Italian Wine

Signposts near Barolo, Piedmont, Italy

Piedmont

The name Piedmont (Piemonte in Italian) means “foot of the mountain,” as the region is surrounded by large mountains. Located in northwest Italy, it is the largest region in the country. Despite its size, however, it is not one of Italy’s leading wine-producing regions in terms of volume. Though, where Piedmont lacks in volume, it makes up for in quality. More than 80% of the region’s wines are DOCG and DOC. Some of the top wines in Piedmont are Asti, Dolcetto, Barbera, Barbaresco, and Barolo. Important grapes include Moscato, Nebbiolo, Arneis, Barbera, and Dolcetto.

Asti

Italian WineAsti is a small town located in southern Piedmont. The area is known for producing sweet, fragrant sparkling wines made 100% from Piedmont’s signature white grape, moscato. As with Prosecco, they are made using the Charmat method as opposed to the traditional method used with Champagne. Asti wines (also known as Asti Spumante) may be labeled either Asti DOCG or Moscato d’Asti DOCG. Both are made using similar methods. However, Moscato d’Asti is sweeter, less carbonated, and contains less alcohol because it does not ferment as long. These fizzy, fruity wines are reminiscent of fresh ripe peaches. Perfect for a hot summer day.

Dolcetto

Italian wineDolcetto means “little sweet” and is the name of one of Piedmont’s indigenous grapes as well as the wine made from the grape. There are several areas thoughout Piedmont that produce Dolcetto wines. However, Dolcetto d’Alba is the most highly regarded. Alba is a small town located not far southeast of Asti. Some of the best wines in Piedmont are produced in this area. Dolcetto wines are typically light-bodied and fruity with a hint of bitterness and soft tannins, making it easy to drink. Dolcetto is used as an everyday drinking wine by many Italians.

Barbera

Italian WineBarbera is Piedmont’s most widely grown grape and, as with Dolcetto, the best Barbera wines usually are found in Alba. It’s also used as an everyday drinking wine as it is easily accessible and relatively inexpensive. Barbera was once considered an inferior wine due to its mass production and second-class treatment as it related to Barolo and Barbaresco, which were grown in the best soils and aged in the best barrels. However, once more attention, care, and focus on quality was given to Barbera, it led to the production of some of Piedmont’s finest red wines. Today, Barbera is considered Piedmont’s “second most glamorous red grape.” Medium-bodied with smooth tannins, ripe berry flavors and high acidity, this wine is a perfect for pairing with classic Italian dishes such as spaghetti and meatballs or mushroom risotto.

Barbaresco

Italian wineBarbaresco is located northwest of Alba. Wines produced here are made using 100% Nebbiolo grapes. Native to Piedmont, Nebbiolo is one of the region’s most prized grape varieties. Wines made from Nebbiolo are full-bodied, acidic, high in alcohol, and extremely tannic. In fact, Nebbiolo is one of the world’s most tannic grapes and wines can require up to 10 years of aging before it mellows out and opens up its complex flavors. According to Italian wine law, Barbaresco must be aged at least two years and Barbaresco Riserva at least four years before being released. Although Barbaresco improves in taste and quality through aging, it typically has more fruit and softer tannins than wines from Barolo, which require a bit more aging.

Barolo

Italian WineBarolo is located just southwest of Alba among the hills of an area known as Langhe. The region is cooler and at a higher elevation compared to Barbaresco. Its wines are also made exclusively from Nebbiolo. However, Barolo is known to be bolder and more tannic. It is the ‘powerhouse of Piedmont.’ The wines are aged longer than Barbaresco, with a minimum requirement of three years before they are released. Though, anything less than five years may be too young. They can age for decades, bringing out a softer structure. . It’s not uncommon to hear terms such as “tar, roses, cherry, chocolate, and leather” in descriptions of the aroma and flavor characteristics of Barolo.  This long has been considered Piedmont’s signature wine.

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