Of all the noble grape varieties in the world, there is arguably nothing quite like Nebbiolo.
What Is Nebbiolo?
Nebbiolo is a grape variety native of Piedmont, in northwest Italy, which entices us with its often attributed aromas of tar and roses and makes the most impatient wine drinker wait years to experience its true beauty.
Nebbiolo is perhaps most well-known for its thick skins and firm tannins. It is a wine that easily brushes off decades in the cellar, turning each year into another layer of beautiful complexity.
Within Piedmont, the towns of Barolo and Barbaresco are royalty. And if Barolo is Nebbiolo’s king then Barbaresco would certainly be its queen - each bringing its respective masculine/ feminine qualities to the wine.
Of course, the crux of Barolo and Barbaresco is often price. An entry-level bottle of either is typically $50 minimum with single vineyard bottles approaching $75 and more. This creates a world of inaccessibility for those in the midst of discovering the wine world's many nooks and crannies, and Nebbiolo is simply too good to hold hostage.
Where Do Nebbiolo Grapes Grow?
Enter the Alto Piemonte.
Outside of Barolo and Barbaresco, the Alto Piemonte presents the best opportunity to experience Nebbiolo at more affordable prices. This high altitude region within Piedmont sits roughly 100 miles north of Barolo and Barbaresco in the foothills of the Italian Alps and is known for producing excellent Nebbiolo (known locally as Spanna) from the towns of Gattinara, Ghemme, Boca, Colline Novaresi and others.
Both Gattinara and Ghemme were awarded DOCG status in the 1990’s, firmly planting their reputation as some of the most high-end red wines of Italy. This is not to discount the DOC wines of Colline Novaresi or Boca where excellent values can be found.
This is a great introduction to Nebbiolo where you can expect to spend $25-$40 on something very good and $40-$60 on something superb, likely from Gattinara where one could argue the best wines of the Alto Piemonte come from.
Where to Buy Wine from the Alto Piemonte
Caves Wine Shop features two selections from the Alto Piemonte - Antonio Vallana’s 2017 Colline Novaresi ($28) and Nervi Conterno’s 2017 Gattinara ($63).