Nebbiolo is a black grape from northern Italy. The name alludes to the Italian word for fog (e.g. Nebbia). If this is due to the fog rising up from the river Tanaro or the fact that it is often harvested under so cold conditions that the difference in temperature between air and ground creates lots of fog, is hard to say. Maybe it is both.

In order to produce at its best Nebbiolo needs lime rich soil, good drainage and lots of sun. It is disease resistant, which is a necessity given the weather conditions under which it normally is harvested. The grape naturally comes with high tannins and high acidity, which is reflected in its wines. It is known to produce wine of made for long or very long maturation.

Nebbiolo offers a complex spectrum of flavours including roses, cherries, and tar. Dried fruit, damsons, leather, liquorice, mulberries, and spice are also frequent. When grown in the Barbaresco area you’re likely to find notes of roses, violets, cherry, truffles, fennel and liquorice.

Another characteristic is that Nebbiolo wines quite quickly – e.g. within few years – starts taking on orange tinges.

There are two kinds of Barolo, the traditional and the modern. Traditional means longer skin contact, lower fermentation temperatures and maturation in large oak barrels (between five and twenty thousand liters, or more). Wines produced in this way require at least fifteen to twenty years to soften the tannins.

The more modern style of wine making was introduced in the eighties and nineties by the famous “Barolo Boys”, a group of young wine makers who wanted to rejuvenate the Barolo wine making. In order to do so, they introduced modern production techniques including the use of temperature regulated fermentation and Barriques, the smaller two-hundred twenty-five liter oak barrels.

Nebbiolo is also used to produce the somewhat lighter Barbaresco wine. Being lighter is due to the shorter maceration time needed. These wines will not last as long as a Barolo can be expected to do.

Apart from the area around the city itself, you will find wonderful Barolo wines from the neighbouring La Morra. Furthermore, from Ghemme and Gattinara (north of Barolo), as well as from Valtellina in Lombardy. In Valtellina, you will also find the so called Sforzato, e.g. wine made from grapes having been left to dry on straw mats.

Look for Barbaresco wines in the city itself, as well as from Neive (to the east), and Treiso (to the south) of the city.

Food pairing
Given their high tannin levels, Neb­­biolo based wines re­­quire red meat dish­es to be ful­­ly en­­joyed. Beef roasts, or a steak tart­are. Dishes of beef, boar, or moose prepared with truffles or wild mushrooms are also excellent pairings with a Barolo or an aged Barbaresco. The wine is best served at 16-18°C/61-64°F.

A younger Barbaresco will pair excellently with a “softer” meat dish, for example veal, or a risotto with porcini. The wine is best served at 16-18°C/61-64°F.

Where is it grown?
There’s no doubt that Nebbiolos heartland is the Piedmont region in north-western Italy. In total, the variety covers 5.536 ha/13,680 ac, making it the thirtieth most planted grape in the country. In Piedmont, there are 4.447 ha/10,989 ac, most of this in the Cuneo sub-region.

Valtellina in the Sondrio Valley in Lombardy (close to the Swiss border), is second with 811 ha/2,004 ac. There are however plantings in almost all other regions, although small or very small.

Outside of Italy there are plantings of some size in Mexico (180 ha/445 ac), all in the region Suma Baja California, in several regions and districts in Australia (98 ha/242 ac). In USA (68 ha/169 ac), most plantings are reported from California.

In a number of places, e.g. in several regions in Argentina, in Uruguay, South Africa, Chile’s Del Maule region, Brazil, New Zealand, Canada, Romania, and France there are reports of small or very small plantings.

The earlier reported (very small) planting from Switzerland did no longer appear in the 2010 years’ statistics.

It could be a good idea to keep a lockout at how the grape will develop in Australia and South Africa, as both countries doubled their plantings between 2000 and 2010.

Nebbiolo has a long history, documented for the first time more than seven hundred years ago.

It is viewed as being native to the Piedmont region where it still has its heartland.