Dubbed “King of wine and the wine of kings,” Barolo is historically considered the finest wine of Italy, though Brunello is not far behind. Made from 100% Nebbiolo grapes, no wine is as transformed by the aging process. Barolo is ferociously tannic in its youth because of not just the substantial tannins, but the high acidity accompanying them. Tannin and acid act synergistically, so if two wines have the same level of tannin and one is higher in acidity, that wine will seem much more tannic. Conversely a well-aged Barolo (over ten years of age or more), after shedding its tannins can become quite delicate and ethereal. In fact, very old Barolo is often mistaken for Burgundy. The aromas associated with them run from “tar and roses” (the name of book written about Barolo) to cherry, tobacco and anise (just to name a few).
If Barolo is the king, then Barbaresco is the queen. Also 100% Nebbiolo by law, it tends to be much more forward and typically requires less bottle age to mature, sometimes half that of Barolo. It is released two years after the harvest as opposed to Barolo’s three.
Other Nebbiolo based blends from Piedmont include Gattinara, Ghemme and Lessona..
Barbera, which is produced in the villages of Alba, Asti and Monferrato, is responsible for about half of the red wine produced in Piedmont. Of the three, Alba is the only village that requires 100% Barbera. The wine is characterized by bright, fresh cherry fruit (sometimes a bit bitter) and can be made in a forward, juicy style or a more structured, serious style requiring aging.
The dominant white wines are Gavi, made from 100% Cortese grapes, and Arneis made from the Arneis grape. Gavi is a dry wine with mineral aromas that sports crisp acidity along with bright citrus notes (sometimes accompanied by a touch of anise). Wines labeled Gavi di Gavicome from grapes grown around the town itself. Arneis, which means to “rascal” (referring to the difficulty encountered in growing the grapes) is quite aromatic, with pronounce floral (often peach blossom) nuances.