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Extensive online gallery featuring over 1,000 Italian wine labels
Extensive online gallery featuring over 1,000 Italian wine labels


Piedmont Native Vines – Second Part
Rosa D'Ancona – January 20, 2007

Native White Vines


This vine has been cultivated in Piedmont for centuries, and is mentioned in 1800s writings by author Rovasenda. Its name is believed to derive from the local dialect for almond, because of the perfume of the grape. In Piedmont this vine is found in the Roero and Langhe areas in the province of Cuneo. Outside Piedmont the Arneis is found in Sardinia, where the cultivation is authorized in all the provinces. The wine is fine with good personality, a distinctive perfume with intense fruit notes. The body is rich with moderate acidity. With partially withered grapes it produces seductive dessert wines, while it gives less exciting results when made into sparkling wines.

The good, mellow wines produced with this grape have earned the vine the name of Cortese (courteous, or fine). In Piedmont it is widely cultivated in the province of Asti, on the right bank of the river Tanaro, as well as in the province of Alessandria, Novara (municipality of Gavi), Cuneo, (lower Belbo Valley). In addition this vine is found in the Oltrepò Pavese area and in the western part of the Veneto region. It is also found in lesser quantities in other Italian regions and overseas. The Cortese grapes produce pleasant wines, often fresh and light, or more complex and structured, with stand-out personality and elegance. Sometimes it's used to make dry sparkling wines.

This ancient vine, whose presence in the region is traced back to the 17th century, got its name from the brightness and luminosity of its grapes (Erba Luce translates to Grass Light). It's cultivated in Canavese, in the Serra d'Ivrea and on the hills surrounding Lake Viverone, in the province of Turin, as well as in some municipalities in the province of Biella. For a long time it has been cultivated in the province of Novara, where it's called Greco (Greek). The grapes have high acidity and can be used to produce a wide variety of wine types: from elegant dry spumanti (sparkling wines), to dry wines with fine perfume and fresh, slightly acid palate, as well as important passito wines, with or without the addition of extra alcohol.

Native Red Vines

Though the first information related to this vine in the region dates back to 1514, it is only in the 1800s that we find official documents mentioning it. There's no doubt that Barbera is the most cultivated among the Piedmontese vines. In fact, it is found abundantly in the provinces of Asti and Alessandria, but also in the provinces of Cuneo and Turin, as well as other Piedmont areas. In other regions the vine is cultivated in substantial amounts in the Oltrepò Pavese (or the Pavia banks of the River Po') area, Colli Piacentini (Piacenza Hills), Franciacorta, Umbria, Campania, Sicily and other Italian regions. In addition the vine has crossed the ocean and it is found in various countries worldwide, including Slovenia, Croatia, California, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Mexico and Australia, among others.

From the point of view of enology, the Barbera is very ductile. Characteristically, the grapes have high acidity and are used in the production of a wide variety of wine types. On the market you may find young, medium-bodied Barberas, as well as Barbera Spumante (sparkling version), both red and 'vinified in white', which means that the skin of the grapes was separated from the juice immediately after crushing, before the fermentation began. It is used also to produce novello wines.

It is with fully ripened grapes, however, that the Barbera gives its best, producing rich, generous red wines, often with great elegance, especially when aged for one year or longer in wood barrels or vats.

This vine is called various names and, at times, it is erroneously assimilated into other varieties. This grape is produced only in Piedmont, in particular on the Turin hills (Chierese), and the neighboring Asti hills, in the municipalities of Castelnuovo Don Bosco, Albugnano and Pino, among others. It is found also in Pinerolo, Bassa Val Susa (Lower Susa Valley) and, more rarely, at Canavese.

The Bonarda produces deeply-colored wines, characterized by intense perfume which, sometimes, different aromatic notes. In addition the wines are structurally balanced and age well. Though it is used mostly in blends, this grape can produce fairly good varietal wines.

The Freisa is among the Piedmont historic vines. It is cultivated extensively in Monferrato Astigiano, as well as in the areas of Casalese and Chierese in the province of Turin, and around Alba in the province of Cuneo. It is found in the whole pre-Alpine arch which expands from Saluzzo, through Pinerolo and Canavese, to the Colli Novaresi (Novara Hills). Outside the region it is found in small quantities in the province of Vicenza. Though slightly tannic, the grapes gives a pleasant scent of fruit with deep nuances of raspberry and wild berries. Lively, slightly sparkling, and at times, vaguely sweet wines, highlight this grapes characteristic. The color and structure are adequate to produce varietal dry wines, good for early consumption or moderate ageing, as well as blends with other varietals. Monferrato Casalese produces a traditional blend with Grignolino.

