Description 1 of 2

Name of varietal: Nebbiolo

Common synonyms: Spanna, Picutener and Chiavennasca.
Parentage of the grape: Debatable whether it is indigenous to Piedmont or first plantings in Valtellina in Lombardy, Italy. 
History of the grape: Two schools of thought exist as to the origins of Nebbiolo (which means “little fog” either for the Piedmontese autumn weather or the frosty appearance of the mature grapes). One is that it is indigenous to Piedmont, Italy. The other is that it was first planted in Valtellina, a valley within the Lombardy region, where it was then brought to Piedmont. There is some suggestion that in the 1st century, Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder gave high regard to a wine made in what is now the Barolo region, attributing to it similar characteristics associated with Nebbiolo. In the 13th century, there is reference to a wine called “nebili” from a grape that was growing near Rivoli outside of Turin. More concrete written history notates examples from the 14th century and 15th centuries praising the grape by name. Wines made from Nebbiolo became the official wines of the court of the Savoys, who ruled Piedmont for nearly 800 years starting in the early 11th century. Barolo became known thus as the “king of wines and the wine of kings.” The British first took notice of it in the 18th century as their supplies of Bordeaux dwindled with their rocky relationship with the French and they looked toward alternative wines. Unfortunately, the Phylloxera crisis decimated the vineyards and when grapes were replanted, other varietals such as Barbera and Dolcetto took precedence over the notoriously fickle grape. Today, Nebbiolo is grown in only 6% of Piedmont, but is classified as DOCG in Barolo, Barbaresco, Roero, Gattinara, and, Ghemme.
Characteristics of the grape: dark berries, dark cherries, black plums, anise, tobacco, cedar, smoke, tar, violets, truffles, black licorice, moss, earth, leather, dried fruits, rosemary, thyme.
Regions where the grape currently is important: Piedmont: Barolo, Barbaresco, Roero, Gattinara, Langhe, Ghemme, Alba (as in Nebbiolo d’Alba). Other parts of Italy: Lessona, Carema, Val d’Aosta, Valtellina, Frianciacorta, Veneto. USA: Caifornia, Washington and Oregon. Mexico, Argentina, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Brazil. 
Type or types of wines the grape produces: The Piedmontese versions are predominately dry, elegant red wines that benefit from long bottle aging. To be consumed young, there are more accessible varietal releases, such as Nebbiolo d’Alba, that don’t require as much aging. Warmer, New World climates produce more fruity versions. It is also one of the allowed blending wines in Franciacorta sparkling wine. 

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Description 2 of 2

(aka. Spanna, Spana, Chiavennasca) This black-skinned Italian variety is responsible for some of the best and longest lived red wines of Italy. However, despite the tremendous standing the Nebbiolo grape enjoys at home this native of the Piedmont region in northern Italy rarely triumphs abroad, or even outside of the Piedmont, for that matter. Even so, the quality of wines based on Nebbiolo, such as the DOCGs Barolo and Barbaresco, has encouraged limited plantings of this variety around the globe, from North and South America, to Australia. The name derives from nebbia, the Italian word for ‘fog’, which regularly enshrouds the foothill vineyards of the Piedmont region during harvest. Without question the benchmarks for Nebbiolo wines are Barolo and Barbaresco – both Piedmontese wines with powerful tannic structures, impeccable finesse and intense, earthy, dark noses, with hints of floral beauty. The aroma of classic Barolo is often described as tar and tobacco smoke, combined with violets and rose petals. Neighboring Barbaresco fashions the Nebbiolo grape into a slightly more feminine style of wine. While Barbaresco can be more approachable in youth, more elegant, and more forthcoming with fruit than Barolo, it should not be mistaken to be light in weight or structure. Both the Barolo and Barbaresco versions of Nebbiolo possess an amazing combination of muscular tannins and high acidity. Traditional versions generally require extensive cellaring (both in cask and bottle) to fully show off the grape’s more subtle fruit character. As is the trend internationally, many modern versions of Barolo and Barbaresco are being fashioned with less extensive maturation periods, using new smaller oak barrels, to create a more extracted, fruit driven and approachable style of wine. Nebbiolo is a late-ripening variety that enjoys the moderate summers and long autumns of Piedmont and Lombardy, requiring as much ripening time as possible to balance its natural high acidity. Akin to that other terroir-specific varietal, Pinot Noir, it also requires patient and passionate vignerons who possess an intrinsic understanding of its needs. Nebbiolo is found predominately in the northwest Italian region of Piedmont where it the base for many of the regions most well known Denominazione di origine controllata (DOC) and DOCG wines including Barolo, Barbaresco, Gattinara, Ghemme and Nebbiolo d'Alba. Despite the prestige and acclaim of Nebbiolo based wine, it is far from being the most widely planted grape in Piedmont. In 2000, there were just under 12,700 acres (5,000 hectares) of Nebbiolo producing 3.3 million gallons (125,000 hectoliters) of wine which accounted for a little over 3% of Piedmont's entire production. In contrast, there is nearly 15 times as much Barbera planted in the region. Outside of Piedmont, it is found in the neighboring regions of the Val d'Aosta region of Donnaz and Valtellina and Franciacorta in Lombardy. In the Veneto, there is a small amount which some producers use to make a Nebbiolo recioto wine. Outside of Italy, producers in the United States are experimenting with plantings in California, Washington and Oregon. In Argentina there are a couple hundred acres planted in the San Juan province and Australian producers in the King Valley region of Victoria have found some success with their Nebbiolo plantings – Description from Appellation America (view original content)

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