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 ¾ 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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