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All About Nebbiolo

All About Nebbiolo

Hailing from the northern regions of Piemonte, Lombardia, and Val d'Aosta, Nebbiolo is the key to some of Italy's most refined red wines. Step into the vineyards to discover this prized grape variety.

WHAT IS NEBBIOLO?

Dating back to the 13th century and named for nebbia, Italian for "fog," this ancient and thin-skinned grape variety is right at home in the cooler climate (and yes, seasonal fog), ideal conditions for winemaking. Harvested in late October and November, this grape is rather fussy to grow – it can struggle to reach full ripeness and prefers the specifically sandy, silt-based soils of the northern Italian regions where it flourishes.

HOW DOES NEBBIOLO TASTE?

Nebbiolo has a distinct color that sets it apart from other red wines, with a pale garnet hue that takes on a brick orange tinge at the edges of the glass.  Nebbiolo is well-known for picking up characteristics of the soil, expressing wildly different terroir depending on where it was grown. High in tannins and acids, the palate offers notes tar, roses, leather, and cherries. However, each expression of Nebbiolo offers subtle differences – we can only recommend tasting them all!

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BAROLO DOCG

The most famous expression of Nebbiolo is Barolo, known as the "king of wine and the wine of kings" and one of Italy's most prized and age-worthy wines. Dating back to the mid-19th century, Barolo vineyards gained a regal reputation thanks to the son of King Vittorio Emanuele II, who planted vines in Piemonte. (It's only fitting that the history of Barolo is as complex as the wine itself!)

Known for their graceful aging, Barolo wines must age at least three years before their release, with a minimum of five years for Riserva wines. Barolo wines are gripping with velvety tannins, nuanced aromas, and fresh berry fruit flavors. When uncorking a robust Barolo, pair with regional dishes like agnolotti del plin or brasato al Barolo.

BARBARESCO DOCG

Just like Barolo, Barbaresco is produced exclusively with Nebbiolo. While Barbaresco is often considered slightly less regal and important than wines from neighboring Barolo, many Barbaresco wines can be just as powerful and age-worthy.

According to the DOC created in 1980, the rules for producing Barbaresco dictate slightly shorter aging times than Barolo – only two years (with at least nine months in oak barrels), and at least four years for Riserva. Ruby red in color, the wine packs layers of fruit, acidity, power, and tannins. An aromatic bouquet of cherries, roses, and dark spices greet the nose; on the palate, the medium-bodied wine offers tart berries, vanilla. These wines are best enjoyed with gamey meats like roast lamb and pasta with tomato-based sauces (get our recipe for lo spaghetto al pomodoro here).

Nebbiolo vineyard in Italy

VALTELLINA DOC

Valtellina is located at the foothills of the Italian Alps, near the border with Switzerland, and its high-elevation terraced vineyards make for structured, elegant Nebbiolo wines. Wines are produced from a minimum of 90% Nebbiolo, which locally is referred to as Chiavennasca.

Look for the terms sforzato, sfurzat, or sfursat on Valtellina wine labels for a taste of something truly special! This refers to the process of appassimento, or drying of the grapes after harvest (the same process used in the Veneto for Amarone wines). Local producer Nino Negri specializes in this rare style of winemaking, and drinkers of Valtellina DOCG will find that these wines combine the elegance of Barolo with the flavorful, high-alcohol experience of Amarone. Valtellina wines pair well with roast meat dishes, but can even stand up to spicy pasta like gnocchi al pomodoro piccante.

Nino Negri Italian wine bottles

Pro tip: Nino Negri Valtellina DOCG wines are being featured at Eataly this March! Head to your local Eataly wine shop to shop select bottles on sale, or taste by the glass in our restaurants.

ALTO PIEMONTE

Divided in the middle by the Sesia river, the sub-regions Boca, Lessona, Costa della Sesia, Gattinara, Bramaterra, Fara and the Colina Novaresi make up the majority of the Alto Piemonte and also boast their own stunning versions of Nebbiolo wines. Another standout area is Carema, on the western border with the Val d'Aosta, which also produces spectacular Nebbiolo wines that are alive with floral and strawberry notes, and some say even hints of truffles.

The wines show Alpine notes of pine, woodland wildflowers and freshness from the cooler climate. Pair these wines with rustic hard cheeses like Toma DOP, or the wilder flavors of game.

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Curious to expand your Nebbiolo palate this month? Head to your local Eataly wine shop to get a taste! Salute!