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Italian wine and grape guide : Nebbiolo

Nebbiolo

The Nebbiolo grape is a native grape from Piedmont and is behind the best and most famous Piedmont red wines, Barolo and Barbaresco, but also some less known wines, Ghemme or Sforzato della Valtellina, all made with 100% Nebbiolo grapes.

The name Nebbiolo it is said to derive from "nebbia", because of the grapes being covered with abundant bloom according to some, or because the grape is harvested in late October when the vineyards are surrounded by the morning mists according to others.

Certainly this is the most valuable red grape among the Italian grapes. The Nebbiolo is cultivated in Piedmont, around the villages of Barolo and Barbaresco produce the homonymous wines, and in Lombardy, in Valtellina produces the Sforzato della Valtellina. It is also grown in other regions, but it does not produce grapes with the same characteristics. There are three major clones of the Nebbiolo grape, Lampia, Michet and Rose’ and the majority of wine growers now prefer grow all of them to give the final product a greater complexity.

The Nebbiolo grape is also widely grown and produced in the nearby Aosta Valley, where it is called Picoutener, while in the Piedmont areas of Boca, Bramaterra, Fara, Gattinara, Ghemme, Lessona and Sizzano it is called Spanna.

The berry is black, medium, round-elliptical, thin but with tough, dark purple, very waxy skin. The bunch is medium-large, elongated pyramidal, winged, rather compact. The Nebbiolo grape has a medium size leaf, pentagonal-orbicular, three-lobed, green matte bottle color and is very demanding in terms of land and sun exposure, with remarkable brightness and not too dry soils.

The Nebbiolo is a late ripening grape and gives lightly coloured red wine very similar to the Pinot Nero, with floral and balsamic notes of liquorice, highly tannic when young, a good alcohol content and acidity, qualities that make it particularly suitable for aging.