Nebbiolo originated in Piedmont in Italy, where it remains the region's most important red grape. Its name comes from the Italian word nebbia, which means fog, a feature of the hills where the grape traditionally grows. Nebbiolo is thick-skinned, early-budding and late-ripening; it needs long periods of sunshine to ripen fully and is often planted on south- or southwest-facing hillsides for maximum exposure. The best examples come from calcareous marl vineyards, with some planted in sandy soils.
Its finicky nature has made international production difficult, although some plantings are found in California, Australia and Argentina. The true home of Nebbiolo today is Piedmont, although other northern Italian regions like Lombardy and Valle d'Aosta also have significant Nebbiolo production.
Nebbiolo makes wines with high levels of acidity and tannins, making them a little tight and austere in their youth, but providing enough backbone to make them particularly ageworthy. The wines show cherry, plum and strawberry fruit, backed by floral notes like rose and violet, as well as leather, licorice and herbs. With age, Nebbiolo's tannins soften, its color turns to a brick hue, and its flavor profile develops notes of dried fruit, game and mushroom, sometimes truffle.
Where it's grown
- Piedmont: Aldo Conterno, Bruno Giacosa, Gaja, Giacomo Conterno, Produttori del Barbaresco, Roagna
Suggested food pairings
- Lamb ragù
- Truffle risotto