Italian Wine – The Wines of Piemonte

The Piemonte in Northwest Italy lies at the foot of the Alps and the name itself translates as foo (“pie”) of the mountain (“monte”).  The region is home to world-class wines (mostly red) with 75% of it’s production coming from the 60 DOCs and DOCGs in the region, the most in Italy.  The reigning red grape, Nebbiolo has been called the king of wines and the wine of kings – it’s most celebrated DOCGs of Barolo and Barbaresco are highly prized and other regions like Gatttinara also produce quality wines from Nebbiolo.  Noteworthy reds are also made from Barbera and Dolcetto and even the whites of Gavi made from the Cortese grape are recognized for quality.

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Regions – x DOCs and 17 DOCGs, a region-wide DOC and no IGT wines.

History – First vines (800BC), unification (1863), DOCs (1963)

Climate and Geography – Continental

Soils – Limestone/marl in the west, poorer soils in the east.

Grapes – Nebbiolo, Barbera, Dolcetto, Arnes, Cortese

Viticulture – ?

Vinification – Traditional long time in neutral oak and maceration with new approach using new oak and rotofermentation

Top producers – Gaja,

Other key Facts

  • Second most planted country (
  • Export
  • Per capital consumption
  • ?

Other key Facts

  • Second most planted country (
  • Export
  • Per capital consumption
  • ?

Wine Regions of Italy


Barolo – Most powerful and complex expression of Nebbiolo

Barbaresco – Similar soils to western Barolo – less body and complexity – lower minimum aging requirement

Gattinara – North east of Barolo, Nebbiolo grape

Nebbiolo d’Alba – Satellite appellation of Barolo – softer and faster maturing

Nebbiolo della Langhe

Langhe –




Barbera d’Asti – Barbera grape, high acidity, low tannin – 2 styles

Barbera d’Alba – Area around a town of the same name (famous for truffles)


Dogliani DOCG – Ea

Dolcetto d’Alba DOC – H


Gavi – Whites based on the Cortese grape.

Moscato d’Asti – xxx



History of Piemonte Wine

Rich history dating back to 800 BC with both the Greeks who called the land “Onotria” (land of wine) and the Romans developing viticultural practices including aging wine in amphora under a layer of olive oil. Other key developments include:

800 BC First Grapes Planted

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27 BC Augustus takes over Rome

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1963 First Classification Established

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1993 Major Classification Overhaul

Changes included:

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2016 AD Cheers!

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Climate & Soils

Italy has 3 major types of soil:

Classic Calcarious soil – In the Piedmont, Tuscany…
Volcanic Soils – Soave and the south
Alluvial Soils – ?

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Barolo – The most prized and celebrated wine of the region, based on the Nebbiolo grape, the wine is powerful and generally needs bottle age to show its complete expression that, with time, develops a bewitching nose of roses, violets, strawberry, mushrooms, leaves, tar, and leather.  The term Barolo was first used in the 1850s soon after the wines of the region moved from cask to bottle.  There are 2 main styles – a softer, fruitier wine from the calcareous marl soils on the western side and intense wines with firmer tannins from poorer soils on the eastern side. With a minimum of 18 months in oak, many producers age the wines even more.  Today, there are two approaches to the making Barolo, the traditional approach of aging the wine in large oak casks with open vat fermentation and a more international approach of aging the wine in new French Barrique, closed vat fermentation to reduce oxidation, and less maceration and rotofermentation to reduce tannins.




Classifications and Regulations

Consorzio – Italian for consortium.  In wine this refers to an association of independent organizations to achieve a business objective e.g., a co-operative for producing wine cost effectively or a group of producers or negotiants with a shared marketing objective.  It can also refer to the group associated with a particular DOC or DOCG that is charged with protecting the value of that term/classification including efforts to prevent the unauthorized use of the term (even by members) or counterfeit.  In France this is the role of the Comite Interprofessionnel and in Spain, the Consejo Regulador does this.

Consejo Regulador – The “regulating council” in Spain charged with making sure that the regulations of the DO are enforced – similar to the Comite Interprofessionnel in France and the Consorzio in Italy.  Each DO has such a council and it is generally made up of a mix of people representing growers, producers, and merchants.  This council also has the power to make or change the rule.

Viticulture and Vinification

Bush vines – Just as it sounds, the vines are trained to be short, “bush”-like and generally without wires or a trellis system.  Vines that are trained in the Goblet style can also be said to be bush vines but there is a more structured way of tying the spurs together at the to, “head” of the vine.  Training vines in the bush style helps control vigor.  It is  largely being replaced with more formal trellis systems but is still popular in Australia and South Africa.

Colli (e?) – Italian for “hill” or Colline when referring to multiple “hills”.  Similar in usage to the French term cote, Cotes, and Coteaux. The term is used to indicate that the vines are planted on a slope without a specific grade or elevation requirement, so the vines could be on a steep slope at high elevations or simply planted on a rolling hill.  Several DOCs use the term Colli as part of their official name e.g., Colli Orientali del Friuli DOC.  Although many Italian wines are made from hillside plantings or even steep slopes e.g, the most of the wines from Piemonte, without using the term, some wines use this term to indicate that the grapes were source from a particular hillside e.g., Chianti from the Colli Senesi.

Ronco – A term used mostly in Northeast Italy that, like Colli, means “hill”.  The term is sometimes used on labels, like colli to indicate that the fruit comes from a hillside vineyard.  Rocco has been used this way in Tuscany, Alto Adige, Romagna and Lombardy where it was first used by Mario Pasolini on a bottle of “Ronco di Mompiano”  which is an outstanding vino da tavola wine made with Merlot and Marzemino grapes from grapes grown within the walls surrounding the town of Brescia.

Botte – Italian for a large wooden cask. pl Botti

Frizzzante – Italian word for a wine that has some bubbles (generally from a second fermentation in the tank), but is not fully sparkling (called Spumante in Italy).  A fully sparkling Spumante must have at least 3 bar of pressure and Frizzante must have between 1 and 2.5 bar pressure.

Organization of Trade

Bricco – or bric in the dialect of the north west Italian region of piemonte, indicates the highest part of an elevation in the landscape or, in particular, a vineyard with a steep gradient at the top of a hill. The term was first used on a wine label by Luciano de Giacomi in 1969 for his Bricco del Drago, a blend of dolcetto and nebbiolo grapes from Alba, and has been extensively used for the other wines of Piemonte ever since.

Sori – is a Piemontese dialect term used for vineyard sites of the highest quality, particularly for those with an exceptional favourable southern exposure. More subtle variations also exist: a ‘morning’ sorì (sorì di mattino) with a south-eastern exposure or an ‘evening’ sorì (sorì di sera) with a south-western exposure. The term was first used on a wine label by Angelo gaja for his Sorì San Lorenzo Barbaresco 1967 and was widely imitated in the subsequent quarter-century.

Gaja –

Renatto Ratti –

Top Wines

Gaja wines are….

Gaja wines are….

Tasting Profile

Barbera d'Asti
Tuscan IGTPinot Gris
(Orange rim)
IntensityMediumMediumMedium +Medium +Medium
IntensityMedium +Medium +MediumMedium +Medium +Medium
WoodMiminalVariesVariesVariesno Oak
OtherOxidativeRoses, OxidativeOxidativeOxidative
AcidityMedium +Medium +HighMedium - Medium +
TanninsMedium +
HIghMedium - High