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Sep 1, 2018

The great grape of Piedmont has a lot in common with the great grape of Burgundy, but it may be even more selective about site and growing conditions. In this show, we tell you what to look for in a great Nebbiolo, plus places outside of Piedmont doing a good job with this finicky grape!


Here are more detailed show notes: 

Nebbiolo Overview

  • Parents of Nebbiolo likely are extinct
  • 1268 earliest mention – called Nibiol
  • 13th, 14thcenturies – one of the oldest, most widespread grapes in Piedmont
  • In the 15th century, the penalties for chopping a Nebbiolo vine were stiff!
  • Name – from nebbia or “fog” – thick bloom covering ripe berries, like they are covered in fog. Could also be b/c fog covers piedmont hills
  • Four clone types:
    • Nebbiolo Lampia – most widespread, more highly valued for the quality
    • Nebbiolo Michet –virused form of Lampia
    • Nebbiolo Bolla – declining because it’s too productive and dilute in flavor
    • Nebbiolo Rosé – has evolved into a different grape, not a clone, but still blended in


Nebbiolo in the Vineyard:

  • Early budding, VERY late ripening, can’t plant anywhere spring frosts are an issue
  • Always given best hillside sites -- south and southwest facing
  • Fussy about soil – really thrives only on calcareous marl north and south of the town of Alba, and on the right bank of Tanaro
  • Not adaptable, doesn’t travel well
  • Best vintages experiencedry weather during September & October
  • Nebbiolo warmth to develop get sugar/alcohol and fruit flavors to balance high acidity and tannins
  • Like Pinot Noir in ability to express terroir so differently – cru in Barbaresco/Barolo divided because it can pick up subtleties


Wine Character and Flavors:

  • Light color, turns orange very fast
  • High in acid and tannin
  • PERFUMED!! Aromas – tar, dried cherries, licorice, violets, roses, decaying leaf, woodsmoke, earthy


Oak effect on Nebbiolo

  • Small French oak barriques v. traditional large Slovenian oak casks, orbotti
  • Small barrels = faster-maturing wines with less character.
  • Most producers today use a mixture of the two, depending on the particular vintage, vineyard



  • Can be used to add color and/or soften the grape's harsh tannins.
  • Common blenders: Barbera, Bonarda, Croatina, in Roero: Arneis
  • DOCG regulations for Barolo and Barbaresco call for the wine to be a 100% Nebbiolo.



Where is Nebbiolo Grown:

Piemonte: Grows 3/4 of all Nebbiolo


Outside of Barolo and Barbaresco:

  • Gattinara, Ghemme, Roero: 75-95% of Nebbiolo in Ghemme and Gattinara. Blended with Vespolina, Croatina, and Bonarda
  • Other Piedmont DOCs to look for: Carema, Langhe Nebbiolo, Nebbiolo d’Alba – at least 85% Nebbiolo, often 100%


Lombardia – Nebbiolo called Chiavennasca

  • Doesn’t ripen well often so the tannin and acidity are too high in these wines – Valtellina/ Valtellina Superiore


Lower part of Valle d’Aosta (a different province) – subalpine and in poor years there is harsh acidity and tannins


Outside Italy:

  1. Languedoc, France: Mas de Daumas Gassac, some in their top red blend
  2. Switzerland: 2 producers use it
  3. United States:
    1. California – 150 acres/61 ha in Paso Robles, Santa Cruz Mtns, Sierra Foothills, Amador, Moneterey, Santa Ynez, Santa Barbara. Thus far, producers have had a hard time finding the right sites for Nebbiolo
    2. Other U.S.: Washington State (Yakima), OR, VA, PA, TN, NM, in Canada – BC, Mexico
  4. Argentina: Mainly in  San Juan, Mendoza
  5. Some in Chile, South Africa, New Zealand, growing in popularity in Australia


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