About the wine grape Nebbilo

January 15, 2011

Nebbiolo is one of Italy’s most respected wine grapes. Known as ‘the Prince of vines’, it’s responsible for 4 of Italy’s DOCGs: Barolo and Barbaresco in Piedmont, and Valtellina Superiore and Sforsato di Valtellina in Lombardy. While it’s the most prestigious grape in Piedmont, only about 3% of the area’s wine production comes from the grape. Nebbiolo also does well in Lombardy, exclusively in the Valtellina region. It’s more limited in Valle d’Aosta where it’s called the “Mountain Brother of Barolo”.

There are 3 theories about where the name Nebbiolo came from. Some say it’s derived from the word ‘noble’, while others contest that it comes from the Italian nebbia, which means fog. The fog could refer to the cloudy bloom that covers the ripe grapes, turning them almost grey. More likely, the fog refers to the harvests of this late-ripening grape. By mid October or even November, when Nebbiolo is ready, Piedmont’s hills are covered in fog.

The first references to Nebbiolo come in the 1200s, when it was cited as growing in Rivoli, now a suburb of Turin. In 15th century Piedmont, the community of La Morra established a law calling for the amputation of a hand or the hanging of anyone destroying a vine of nebbiolo!

Nebbiolo is a very sensitive and demanding grape. It needs good exposure to the sun, and prefers calcareous marls, or soils that aren’t too dry. It is most likely native to the Alba/Langhe area of Piedmont, and has 3 sub varieties authorized in Barolo and Barbaresco. Limpia has the smallest berry, and Michet has a characteristic blue/black color. The third is Nebbiolo Rosé, and it’s probably a distinct variety, rather than a sub variety. Its berries have a purple color. Nebbiolo is related to Freisa, Vespolina and, likely, Viognier.

In Lombardy, Nebbiolo goes by Chiavennasca, from the local ciu vinasca or ‘suitable for the transformation into wine’. Spanna, as Nebbiolo is known in Piedmont’s Novara region, goes back to a grape variety cited by Pliny the Elder in Roman times: Spioania, from spinus, which was Prugnolo, a fruit known for the bloom in its skins, just like Nebbiolo.

Experiments with Nebbiolo outside of Italy have yet to give convincing results.


Also known as Brunenta, Chiavennasca, Marchesana, Martesana, Melasca, Nebieu, Nebieul, Nebbiolo di Carema, Nebbiolo del Piemonte, Picotendre, Picotener, Picoultener, Prunenta, Spanna

Italy: Piedmont, Lombardy, Valle d’Aosta

Also: Argentina, Australia, Chile, Mexico, USA (California, Washington)
Principal Wines

Italy: Piedmont: Barbaresco DOCG, Barolo DOCG, Gattinara DOCG, Ghemme DOCG, Roero DOCG, Albugnano DOC, Boca DOC, Bramaterra DOC, Canavese DOC, Carema DOC, Colli Tortonese DOC, Colline Novaresi DOC, Colline Saluzzesi DOC, Coste della Sesia DOC, Fara DOC, Langhe DOC, Lessona DOC, Monferrato DOC, Nebbiolo d’Alba DOC, Pinerolese DOC, Sizzano DOC; Lombardy: Sforzato di Valtellina or Sfursat di Valtellina DOCG, Valtellina Superiore DOCG, Valtellina Rosso or Rosso della Valtellina DOC; Valle d’Aosta: Valle d’Aosta or Vallée d’Aoste DOC

Color: Ruby red with brick hues. Becomes more and more orange with age

Nose: Famous for its tar and roses. Fruity (dried cherries and other dried red fruits, plum, cherry, blackberry), Floral (rose, violet), Earthy (undergrowth, truffle, mushroom), Spicy (cinnamon, licorice), tar

Palate: Full, good alcohol and acidity, tannic, long

Source: http://www.insiderwinetours.com/resources/wine-grapes/wine-grapes-nebbiolo.php
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