TOP 10 NATIVE GRAPES IN PIEMONTE
Italy is a country that boasts over 2,000 different grape varietals according to Ian d’Agata’s Native Wine Grapes of Italy but the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MIPAAF), has only granted 350 grapes with an “authorized” status. Piemonte offers numerous varietals to taste, making it a fun region to explore! Here we have named our Top 10 native Piemontese grape varietals.
Piemonte Red Wine Grapes
From this grape we get Langhe Nebbiolo DOC – Nebbiolo D’Alba DOC – Barbaresco DOCG – Barolo DOCG – Roero DOCG – Boca DOC – Ghemme DOCG – Gattinara DOCG) just to name a few. Nebbiolo is the king and reigns in Piemonte! Nowhere else in the world does this grape grow so well, producing wines with great complexity, finesse, and the ability for such long ageing. Typical aromas and flavors are: roses, violets, red fruits, licorice, tobacco, tar.
There are 2 main denominations/regions for Barbera: Alba and Asti. This is what I call the crowd-pleasing wine since it is big, fruity, refreshing and smooth with little to no tannins. This wine can range from light and mouthwatering to bold and jammy. Don’t underestimate Barbera’s aging power as they can be said to “Baroleggiare” (seem like a Barolo) when aged.
The Dolcetto grape is surprisingly not “dolce” but actually fruity, slightly tannic with an almost bitter finish. This is the farmer’s wine, great with Italian snack foods like salami and cheese. Typically this grape was lower in alcohol and drunk at every meal here. Often it is in the shadow of Barbera and Nebbiolo but it is deeply rooted and unique to the Piemontese history. You can also find great value & special regions dedicated to this wine like Dogliani, Diano d’Alba and Ovada.
From Northern Piedmont (Chieri) Freisa can be light or even fizzy but the Langhe version is often made in a bolder and stronger Nebbiolo style. In fact, it is thought to be the most closely related grape variety to Nebbiolo. It nearly went extinct but is slowly making a comeback! The name Freisa comes from strawberry in Latin which describes its beautiful berry flavor with some spice, sometimes fizzy with high acid and high tannin.
Pelaverga is a rare varietal only made in one small village Verduno with a small exception coming from border town La Morra. It’s candy
red fruit and strong white pepper nose make it easy to recognize. Contrary to Barolo which is also made in this village, it is a an easy going wine that somms love for its versatility. Light bodied with character, it can also be chilled for a light summer red wine.
In some ways similar to Pelaverga, it displays red berry fruit and a subtle spice and pepper on the nose and palate. Grignolino, although lighter in style than Nebbiolo, still has high acid and tannin. Grignolino is more popular in the Asti/Monferrato area of Piedmont and worth scoping out. This wine is full of energy!
Piemonte White Wine Grapes
Moscato Bianco is made into one of the most well-known wines, Moscato d’Asti. It is part of a larger family of Moscati grapes which are known for their expressive sweet aromas. Records go back to the 1300s and you can find this grape in nearly every region in Italy! You can always recognize this bouquet when you smell musk, honey, peach, white flowers and at times a bit of sage and lime. This is a drinkable wine, poured at celebrations and holidays with dessert!
Arneis originates in Roero where the soils are sandier, giving this wine beautiful fruity notes of peaches and pears. Medium bodied and typically unoaked this is a wine for all occasions. It was once under appreciated and planted to attract animals and birds while keeping them away from the prized Nebbiolo. Now it is considered one of Piemonte’s great wine varietals!
Erbaluce originates in Northern Piemonte near the Alpine hills, first recorded in the 1600s. It a dry wine light-bodied wine with high acid and notes of crisp apples. It’s name which translates as “herb light” is said to have come from the goddess Albaluce, whose tears landing in the soil, created the grape Erbaluce. Perhaps it is the color reflecting off the grapes in the Alpine sunlight.
Most people have not heard of Cortese, but know what Gavi is! Gavi wine is made from the grape Cortese in the south-east corner of Piedmont. Because of its light crisp fruit flavors, it goes great with the nearby Genovese cuisine including pesto and seafood dishes.