Understanding the Piedmont wine map is no mean feat. The region hides a wealth of DOCs, DOCGs, MeGAs and varieties behind its seemingly simple facade of mighty names such as Barolo and Barbaresco, frivolous sparkling Asti (Spumante) and increasingly popular Moscato d’Asti.
Piedmont is DOC and DOCG country. The whole region of Piedmont is a DOC - there is no IGT on the wine map of Piedmont - and the region is home to 42 DOCs and 17 DOCGs. Indeed, Piedmont has more DOCGs by volume than any other Italian region, with 85% of areas on the Piedmont wine region map falling under DOCG. The Federdoc (National Confederation of Voluntary Consortiums for the Protection of Italian Wine Denominations) has no single Piedmont region wine map but divides the wine map of Piedmont into four – Piemonte il Monferrato, Piemonte il Nord, Piemonte l’Astigiano and Piemonte le Langhe’. Otherwise the detail would be too great. So, plenty to get your head around. And let’s not even get started on the region’s newest addition in Barolo and Barbaresco – MeGAs (Menzioni Geographiche Aggiuntive), additional geographic definitions, similar to French cru.
Although Nebbiolo has garnered greater fame via Barolo DOCG and Barbaresco DOCG than the other main reds of the region, thanks to its ethereal qualities and great longevity, its red stablemates the most widely planted workhorse Barbera and fruity Dolcetto also deserve more recognition than has been previously afforded to them. Nizza, Barbera d’Asti DOCG and Barbera del Monferrato Superiore DOCG are its best expressions, whereas Dolcetto shines in Dolcetto di Ovada Superiore DOCG, Dolcetto di Diana d’Alba DOCG and Dogliani Superiore DOCG. Nebbiolo itself is not confined to its most famous incarnations, it can also be found in Roero DOCG, Ghemme DOCG and Gattinara DOCG as well as Nebbiolo d’Alba DOC and many more.
The Piedmontese also keep many more local red varieties to themselves, such as sweet, rose and strawberry-scented Brachetto at its best in Brachetto d’Acqui DOCG and the fragrant, floral red Ruché di Castagnole Monferrato DOCG as well as a host of others such as Grignolino, Pelaverga, several red Malvasias and Freisa. These varieties also deserve to be more prominent on the wine map of Piedmont.
Although dominated by reds, the Piedmont wine map also boasts some celebrity whites. Cortese, particularly the fresh, mineral-driven citrussy whites from Gavi DOCG, is one of Italy’s archetypical whites and perhaps rather resembles a Ligurian white than a Piedmontese one. Roero Arneis, the white pair to the area’s Nebbiolo is also gaining in popularity. The wine map of Piedmont also conceals some hidden white gems, little known outside the immediate vicinity, yet thoroughly deserving of greater prominence. Erbaluce di Caluso DOCG to the northeast of Turin also keeps its dry, sparkling and sweet passito whites for those in the know; a few winemakers around the village of Novello in Barolo’s heartland are rediscovering Nascetta; and Timarosso, native to the Colli Tortonesi region, close to the border with Lombardy in the southeast of the region, has been lovingly revived by one winemaker and is now enjoying a resurgence.
The Piedmont wine map not only has its famous sweet Moscato sparklers from Asti that everyone is familiar with and its red frothy wines, it also produces metodo classico (traditional method) sparkling wine in the Langhe under the Alta Langa DOCG, one of the newest of the DOCGs in Piedmont. The local terroir is well-suited to both Chardonnay and Pinot Nero, and these sparklers are sure to vie with Franciacorta DOCG and Trento DOC metodo classico wines in the future.
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