Italian Wine Regions - Quattrocalici
Table of Contents for the Piedmont Region
The Piedmont Wine Region
Main Article Contents
- 1 Piedmont and Wine
- 2 The Territory of Piedmont
- 3 Viticulture in Piedmont
- 4 The history of Viticulture in Piedmont
- 5 The grape varieties of Piedmont
- 6 Wine production areas in Piedmont
- 7 The Denominations of Origin in Piedmont
- 8 Gastronomy and typical products of Piedmont
Piedmont and Wine
Piedmont is identified almost exclusively for its great red wines, but in this region also excellent white wines and sparkling wines are produced. The role of Piedmont has been fundamental for the development of modern Italian enology. Right here it took place an extraordinary revolution in Italian Oenology that brought Italy back to the top of high quality wine production. Piedmont wines, with just a few exceptions, are varietal, i.e. produced with a single grape. In Piedmont took palce also the first examples of zoning forn the wine-growing areas, with the definition of concepts such as terroir and cru: a specific wine produced exclusively with grapes coming from a single vineyard or parcel whose name appears on the label. Currently the denominations in which the “mentions of the vineyard” are allowed are Barolo DOCG, Barbaresco DOCG and Dogliani DOCG. The territory of these denominations is divided into sub-zones, and within these the parcels or crus are identified. Places such as La Morra, Barolo, Serralunga d’Alba, Monforte d’Alba and Castiglione Falletto are the Barolo wine areas, while Barbaresco, Treiso and Neive are for Barbaresco. Bussia, Lazzarito, Cerequio, Rocche and Brunate are some examples of Barolo crus, just as Rabajà, Asili and Montestefano are for Barbaresco.
The Territory of Piedmont
Piedmont is one of the largest Italian wine-producing regions, with 30% of the land on hills, 26% in the plains and 44% on mountains. The climate is different depending on the area taken into consideration, even if the features remain predominantly continental, with fairly marked temperature changes between day and night. Winters tend to be cold and quite long and the summers are rather hot and sultry on the plains.
Viticulture in Piedmont
Piedmont has more than 125,000 acres of vineyards and more than 3 million hectoliters of wine produced each year, with a fairly moderate average yield (around 8 t / ha). More than 90% of Piedmont’s wine production takes place on hilly areas. The pruning systems are modern (guyot and other espalier).
The history of Viticulture in Piedmont
Until the first half of the nineteenth century Piedmont wines were mainly sweet. This tradition was due to both commercial and technical reasons. From a commercial point of view, since most of the wines were exported from the maritime republic of Genoa by sea, the sweet wines guaranteed greater preservability during long sea journeys. From a technical point of view, Nebbiolo, the main Piedmontese grape, has a rather late ripening. The cold in the cellars where fermentation took place during the months of November and December and the unavailability of selected yeasts interrupted the fermentation process, leaving a certain quantity of residual sugar in the wine.
The protagonist of the renaissance of Piedmontese enology was Barolo, thanks to the French oenologist Louis Oudart. Giulietta Falletti, Marquise of Barolo, asked Oudart to improve the Nebbiolo wines produced in her cellar. Oudart understood the potential of Nebbiolo and realized that he could get an excellent dry wine. This is how Barolo was born and it was thanks to Camillo Benso, Count of Cavour, who decided to convert the cellars of his estate in Grinzane for the production of Barolo, which this wine began to acquire its fame on a national and international level.
The grape varieties of Piedmont
In Piedmont there are mostly black-berry grapes , such as Nebbiolo, Barbera, Dolcetto, Croatina, Freisa, Bonarda, Grignolino, Brachetto, and the Malvasia with black berries from Casorzo and Schierano. Among the white grape varieties we mention the Cortese and Erbaluce autochthonous varieties and the Moscato bianco, with some of its highest expressions in the region.
Wine production areas in Piedmont
The Barolo production area is characterized by five famous places that also constitute as many areas of election: Barolo, Castiglione Falletto, La Morra, Serralunga d’Alba and Monforte d’Alba.
