Piedmont is a region in Italy, and it’s name means ‘at the foot of the mountain.” This region is arguably the finest wine-producing region in Italy. It is traditionally known for its red wines, which date back to the Middle Ages. The first traces of winemaking in Piedmont dates back to the 10th century where it was originally inhabited by Celtic tribes. Then when Hannibal destroyed the Celtic capitol, the Romans took over and rebuilt the area with streets and structure. With this restructuring came widespread vineyard establishment and viticulture began to flourish in Piedmont. Now there are around 750 wineries in the area.
Piedmont is in the northwestern corner of the Italian peninsula, sitting at the bottom of the Western Alps, which border the region to the North and the West. Piedmont is separated from the Mediterranean Sea by low costal hills. The region has a favorable wine-producing climate due to its being surrounded by these mountains, and it’s close proximity to France also helps its wine technologies advance. This area is often compared to Burgundy in France due to its many small, family wineries that focus of good quality rather than quantity. Being close to the Mediterranean Sea leads to hot summers with foggy falls and cold, harsh winters. The soils contain a lot of sandstone, and these two things create a perfect growing condition for many grape varieties.
This region has 46 different DOC and 15 different DOCG regions, making it the largest producer of noble and world-appreciated wines. Piedmont is divided into 5 subregions: Canavese, which is where Turin is located, Colline Novarese, Coste della Sesia, Langhe, and Monferrato. The wine it produces consists of Barbera, Barbaresco, Dolcetto, Nebbiolo, Grignolino, Malvasia, and Asti Spumante. The main wines produced are strong reds, which pair nicely with the rich cuisine consisting of cheeses, meats, pastas, and stuffed vegetables. With 40% of Piedmont’s wines being at the DOC/DOCG level, this region challenges Veneto and Tuscany for being the top Italian wine region. The variety of wine styles, which include many DOCG ratings, range from dry to sweet to sparkling, and both red and white.
The main grape grown in Piedmont is Nebbiolo, which is the main grape in the blended wines such as Barbera, Barbaresco, and Gattinara. The name ‘Nebbiolo’ originates from ‘nebbia’, meaning fog. This name is fitting because of the whitish coating over the grape skin and these grapes grow in an area that has a heavy morning fog in September around harvesting time. The morning fog provides a humid habitat for the grapes, which they flourish in. The two nobility wines made entirely from this grape are Barolo and Barbaresco. Both of these fine wines hold the DOCG distinction and are named from a region within Piedmont where they are produced. These wines are full-bodied red wines. They are extremely dry, robust, high in tannins, high in acidity, and high in alcohol. On the nose they often smell of tar, violets, roses, strawberries, and truffles. Barbaresco is less full-bodied than the Barolo, which requires it to be aged longer than the Barolo.
Another grape from this region is Barbera, which is a dark-skinned grape that produces tangy reds with great acidity and smell of dark cherries and plums. These grapes are less tannic than the Nebbiolo grapes, which make them smoother and able to be drunk younger. Dolcetto is another grape that produces 3 DOC wines. This grape is used to make dry red wines, but tends to be less complex. Piedmont, although being known for its red wines, also produces fine white wines. Moscato grapes are grown in this region, which make nice sparkling whites. Gavi is the most popular white wine from Piedmont and is made mostly from the Cortese grape, which comes from the sourthern most part of Piedmont. Gavi is a dry white wine best-drunk young. These wines are pale in color and have hints of citrus, apple, flowers, minerals, and honey, going along well with fish.
Wines are listed by the area that the grapes are grown in Piedmont, the grape varietal, or a combination of these two. If the label does contain both the grape varietal and the area, this usually signifies that the wine is from a smaller and better area. The best-known regions of Piedmont are Barolo, Barbaresco, Alba, and Asti. Eighty-four percent of the wines these regions produce are given the DOC/DOCG designation. On the wine label you will find the following: the wine name, the grape type, the winery/bottler name, the region, the denomination, the vintage year, and the alcohol content. This region continues to produce some of the best wines in the world due to the competition between their neighboring wine producing regions in Italy in France that are constantly producing better and better wines as well.