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What You Need To Know About Nebbiolo

What You Need To Know About Nebbiolo

 

Grape

Nebbiolo

 

Color

Black

 

Regions

Northwest Italy.  Piedmont is the home of this grape, but plantings are also found in the US, Mexico, Argentina, Australia; and to a lesser extent Switzerland, South Africa, Brazil, Uruguay and Chile.

 

Soil Type

Sandy and/or chalky, preferably with a lower pH (slightly acidic).

 

Viticulture

  • Nebbiolo is derived from the Italian word for fog, nebbia.  During harvest, it is not uncommon to find a dense fog embracing the vineyards where these grapes are planted.  It is also a fitting name due to the white, fog-like coating often found on mature grape skins.

  • These grapes have one of the longest growing cycles, being the first to bud yet the last to ripen and harvest compared to other Italian varietals.  Harvest usually occurs mid to late October.

  • Growers often give prime real estate to Nebbiolo in order to hasten this cycle.  These areas are better exposed to direct sunlight and sheltered from wind.

  • Heavy rains and cool weather are problematic, having a direct effect on yield and quality.  Because Nebbiolo is usually high in acidity and tannins, very dry and very warm weather help to increase sugar content within the fruit.  This, in turn, produces a superior grape.

  • Nebbiolo undergoes genetic mutation quite easily.  There are over 40 clones currently identified, and winemakers often grow several clones at once – in case one clone becomes susceptible to disease or produces poor fruit, and also to enhance the complexity of their final product.

  • In mid-century Italy, Nebbiolo was so highly regarded and protected that cutting down a single vine was a crime punishable by fine, imprisonment, dismemberment or even death for certain offenders.

 

Nebbiolo grapes get their name not just from the foggy region they grow in, but also the white, fog-like coating on their skins when they are fully mature.  [Image Source: Girl’s Gotta Drink]

Vinification

  • Wines made with Nebbiolo in Northwest Italy are classified by their origin, or Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG).  These include Barolo, Barbaresco, Roero, Gattinara, Ghemme and Valtellina.

  • Barolo and Barbaresco are the most notable regions of the bunch.  Barolo is typically “masculine” with big, firm tannins and rich, complex flavors.  Barbaresco is more “feminine”, showing a more approachable palate with softer tannins and a graceful structure.

  • A traditional approach to making wine with Nebbiolo involves a high fermentation temperature, 95-100°F and long periods of maceration, typically 20-30 days.  More tannins can be extracted via this process, but longer aging is usually required to balance the final product.

  • A more modern winemaking approach utilizes cooler fermentation temperatures in the 80°F range, and a shorter maceration window of 7-10 days.  Malolactic fermentation is often utilized to help soften the wine in this approach.

  • Young Nebbiolo wines can be deceiving with light red translucent coloring, but they have very high tannins and acidity.  This makes them a prime candidate for aging – many can go for decades in order to completely soften and balance themselves out.  Older Nebbiolos are rust-colored or even brown.

 

Hallmarks

  • Nebbiolos are known for possessing high acidity and tannins.  With age, the acidity will lessen, and the tannins will soften.

  • Warm seasons/climates will produce wines with rich, dark fruit flavors such as cherry, raspberry, blackberry and mulberry.  Other notes include licorice, pepper and brown spices such as anise, clove and Asian five spice.

  • Coolers seasons/climates will produce wines with brighter, more acidic fruits such as sour cherry, tart raspberry and strawberry.  These Nebbiolos are also more herbaceous and possess more minerality, and will taste a bit more fresh and young.

  • As Nebbiolos age, they develop notes of rose, leather, tar and dried fruits.

 

Pairings

  • Cheese:  Parmigiano Regiano, Romano, Pecorino, Asiago, Grana Paadano, Manchego

  • Meat:  Beef or pork tenderloin, osso bucco (veal shank), and fatty red meats such as proscuitto, pork belly, sausage, prime rib and duck.

  • Seafood:  Grilled salmon, cioppino, tomato-sauced seafood dishes

  • Pasta/Risotto:  Béchamel and meat sauces, cacio e pepe, and dishes rich with garlic, cheese or tomato.

  • Vegetables/Vegetarian:  Truffle, mushroom, peppers, onion, shallot, leek, fennel, tomato, garlic, olive, capers, beans, polenta.

 

Suggestions

  • Bartolo Mascarello Barolo Barolo, Italy $138.99

  • Ceretto Barolo Barolo, Italy $44.99

  • Castello di Santa Vittoria Barbaresco Barbaresco, Italy $34.99

  • Palmina Nebbiolo Napa Valley, California $31.99

 

Let The Glorious Grape know what Nebbiolo you’re drinking in the comments!

 

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Sources

Nebbiolo: The Grape of Barolo and So Much More

Nebbiolo Wiki



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