The wines produced in these five localities have different characteristics: the soil of Barolo and La Morra gives the wine a softer, more aromatic, decidedly fruity character and with faster maturation. In Castiglione Falletto, Serralunga d’Alba and Monforte d’Alba, the soil is less compact and fertile and produces more robust and intense wines, which ripen more slowly. The wines produced in these localities are also different in color: those produced in La Morra and Barolo tend to have ruby red colors, while those produced in other places tend to look more garnet and orange.
Tannicity is a particularity of Nebbiolo wines that takes a few years, usually at least five, before assuming a more round and less aggressive character. Because of this, we have today two schools of thought among the producers: the more traditional ones make the wine refine in large barrels, obtaining a more aggressive and typical wine, while the more progressive ones instead interpret the Barolo as a softer and more modern wine, often using barrique maturation and shorter fermentation and maceration times. Often this subject is a source of discussion both among producers and among wine-enthusiasts themselves.
Barbaresco has for years been considered as the “younger brother” of Barolo, but in fact it is an extraordinary wine from Nebbiolo grapes that owes its name to the town where it is produced, not far from Barolo. The fame of Barbaresco is certainly more recent than Barolo, in fact it takes the road of notoriety in the 60s thanks above all to Giovanni Gaja and Bruno Giacosa. Ten years later, thanks to the intuition and stubbornness of Angelo Gaja, who began to produce wine according to the principles learned in France, Barbaresco was one of the most sought-after wines in the world. Barbaresco is generally considered more elegant and refined than the nearby Barolo and is produced in the localities of Barbaresco, Treiso and Neive, each of which, thanks to the characteristics of the area, gives specific characteristics to the wine.
The Langhe and the Roero
The Langhe are located near the city of Alba, to the left of the river Tanaro and also include the areas of Barolo and Barbaresco. In addition to Nebbiolo, other grapes are grown, such as Dolcetto and Barbera. Among the most important areas for Dolcetto, Dogliani and Diano d’Alba, the latter with as many as 77 different crus in its territory. Dolcetto gives a wine with a marked fruity note, good tannicity but low acidity, which does not allow long periods of maturation. Barbera is a grape that until a few decades ago was considered suitable only for the production of current and large consumption wines, but recently managed to achieve great results, thanks to a careful and quality-oriented winemaking. The Pelaverga, cultivated in the municipality of Verduno, is an often forgotten grape, but its wines can be regarde as of considerable interest. The most important white grape varieties of the Langhe are the Favorita and Arneis, the latter also present in the Roero. The Roero is located on the left bank of the river Tanaro. Even here the most common black grape is Nebbiolo, however the notoriety of the area is also due to a white grape: the Arneis. White wines from Arneis are intense and complex on the nose and pleasant on the palate.
The Monferrato and the Asti area
These two important wine areas are located in the southeastern part of the region. Here the most important black grape variety is definitely Barbera. In the Monferrato the Barbera is also present as a slightly sparkling wine, while in Asti it’s more a firm and full-bodied wine. The Grignolino gives red wines with generally clear colors, very pleasant and pleasant. Freisa, with its fruity and immediate flavours is present in many wines of this area. The Ruchè can be considered an exclusive product of Castagnole Monferrato. Its wines are excellent, although generally not very structured. The famous Brachetto d’Acqui is produced as sparkling dry or sweet wines and charms for its strong aromaticity and its pleasantness. The Gavi DOCG white wine is produced with Cortese grapes and characterized by its intensity and harmony. In Ovada the main grape is the Dolcetto which here shows unique characteristics and absolute interest. Asti is famous for Moscato Bianco and for the sweet spumante that bears the name of the city. The success of Asti Spumante is due to Carlo Gancia, who decided in 1865 to make the Moscato Bianco sparkling wine. The Moscato di Loazzolo is an elegant passito also produced with white Moscato grapes. In the Asti area the most important black berry variety is Barbera, here one of its greatest expressions, thanks to the work of Giacomo Bologna, who first introduced the aging in barrique for these wines, making Barbera a prominent place among the important wines.
