Piedmont in the northwest of Italy counts as one of the world’s most prestigious wine regions. Grapes were grown here at the time of ancient Rome and the region has always been an important area for quality wine production.
The nineteenth century saw key developments in the wine region with aristocratic vineyard owners in Italy, such as Cavour, Benso and Garibaldi, carrying out studies aimed at improving the production of wine. Until this time Barolo was often sweet and fizzy due to lack of attention in the cellars.
Nowadays it boasts 17 DOCGs (denominazione di origine controllata e garantita) and 42 DOCs (denominazione di origine controllata) whilst Piemonte DOC is the catch-all denomination for the whole region. The region has even developed another level of geographical definition – MeGA (menzioni geografiche agguntive), which are similar to the French cru, within some DOCGs. Unusually, there is no IGT (indicazione geografica tipica) in Piedmont. Wine tasting in this winelover’s paradise is a treat for the senses as the region is a treasure trove of local, relatively undiscovered varieties in addition to being home to such household names as Barolo and Asti.
For anyone wanting to do some serious red wine tasting, Piedmont offers boundless opportunities for the serious vinophile. The region has a ’holy trinity’ of red grapes: the broodingly tannic, acidic Nebbiolo, which needs time for its tannins to soften but then revealing a complex rose, tar, leather and spice character over time; Barbera with its bright acidity, low tannins, sour cherry fruit and spice; and the early-ripening Dolcetto with its soft tannins and sweet black fruit, liquorice and violet notes. The grapes fit together well and are often used as blending partners.
Nebbiolo is best known as the variety used for Barolo, Barbaresco and up-and-coming Roero. However, the DOCGs Gattinara and Ghemme in northern Piedmont are increasingly producing elegant, lighter style Nebbiolo (often blended with Vespolina and Uva Rara). Here Nebbiolo is known as Spanna. Barbera and Dolcetto DOCG names generally include the variety, so are easier to identify when you are wine tasting.
Piedmont’s most prevalent white grape is Moscato Bianco, used in the gently sparkling Moscato d’Asti and in Asti Spumante. The zingy lemony Cortese with its mineral notes is prevalent around Alessandria and is the only grape permitted for Cortese di Gavi DOCG. Arneis is another white variety that was once a softening blending partner for Nebbiolo and is now making a name for itself, producing vibrant and full-bodied whites with notes of pear and apricot. Its key denomination is Roero Arneis DOCG.
The region also offers the curious a wide palette of indigenous varieties, both red and white, to sample during wine tasting. Piedmont is home to the white Erbaluce, a grape rich in minerals with good acidity and salinity; Nascetta, only found around the town of Novello offers attractive floral notes; and Timorasso, which many compare to German Riesling, has its home in the Colli Tortonesi. Fans of light, spicy reds should try Grignolino, whilst lovers of floral notes might like to try Ruchè, Freisa or the sweet, sparkling red Malvasias or Brachetto.
Piedmont can be divided into four regions, three of which are to the southeast of Turin, and overlap each other:
Le Langhe, which includes important DOCGs, such Barolo, Barbaresco, Roero, Dolcetto di Diana, Alta Langa, Dogliani (Dolcetto) and Dolcetto di Ovada Superiore.
L’Astigiano, which includes the following DOCGs: Asti, Brachetto d’Acqui, Barbera d’Asti and Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato.
Il Monferrato, which includes the DOCGs Cortese di Gavi and Barbera del Monferrato Superiore.
The final region, Alto Piemonte, lies up in the foothills of the Alps and includes the DOCGs Gattinara, Ghemme and Erbaluce di Caluso.
With rolling hills of densely packed vineyards, steep mountain slopes with vines struggling to survive, Piedmont offers a region of diverse terroirs, just waiting to be discovered.
Discover the incredible wine regions of Piedmont and go an an exclusive wine tasting adventure with the help of our local travel expert.