Piedmont

Piedmont is one of the three main Italian winemaking regions and lies at the confluence of the Tanaro and Borbera rivers. This are is located 45 km (28 mi) southeast of Turin in northwest Italy. This area is moderately remote and is braced by the Alps to the north and the Apennines to the south.

Since this region is bordered by the Alps it does not enjoy the Mediterranean climate that produces such fine wines. However, the hot summer climate encourages Nebbiolo, a grape the ripens late and ages wonderfully, producing wine high in tannin. This wine has perfect acidity and aromas of rose, mint and licorice with spicy fruit flavors of cherries with hints of violets. This shows the reason Italy vies with France for the top wine producer in Europe.

This region is divided into two major areas, Alba in the southwest home to Barbera, Barbaresco and Dolcetto, and Asti to the southeast.

It is also home to the traditional Barolo, where skins are soaked for twenty days during and after fermentation. This process helps highlight tannins in the wine that lend it an austere quality in its youth, but will evolve over time.

Aging is carried out for a minimum of four years in old oak barrels allowing the acidity and tannin to show through more aggressively. In a technique that goes back centuries, the robust red Barolo improves with aging. Nearby Barbera has a wonderful deep color and acidity, but is lighter in tannins.

Barbera should not be confused with Barbaresco which is similar to Barolo only 10 miles distant. The latter are made with 100% Nebbiolo and have lower alcohol content and also require less aging.

Newer winemaking techniques have recently been introduced to the area. This technique uses new oak barrels to add a hint of vanilla to counter-balance a natural tendency toward tannin and acidity.

The other major wine of the Alb region Dolcetto has less acid than Barbera, but more tannins and a bit more spice.

In contrast to the reds Asti, produces excellent, light sparkling whites made from the Moscato, rich in floral and peach aromas. However, the wine named Moscati d'Asti is a non-sparkling version.

These wines have all been perfected over three thousand years, centuries longer than the oldest French wines. Considering that Italy is only the size of California its production of 8 billion bottles per year is astounding. While only seventh in production, Piedmonts is first in quality.

Swirl the wine gently, sniff and taste.

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