The north of Piedmont
The northern area of Piedmont is characterized above all by the production of red wines from Nebbiolo, less known than those of Barolo and Barbaresco, but nevertheless of certain charm and interest. Among the most famous areas for these wines we mention Ghemme and Gattinara and the DOC Carema, in the western part and near the Valle d’Aosta. Among the other DOC wines of the northern area of Piedmont produced with Nebbiolo, alone or together with other varieties, it is worth mentioning Lessona, Bramaterra, Boca, Sizzano and Fara. The Erbaluce is a white grape with which are dry wines but also extraordinary passito are made, belonging to the denomination Erbaluce di Caluso DOCG.
The Denominations of Origin in Piedmont
We can divide Piedmont into 8 main wine-growing areas:
- The area north of Novara and Vercelli with the Gattinara DOCG and Ghemme DOCG and also the Lessona DOC, Bramaterra DOC, Boca DOC, Sizzano DOC and Fara DOC. The main vines here are the Nebbiolo, called in this area Spanna, Croatina, Barbera and white Erbaluce
- At the border with Valle d’Aosta the Canavese DOC and Carema DOC, always with the Nebbiolo and Erbaluce vines.
- Around the city of Turin the Collina Torinese DOC (vines Freisa, Barbera, Bonarda and Dolcetto) and the Erbaluce di Caluso DOCG.
- The area of Monferrato, between Asti, Casale Monferrato, Ovada and Gavi includes among others the Barbera del Monferrato Superiore DOCG, Brachetto d’Acqui DOCG, Dogliani DOCG, Ovada DOCG, Gavi or Cortese di Gavi DOCG and Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato DOCG , with the vines Moscato Bianco, Cortese, Grignolino, the Malvasia with black berries Malvasia di Casorzo and Malvasia di Schierano, in addition to the others already mentioned.
- The Asti province, an important area for sparkling wine with white Moscato, which also includes Loazzolo DOC, famous for Moscato passito.
- The Tortonese area where, in addition to Cortese and Barbera, we mention the autochthonous white Timorasso.
- The left bank of the river Tanaro the DOCG Roero with the Nebbiolo, Barbera and white Arneis vines
- At the right bank of the river the Langa, with the Barolo DOCG, Barbaresco DOCG (Nebbiolo, but also Ruché, Barbera and Dolcetto) and Dogliani DOCG (Dolcetto).
In Piedmont there are alltogether 16 DOCG and 42 DOC, no IGT. 10 PDOs for food and argicoltural products among which the Bra DOP, the Castelmagno DOP and 6 PGI cheeses stand out.
Gastronomy and typical products of Piedmont
The products of Piedmont, rich in hills, mountains and plains, reflect the characteristics of its territory. From the plains of Vercelli the rice, in the varieties Carnaroli, Arborio and Vialone nano is the protagonist of many recipes, while from the hills of Alba the white truffle characterizes many local recipes. The woods on the hills are rich in mushrooms, like porcini and ovoli. Piedmont gives typical vegetables such as peppers and asparagus. Many typical cheeses such as castelmagno, bra, raschera, robiola di roccaverano and many others.
The Piedmontese cuisine is famous for its appetizers, both hot and cold, including the peppers and stuffed onions, the croutons with truffles, the salads and the salami, raw and cooked, the veal with tuna and stuffed eggs. Among the famous first courses the agnolotti del plin, with roasted or truffle sauce, gnocchi all’ossolana (made with potato and chestnut flour, and risotto, which has already been mentioned, made with Barolo wine, asparagus, finanziera-styke and many others. We also remember the homemade egg pasta Tajarin, with truffle or sage and loose butter, and many meat-based main courses, such as the famous braised beef with Barolo and the Piedmontese mixed boiled meats. White meat dishes, the “babi” chicken (barbecued) and the “marengo” chicken, but also many game based dishes, such as the famous hare in civet, the partridge with barolo and the sautéed pigeons in the Monferrato area. The Finanziera is made with cuts of the fifth quarter (brains, liver, sweetbreads), sausage and veal of diced veal, with addition of broth and porcini mushrooms. The bagna caôda is prepared with anchovies, oil and garlic and used as a sauce for fresh vegetables of the autumnal season. Among desserts the marrons glacés, the cuneesi al rum, the compote of marroni and the bônet, a milk chocolate pudding.
The Wine Appellations of the Piedmont Region