The Soul of Piemontese Wine
Posted on 31 August 2021
Piemonte, in Italy’s North West, is arguably one of the most famous wine regions in the world, let alone Italy. It is home to the famous wines and castled villages of Barolo and Barbaresco which have enjoyed regal acclaim and a loyal following since their rise to prominence in the middle of the 19th century. But behind the fame lies some truly wonderful wines that also deserve our attention.
Barbera and DolcettoThe real workhorse varieties of Piemonte, and those often adorning the dinner tables up and down the region on Sunday lunchtimes, are Barbera and Dolcetto. Barbera is by far the most planted red variety and can be relied upon to produce ripe, refreshing, fruit-driven warmers. Since the 1980s, however, winemakers have realized that Barbera has all the structural components needed to make incredibly high-quality wines, and the top Barbera wines can these days rival even the famed Nebbiolo-based wines of Barolo and Barbaresco in terms of price and quality. Dolcetto was also much-maligned until the end of the 20th century, was once again winemakers made a greater effort to round out the wines. Gone were the bitter, harsh flavors of mass production, and in their place came ripe red fruit and stunning purple hues in wines that were brilliant food pairings with the local ragù.
Lesser-Known RedsThose looking to go “deep dive” into the reds of Piemonte will enjoy seeking out wines from the lesser-known Grignolino, Freisa, and Ruchè varieties. All are relatively high in tannin and made in different styles to combat this. Grignolino is often made in a minimal skin contact method, leaving a moderately tannic and very light-colored lunchtime wine. Ruchè, a variety that is at the heart of a big revival right now, tends to be heavily scented and tannic. Freisa can be either of the above styles or even sparkling. The better still wine examples are slightly oaked to show off its true quality as the closest relation to Nebbiolo.
White WinesPiemonte has always been more of red wine than a white wine region. Or at least for the last couple of hundred years. The main white wine variety grown around here is Moscato Bianco, produced for the famous/infamous (delete as appropriate) Asti Spumante. The higher quality Moscato D’Asti DOCG, however, is a wine of true class and fun and is a brilliant wine for festive occasions. The next most famous white grape is Cortese, used for the white wines of Gavi (amongst others). But don’t miss out on the better standard of Arneis coming through, and even the everyday drinking Favorita (aka Vermentino) can quench your thirst on a warm afternoon. Most of the vineyards are south of the regional capital, Torino. But to the north is the small region of Caluso that produces white wines, both still and sparkling, from the Erbaluce grape. High in flavor and refreshing acidity, these wines are fabulous with the local fritto misto dishes.
Wines To TryComing up later this month, on Wednesday 29th September, we’ll be tasting through three of these lesser-known Piemontese wines. By all means, head online now and buy yourself some of these lovely wines, or buy a ticket for our tasting as we go through these three wines together, with a bit of chat thrown in for good measure…
1) Gavi by Folli & Benato
2) Ruchè La Tradizione by Montalbera
3) Freisa "Braghe" by Claudio Mariotto
Wine Tasting Ticket