One of Italy’s finest wine regions is definitely Piedmont. The region produces more DOCG wines than any other region, including the high quality vintages Barolo and Barbaresco, and is paradise for any food and wine lover. The DOCG appellation or ‘Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita' represents only the most successful wines.
At the foot of the mountain
Piedmont is located in the Po River Valley region and literally means ‘at the foot of the mountain’. The region is world-famous for its vineyard-draped hills - no less than 95% of the vineyards are located on naturally raised areas.
The westerly region lies at the foot of the Alps (Switzerland) and Apennines (France) and is especially beautiful during autumn when fog covers the vineyards. The green hills change colour and get a certain glow because of the reflection of the white mountains. The temperatures go up during growing season and very much down when winter arrives.
The Burgundy of Italy
The summer is the perfect time to visit Piedmont and the wineries as from the beginning of September the winemakers will be busy harvesting. Many wineries are led by families who enjoy telling you about their craftsmanship. Most vineyards in Piedmont are small and production is often limited. This makes the Italian wines of Piedmont even more desirable.
A lot of wineries are also inexpensive B&B’s or offer good Italian food to go with your wines. Because of its slow food culture, famous truffles and fine wines Piedmont is also called ‘the Burgundy of Italy’. There are also many tasty festivals that attract tourists and chefs from all over the world.
The wines of Piedmont
The most famous Italian wines from Piedmont lend their name to the grape for example Barbera, Dolcetto, Grignolino … The name of the grape is often followed by the name of the district (DOC or ‘Denominazione di Origine Controllata’): Barbera d’Asti, Dolcetto di Diano d’Alba, Grignolino d’Asti and many more. Yet there are also DOC wines that don’t mention the grape variety like Langhe and Monferrato.
Piedmont also has an appellation DOC Piemonte, which covers the entire region but the most exclusive wines of them all have the DOCG appellation. These wines mention the place (Barolo, Barbaresco, Roero, Asti …) or the region (Brachetto d’Acqui, Dolcetto di Dogliani, Moscato d’Asti, Roero Arnei …)
Although there are great wines everywhere in Piedmont, the Langhe region is most famous because of its Barolo and Barbaresco wines.
The grape varieties of Piedmont
Piedmont counts 59 regions. The region is always listed on the wine label, often with the grape variety. The most important red wine grape varieties are Barbera, Dolcetto and Nebbiolo.
Barbera is the most common grape in Piedmont. Barbera wines have a dark colour and are described as vibrantly fruity with notes of red and black fruits, anise and dried herbs. Most Barbera wines are medium-bodied and have a laid-back style that is perfect for any occasion.
Don’t be mislead by the name of the grape, which means ‘little sweet one’. The grape is neither sweet nor little. Although the wines are not perfect for years of cellaring they do serve well when young and are loved for their floral aromas of violets and black peppercorn.
Vintages from the Nebbiolo grape outnumber by far any other red wine. They are complex and have great ageing potential. The wines have a pale, brick-red colour and remind of cherries and roses. Barolo might be the most famous DOCG yet Barbaresco, Gattinara, Ghemme and Roero can measure up to this ‘king of wines’.
The white wines from Piedmont are often made from the Arneis, Cortese or the Moscato grape.
Arneis is with its fruity flavours and spicy finish often compared to the Sauvignon Blanc. Arneis wines are crisp and floral medium-bodied white wines. The best ones are made in the Roero DOCG and Langhe DOCG.
Cortese wines have the same high quality as some Pinot Grigio and Chablis wines. They are refreshing dry white wines with notes of citrus. The most famous Cortese wine must be the one made in Gavi and is an excellent wine for dinner parties.
Moscato is just like Nebbiolo an ancient grape. The aromas of roses, mandarin orange, fresh grape, ripe pear and lychee give these wines a romantic sweetness. The grape is most used for the bubbly Asti Spumante and delicate Moscato d’Asti.
The taste of Piedmont at home
Are you looking for an Italian wine that ages gracefully or do you prefer a perfect Italian wine to serve today? Belgium Wine Watchers only selects the best wines from Piedmont. Discover our selection.
Pictures by Megan Mallen and Gerald Smith