Piedmont wine region also boasts some serious whites. In the province of Alessandria near Liguria, the Cortese variety produces the light, fruity, Gavi DOCG, the first Italian white to gain real international repute. A terroir-driven wine, with fresh acidity, and delicate floral and flinty notes due to the area’s mineral-rich soils, its high acidity make it an age-worthy wine.

In the Roero, delicately perfumed Arneis is becoming increasingly popular. Produced just across the Tanaro River from Barolo, these floral-scented, yet relatively full-bodied, generous white wines are now being dubbed Barolo Bianco (white Barolo).

And not to forget Piedmont’s other key international export, the delicatedly sweet Moscato wines from Asti. Asti Spumante, or now simply Asti, is produced using a unique method, a variation on the Charmat Method, known as the ‘Asti Method’ in which the must is kept chilled until required, allowing the wine to be produced on demand. Long popular as an affordable, easy-drinking sparkling wine, its more delicate, sweeter frizzante sibling, Moscato d’Asti, has recently been stealing the limelight.

Let our team of local experts at Wine Paths help you discover some of the main styles of the Piedmont wine region.


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