Skip to content

Piemonte

Piemonte (Piedmont is the English spelling), in the far north west of Italy, enjoys an unrivalled seat among the world's very finest wine regions. It is the home of more DOCG wines than any other Italian region, among them such well-known and respected names as Barolo, Barbaresco, and Barbera d’Asti. Although famous for its austere, tannic red wines made from Nebbiolo, Piemonte's greatest success story in the past decade has been sweet, white, sparkling Moscato d’Asti.

Piemonte sits at the foot of the Western Alps – the name Piemonte means "the foot of the mountains" – which encircle its northern and western sides and forms its naturally formidable border with Provence, France. To its southeast lie the northernmost Apennine Mountains. These low coastal hills divide Piemonte from its long, thin neighbour Liguria, and the Mediterranean Sea beyond.

The Alps and Apennines are great significance here, in various ways. They are largely responsible for the region's favourable climate, and for many centuries provided a certain level of protection from invasion. It wasn't until the region's mountain defenses were successfully breached (first by the Romans, then repeatedly by the French) that advanced oenology finally arrived here. The introduction and regular updating of foreign winemaking technologies is one of the main reasons that Piemonte remains so viticulturally advanced compared to other Italian regions. The region's proximity to France also plays a part in this.

Piemonte is often described as the Burgundy of Italy, a reputation due to its many small-scale, family wineries and a focus on quality which sometimes borders on obsession. What Burgundy does with Pinot Noir, Piemonte does with Nebbiolo – not the region's most widely planted grape, but the one which has made the largest contribution to the quality and reputation of its wine. Nebbiolo grapes are behind four of Piemonte's DOCGs: Barolo and Barbaresco (two of Italy's finest reds), Roero and Gattinara. Nebbiolo wines are known for their "tar and roses" bouquet, and the pronounced tannins which can make them unapproachable in their youth but underwrite their excellent cellaring potential. The grape is known as Spanna in the north and east of Piemonte, and is used in at least ten local DOCs including Carema, Fara and Nebbiolo d'Alba.

Barbera, a dark-skinned variety from the Monferrato hills, is Piemonte's workhorse grape and the region's most widely planted variety. It is long been used to make everyday wines under a number of DOC titles, but is now behind a growing number of superlative wines. Piemonte's best Barberas are sold under the Barbera del Monferrato, Barbera d’Asti or Barbera d'Alba titles. These are classically Italian in style: tangy, sour cherry-scented reds with good acidity and moderate complexity. Less astringently tannic than their Nebbiolo-based counterparts, Barbera wines are enjoyable (and marketable) within just a year or two of vintage, giving them a competitive edge in today's fast-paced, impatient wine market. This has made Barbera popular with both wineries and consumers.

The third red grape of Piemonte is Dolcetto. It has several DOCs devoted exclusively to it: Dolcettos d'Alba, d'Acqui and di Ovada are the top three. Although its name means "little sweet one", Dolcetto is usually used to make dry red wines with an appetising, gently bitter finish. Unfortunately, the care and attention lavished on Nebbiolo and Barbera too often leave their poor cousin Dolcetto lacking refinement and complexity.

Brachetto is also worthy of mention, not least for its role in the sweet, sparkling reds of the Brachetto d’Acqui DOCG. So too is Freisa, with its broad portfolio of sweet, dry, still and sparkling red wines made in Asti and Chieri.

Although Piemonte is known as a red wine region, it produces several well regarded white wine styles. The most obvious (in every sense) are crowd-pleasing Moscato d’Asti and its less ambitious cousin Asti Spumante. Both of these are made from Moscato grapes grown around the town of Asti, but there is a key distinction: Moscato d'Asti is sweeter, more lightly sparkling and generally of higher quality.

Much less frivolous than the sparkling whites of Asti is Gavi, the Piemonte white of the connoisseur. This is made from Cortese, a variety which struggles to produce wines of any aromatic complexity anywhere else, and is now facing serious competition from the alluringly aromatic Arneis. Although not as prestigious as the whites above, Arneis, the best of which comes from Roero, is increasingly popular for its delicate, exotic perfume. A final white worthy of mention is local obscurity Erbaluce (of Erbaluce di Caluso), which has naturally benefitted from the 300% increase in Piemonte's white wine production over the past three decades.

