NEBBIOLO grape in a nutshell
  • Nebbiolo is arguably Italy’s most prestigious red grape, producing some of the country’s finest red wines.
  • It mainly thrives in Piemonte but it is also grown on a smaller surface in Lombardy and Valle d' Aosta.
  • While it appears in several Piemonte appellations, Barolo DOCG and Barbaresco DOCG are the most famous.
  • Nebbiolo appears across around 30 DOCs and DOCGS.
  • Its nickname is “King of Grapes”.
  • As well as premium Barolo and Barbaresco, it also makes more wallet-friendly reds!
NEBBIOLO wine in a sip
  • Nebbiolo gives wines with a light ruby color, displaying aromas of sour cherry, herbs and dried flowers that veer towards truffle, leather and tar with longer aging.
  • These wines are medium to full-bodied with high acidity and high tannins.
  • Top-notch versions are known for boasting world-class complexity and for their tremendous cellaring potential.

What is Nebbiolo ?

Arguably Italy’s most prestigious red grape, Nebbiolo produces premium red wines across the Piemonte region, notably in Barolo and Barbaresco. It could be said that, in terms of finesse and prestige, Nebbiolo is to Piemonte and Italy, what Pinot Noir is to Burgundy. This iconic cultivar is an early budder and late ripener. As such, it requires consistent sunshine to reach optimal ripeness in time for harvest.

There are three main types of Nebbiolo: Lampia (considered the original, authentic Nebbiolo), Michet (a premium version of Lampia), and Rosé (related to Lampia but more aromatic and a lighter color).

A thick-skinned grape packed with tannins, Nebbiolo produces surprisingly lightly-colored wines.

It primarily grows in Piemonte where its most prestigious appellations are Barolo DOCG and Barbaresco DOCG. Wines from these appellations are at the higher end of the price scale but there are entry-level expressions of Nebbiolo with plenty to offer – usually labeled as Langhe Nebbiolo or Nebbiolo d’ Alba.

Among winemakers and wine lovers, Nebbiolo has a similar status as the iconic Burgundian grape, Pinot Noir. Nebbiolo doesn’t migrate well (which is why most is found in its native Piemonte) and, like Pinot Noir, it’s difficult to grow. In spite of this, inspired and ambitious vintners in Australia and the US have boldly tried their hands at producing wines from this grape.

What are the origins of Nebbiolo?

Nebbiolo is an old cultivar that first appeared in wine records in the 1200s. Its name is said to come from the local word for “fog” because of the misty bloom on its skin. Some researchers think the name is connected to the word for “noble”, reflecting Nebbiolo’s premium status.
A 2004 DNA study showed that Nebbiolo is related to both Freisa, another Piemonte variety, and Viognier from Rhône Valley in France.

Synonyms include Chiavennasca, Picotendro, Prunent, and Spanna.

Where is Nebbiolo grown?

The two most famous appellations for Nebbiolo are Barbaresco DOCG and Barolo DOCG in the Langhe subregion of southeastern Piedmont.
However, across Piemonte, there are numerous DOCs and DOCGs where fine (and often more budget-friendly) examples of Nebbiolo are made. These include Alba DOC, Langhe DOC, Roero DOCG, and Monferrato DOC.

In Northeastern Piedmont, Nebbiolo is blended with minor grapes like Vespolina and Croatina to make Boca, Gattinara, Ghemme, Fara, Lessona, Sizzano, and Colline Novaresi. These small appellations are often referred to as Alto Piemonte.

In Northwestern Piedmont, the Canavese area also produces Nebbiolo-based wines – most notably Carema, originating from the namesake town on the border with Valle d’ Aosta.

In Lombardy, Sforzato di Valtellina (Sfursat di Valtellina) DOCG is made with air-dried grapes in an Amarone fashion, while regular Valtellina and Valtellina Superiore are traditional-style wines often hailing from dramatically steep vineyards.

Finally, Nebbiolo is known as Picotendro in Valle d’ Aosta, where it is the key grape in the Donnas DOC.

What does Nebbiolo taste like?

Nebbiolo makes light ruby wines that turn to garnet when more mature. This cultivar’s signature aromas and flavors are tart red cherry, blood orange, dried flowers, balsam herbs, and iron. With longer aging it also develops captivating autumnal aromas of mushrooms, truffles, leather, and game.

Nebbiolo produces wines with high acidity and tannin levels, and a medium to full-bodied structure.The best versions boasting intoxicating aromatic complexity and impeccable balance between fruit, acids, and tannins.

Nebbiolo is also known for being terroir-expressive (another characteristic it shares with Pinot Noir).

Does Nebbiolo age well?

Nebbiolo gives some of the world’s age-worthiest wines, lasting well over thirty years..
Collectors are especially fond of top-notch Barolo and Barbaresco yet the best versions from Alto Piemonte, Carema and Valtellina are just as cellar-worthy.

What is Nebbiolo similar to?

Young Nebbiolo is extremely distinctive and has little affinity with other grape varieties – elegance is a common point with Pinot Noir but the tannins of Nebbiolo are considerably racier.

Aged Nebbiolo is characterized by deep tertiary aromas that may recall not only the best Pinot Noirs – especially from Burgunds – but also top-notch Sangiovese or Etna Rosso (although the latter is a bit more precocious in its tertiary evolution).

Last but not least, Aglianico is often nicknamed ” Southern Barolo,” and the reason lies in the Nebbiolo-like tannic structure and longevity of the wines. However, the aromas and color of Aglianico are quite different.

What foods does Nebbiolo pair with?

Nebbiolo’s signature acidity makes it ideal for fatty dishes. While entry-level expressions go well with everyday food – including ragù pasta, lasagna or chicken wings – Barolo and Barbaresco require braised meat or a juicy T-bone steak to counterbalance their substantial tannic heft. Filet with white truffle and Barolo or Barbaresco is another match made in heaven.

Aged Nebbiolo also pairs well with hard cheeses such as Parmigiano Reggiano and Grana Padano.


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