Italian Indigenous Varieties: Nebbiolo

I’ve been writing this series on Italian Indigenous Varieties for years but I got stuck on Nebbiolo skipped it and finished the rest of the N varieties but now I must come back to this very noble grape from Piedmont. As we know, Nebbiolo as a word comes from the fact that at times the berries look as though they have a little Nebbia or fog-like bloom on them. It’s also been said that the name comes from the Nebbia or fog that is found on the vineyards when this late ripener is harvested. Whatever the origin of the name, the grape is quite ancient and the first mentioned were in the 1300s by De Crescenzi. Nebbiolo is at its apex in Piedmont, the Valle d’Aosta, and Lombardy in Valtellina. There’s a lot of variability within this grape variety and a number of biotypes planted together.

Generally speaking though, we can say that Nebbiolo tends to produce gorgeous ruby red colored, full bodied wines with good acidity and alcohol, an amazing ablity to age, with great fruit and floral notes, spice, and fine tannins. As it ages, the wine tends to become garnet because of the reduced level of anthocyanins in the wine.

It produces the amazing wines of Barolo, Barbaresco, Ghemme, Gattinara, Carema, Boca, Bramaterra, Fara, Lessona, Roero, Langhe, and Valtellina.

Nebbiolo does best on clay-limestone soils that aren’t too fertile. Because it buds early and ripens late, there is a lot of time for the berries to become impacted by either frost or rains, or both.

Nebbiolo is fantastic as a mono-varietal but is often blended with other local red grape varieties in a lot of these wines, especially in Alto-Piemonte.

While in the past, three biotypes were considered all important – Lampia, Michet, and Bolla. Today’s research points to Lampia is being the most significant. So much to say about this amazing variety. Perhaps the best way to understand this variety is to taste a lot of it from different parts of Northern Italy.

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