Nestled in northwest Italy, between the foothills of the western Alps and Apennines, lies the country’s second largest region: Piedmont, or Piemonte, in Italian. Home to the House of Savoy, Italy’s ruling dynasty until 1946, it’s no surprise this area birthed the king of Italian wines.
While Barolo reigns supreme, an array of indigenous grapes call Piedmont home. “Part of the greatness of this region is its diversity and the high level of quality of its wines,” shares Nadine Brown, sommelier and former wine director of Charlie Palmer Steakhouse in Washington D. C.. However, this article is focused on three wines: Barolo, Barbaresco, and Barbera.
Piedmont’s mountainous terrain juxtaposed with its proximity to the Mediterranean Sea create a unique continental climate. Foggy mornings give way to sunny days and cool nights, a wide diurnal shift ideal for the region’s most coveted grape—Nebbiolo.
Compared to Pinot Noir for its heightened ability to express terroir, Nebbiolo offers an alternative to the ever-rising prices of Burgundy. Resemblances of the two regions don’t stop there. “As a student of the region, it’s helpful to think of the similarities between Burgundy and Piedmonte,” explains Brown. Both regions are built on the foundation of small multi-generational family wineries with an emphasis on small vineyards and grand cru systems.
Equally finicky as Pinot Noir to location, the early budding yet late-ripening Nebbiolo rarely finds growing success outside Piedmont. Within the region it’s cultivated in Barolo, Barbaresco, and across the Tanaro River in Roero, as well as two Nebbiolo based DOCG’s, Nebbiolo delle Langhe and Nebbiolo d’Alba.