Most Americans think Tuscany when they think Italian Wine. Discover the premier wine region of Italy.
In northwestern Italy is the region of Piedmont is home to some of the world's best wines. Barolo and Barbaresco are made from the Nebbiolo grape. The city of Alba is the center of a great wine making tradition.
The Nebbiolo grape, which has only made great wines when grown in the Piedmont, produces these two great wines in unique ways. Barolo and Barbaresco are the products of a region that offers small, contrasting climates. Each is grown in unique soil and terrain.
Barolo comes from the five major communes southwest of Alba. This is a steep, hilly area. Barbaresco is from a smaller area northeast of the city. The climate here is warmer and drier. The grapes ripen earlier, producing a less tannic wine. Making Barbaresco a friendlier, more accessible wine.
Barolo is larger in structure and the tannins can be forceful. The vintner must be patient, aging the wine for two years in the barrel and one in the bottle. Wine drinkers must also be patient, not rushing to open a young Barolo.
Growers in the Piedmont also plant Barbera and Dolcetto. Barbera is making a name for itself in American wine circles. (California has also been producing some fine examples of Barbera.) Barbera is grown elsewhere in Italy, but excels in the Piedmont. It is a rich red wine, with a generous black-cherry character.
Dolcetto is a lighter-bodied red and is perfect for meals where you may have drunk a Pinot Noir. It is dry and can be somewhat grapey, but less so than most Beaujolais wines.
If you decide to take a trip to Piedmont consider the Villa La Favorita. It is a classic "farm hotel," located on a hillside just 1½ kms from the historical town of Alba, it is surrounded by a 10,000 m² estate of vineyards and fruit orchards. The rates are reasonable and include breakfast. You will be able to seperate yourself from cookiecutter hotels and truly enjoy the region.
The Piedmont region has been a region of change. While holding onto the great wine making traditions the vintners have been shaping less known wines into great offerings.