Cultivated in the Langhe area since the Middle Ages, this vine is named after the sweetness of the grape. Currently it is widely cultivated in the provinces of Cuneo (Langhe and the surrounding of Ormea), Asti (Colli del Monferrato, or Monferrato Hills), and Alessandria (around Acqui, Ovada and Tortona) It is found in the Oltrepò Pavese wine zone and all the foothill and Alpine areas of Piedmont. In elevated areas, the early ripening of this variety produces excellent results. It is found in some areas of neighboring Liguria, in the province of Imperia, at Pieve di Teco and Pornassio.

Dolcetto wines have intense ruby red color with purple highlights. The nose is intense, with scent of cherry and macerated red fruit, sometimes with slight almond note, especially when drunk young. Other typical characteristics are the low acidity and the pleasant, slightly bitter aftertaste. These are wines to be drunk young, or after short ageing.

This vine had already been identified in the 1700s. The varietal wines are for early consumption, with faded ruby color with orangey highlights. The perfume is lightly floral with characteristic black pepper notes. To the palate it is dry, and reveals pronounced tannins. In blends with small amounts of Barbera and/or Freisa grapes, the Grignolino variety produce harmonic wines with deeper color, which may be moderately aged.

More than any other native or ancient Piedmont vines, the Nebbiolo is one that projected the region in the world of superior wines, in an ongoing competition with Tuscany for the leading position. It is cultivated in the province of Cuneo, in the Langhe and Roero areas, as well as the Canavese zone, but overall in the municipality of Carema, in the province of Turin. It is found around Biella, the Alto Vercellese (Vercelli Highlands) area, Novara and, minimally, around Asti. The vine takes its name from the fog (nebbia, in Italian) for two reasons: first because of its late ripening, it is harvested when the pre-Alpine hills are wrapped in morning fog and second, because the grapes are covered by an intense patina of pruina, which hides the natural purple color of the bunch under a gray-silver coat, as if each grape was wrapped in thick fog.

Historic mentions of this vine in the region date back to the 1300s. It is said that in the 1400s, the Bishop of Turin asked to be paid the rent for the fields owned by the Catholic Church in the area, with barrels of Nebbiolo wine, rather than money. Though sometimes these grapes are used to produce rare vini novelli, and, for almost a century, special wines which could be sweet, spumanti (sparkling), and spiked with extra alcohol, or natural aroma, the grape gives its best in the production of big bodied, structured wines. When aged for any length of time these wines acquire complexity and elegance so remarkable as to put them at the top, in the company of the best wines produced worldwide.

Fully mature Nebbiolo wine presents a decidedly lively perfume of fruit, underscored by the scent of dry flowers, spices and, at times, tar. to the palate it discloses moderate tannins and well developed body. Usually used to produce varietals, in some areas it is blended with other native vines, such as Vespolina, Croatina and Uva Rara. In the old times, a, small percentage of Barbera grapes were blended with Nebbiolo.

Outstanding Producers of Doc Wines

Label: Barbaresco del Monferrato Superiore Cima Riserva della Casa

Label: Barolo San Giovanni

Label: Ghemme Collis Carellae

Label: Barolo Bricco Fiasco

Labels: Barbera d'Alba Punsin, Nebbiolo d'Alba, Langhe Arneis

Labels: Moscato d'Asti Ventisei, Monferrato Bianco Solaluce, Barbera d'Asti Redinicchia

Label: Moscato d’Asti Su Reimond

Label: Moscato d’Asti Milien

Label: Barbera d’Asti Bricco dell’Uccellone

Labels: Gavi di Gavi La Meirana

Labels: Ruché di Castagnole Monferrato Pro Nobis

Label: Freisa D’Asti Luna di Maggio

Label: Monferrato Arbiola Rosso

Labels: Gavi Pilin, Gavi di Gavi Rovereto Vignavecchia, Gavi di Gavi Rolona

Label: Erbaluce di Caluso Calliope

Label: Barbaresco Gaium Martinega

Label: Barolo PerCristina

Label: Grignolino del Monferrato Casalese Sansin

Label: Barbera d’Alba Superiore Funtanì

Label: Barbera d’Alba Pozzo

Label: Langhe Gaja & Rey

Labels: Nebbiolo d’Alba

Label: Dolcetto di Ovada

Label: Diano d’Alba Sorì Le Cecche

Labels: Roero Superiore Mombeltramo

Label: Barbaresco Bric Balin

Label: Roero Arneis Perdaudin

Labels: Gattinara Vigneto Molsino

Labels: Monferrato Rosso Infinito, Barbera d'Asti Superiore Vigna del Carlinet, Barbera d'Asti Superiore Cascina Perno

Label: Barbaresco Riserva Rabajà

Labels: Barbera d'Asti PrimeLuci, Dolcetto d'Alba Sito Romano, Moscato d'Asti Terre Aride

Label: Piemonte Barbera Identità 

Label: Brachetto d’Acqui Spumante Rosa Regale

Label: Barbera d’Alba Suculè Tenuta Lo Zoccolaio


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