With more DOCGs and DOCs than any other Italian region, and about 40% of its wine produced at DOC/G level, Piemonte is challenged only by Veneto and Toscana for the top spot among Italian wine regions. It is a region which has identified its star grapes, while continuing to experiment with new varieties in the background. Viognier has been trialled by at least one well-respected winery, and the ever-successful Chardonnay is also present in many Piemonte vineyards. Although secure for now, over the next decade Piemonte will be exposed to increasing competition from other Italian wine regions seeking to usurp its crown.
  • Ciabot Berton 3 Utin Langhe Nebbiolo
    £16.50

    Ciabot Berton 3 Utin Langhe Nebbiolo

    Ciabot Berton

    Ciabot Berton's 3 Utin Nebbiolo has a ruby red colour of medium intensity. The aromas are fruity with notes of bramble, rose and spice together wit...

    View full details
    £16.50
  • Ciabot Berton Barolo 2010
    £30.00

    Ciabot Berton Barolo 2013

    Ciabot Berton

    Ciabot Berton Barolo 2013 is dark, aromatic and meaty on the nose, the palate is fresh and lively with the all of the tell-tale notes of roses and ...

    View full details
    £30.00
  • Ciabot Berton Fisetta Barbera D'Alba
    £14.95

    Ciabot Berton Fisetta Barbera D'Alba

    Ciabot Berton

    Ciabot Berton Fisetta Barbera D'Alba has lovely aromas of violets and red fruits leading to a fresh palate, unmarked by heavy tannins but with good...

    View full details
    £14.95
  • Moccagatta Barbaresco 2010
    £30.75

    Moccagatta Barbaresco 2010

    Moccagatta

    "Moccagatta's 2010 Barbaresco shows brawn and sheer muscle with dark fruit aromas of blackcurrant and prune followed by generous servings of leathe...

    View full details
    £30.75
  • Ciabot Berton Barolo Rocchettevino 2009
    £36.75

    Ciabot Berton Barolo Rocchettevino 2012

    Ciabot Berton

    Ciabot Berton Barolo Rocchettevino 2012 has a perfect blend of fruit and spice on the nose; ripe, open and full of cherry and rose aromas. The pala...

    View full details
    £36.75
  • Ciabot Berton Barolo Roggeri 2009
    £38.50

    Ciabot Berton Barolo Roggeri 2013

    Ciabot Berton

    Ciabot Berton Barolo Roggeri 2013 is an attractive ruby garnet in colour, its modern style is apparent from the oaky element to the rich, dark frui...

    View full details
    £38.50
  • Moccagatta Barbaresco 2011
    £34.40

    Moccagatta Barbaresco 2011

    Moccagatta

    "Tight and pleasantly streamlined, the 2011 Moccagatta Barbaresco is a fantastic expression that hits a chord and veers towards a modern style, yet...

    View full details
    £34.40
  • Giuseppe Mascarello E Figlio Barbera D'Alba Santo Stefano Di Perno 2010
    £32.85

    Giuseppe Mascarello E Figlio Barbera D'Alba Santo Stefano Di Perno 2010

    Giuseppe Mascarello

    Giuseppe Mascarello E Figlio Barbera D'Alba Santo Stefano Di Perno is very deep ruby red, with a purple hue. This Barbera D’Alba Santo Stefano di P...

    View full details
    £32.85
  • Ciabot Berton Bricco San Biagio Barbera D'Alba
    £21.50

    Ciabot Berton Bricco San Biagio Barbera D'Alba

    Ciabot Berton

    Ciabot Berton Bricco San Biagio Barbera D'Alba is an intense ruby purple in colour, the nose shows rich aromas of ripe, dark fruit compôte and a wh...

    View full details
    £21.50
  • Ciabot Berton Rutuin Dolcetto D'Alba
    £14.85

    Ciabot Berton Rutuin Dolcetto D'Alba

    Ciabot Berton

    Ciabot Berton Rutuin Dolcetto D'Alba has bright aromas of ripe cherries and red berries, before the full bodied, fruity and mineral-edged palate ta...

    View full details
    £14.85
  • Moccagatta Barbaresco Basarin 2005
    £47.05

    Moccagatta Barbaresco Basarin 2005

    Moccagatta

    The 2005 Moccagatta Barbaresco Basarin reveals an attractive core of perfumed ripe red berries, sweet toasted oak and herbs framed by silky tannins...

    View full details
    £47.05