Classic aromas of Nebbiolo are: Black Cherry, Chocolate, Red Plum, Licorice, Leather and Raisins
Nebbiolo is a very old red Italian grape variety. It was first mentioned as far back as 1266 – which is so far back that it is thought that its parent are extinct. It has historically been planted in northern Italy, especially in the western regions of Piemonte, and this is still its home.
Nebbiolo has been labelled the ‘king of wines, and the wine of kings’. This is a nudge towards the top quality of the two very famous wines from Barolo DOCG and Barbaresco DOCG. Both of which are found in the hills of Asti in the heart of Piemonte. The total plantings of Nebbiolo only amounts to 4,886ha across Italy with 75% of this in Piemonte. Nebbiolo is an incredibly fickle grape to grow so not many people try – if it isn’t in the exactly correct conditions then you are throwing away your money. This would explain why the wines of Barolo and Barbaresco are lauded with such high praise, because when they are done right they are just extraordinary wines. As it is so tricky to get right and is only truly good in the best vintages it is usually only seen as a single varietal wine, though in tough years when it isn’t fully ripe it can feature in blends with Barbera and Dolcetto.
Other top appellation, DOCGs, devoted to Nebbiolo are Gattinara and Roero – in Piemonte. Nebbiolo is also planted in Lombardia (just right of Piemonte). Here it is known as Chiavennasca and is made in Valtellina Superiore DOCG.
There are also plantings of Nebbiolo in Australia, USA and in Argentina.
Nebbiolo makes wines with high tannins and acidity, that need at least 5-10 years to be approached to get the best out of them. The classic aroma description of Nebbiolo is ‘Tar and Roses’ a description immortalised in a Barolo study by Garner and Merrit in 1990. Along with these aromas there is always a strong cherry, damson, licorice, red plum and herbal note. As these wines age further more savoury and dried fruit flavours arise such as leather, prunes, rasisins, golden syrup, chocolate and currant jam.