The King of Wines and its Court of Nobles
The hilly region of Langhe is known as the vineyard of Italy and produces some of the finest wines in Italy.
Wine has been made here since Roman times and there are hundreds of cellars spread all over the territory, from internationally known names with historic reserves to small producers that are familiar only to connoisseurs. They all work with the same passion and pride, striving to obtain the best from their own grapes.
The super star wines from the region are the DOCG Barolo and Barbaresco, both tremendously rich red wines made with the native Nebbiolo grape.
“Nebbia” means fog in Italian, and the gentle hills of Langhe are often shrouded in mist. The Nebbiolo grape has a thick skin that allows it to ripen for longer on the vines in the colder hills; this and the high concentration of limestone in the soil create an overall unique environment for producing these regal wines.
Known as “the king of wines, the wine of kings”, Barolo is produced from 100-percent Nebbiolo grapes grown on the hills surrounding the town of Barolo.
Many think Barolo to be Italy’s greatest red wine. Even members of the royal house of Savoy, living in spectacular palaces in and around Turin, were fond of this long-established wine, as was the court of Louis XIV.
For info: Barolo must have a minimum of 12.5-percent alcohol and be aged at least three years, with two of those years in either oak or chestnut casks; Barolo that has been aged five years may be labelled “riserva”.
Barbaresco, also produced from 100% Nebbiolo grape, is a wine of completely different character from Barolo.
The Barbaresco area has a warmer, drier and milder climate than its neighbour. This means its grapes tend to ripen earlier than those in Barolo and the wines are less tannic and more approachable at an earlier age. It only needs two years of ageing, one of which in wooden barrels. For the added designation of “riserva”, the ageing increases to four years, with one year at least in wood. Barbaresco is characterized by its rich, spicy flavour and perfumed sweetness and is considered more elegant and refined than its counterpart, which is a more robust and longer-lived red.
Dolcetto is a simple but delicious wine.
Historically, it was used for bartering with the peoples of the Ligurian coast, in exchange for olive oil, salt and anchovies and also taken to the plains of Cuneo and bartered for veal calves. The vine’s name derives from the exceptional sweetness of the grape but is misleading as far as the wine is concerned, as this is definitely dry, moderately acidic and possesses a pleasant bitterish aftertaste. The vine can give rise to fresh, light wines capable of adaptation to any meal, or fuller bodied and well-structured ones that tolerate up to seven years of ageing. Some of the smoothest, roundest, highest quality Dolcetto in Piedmont is produced in the Diano d’Alba area but the Dolcetto di Dogliani is also very good.
Langhe is home to many other famous wines such as Barbera d’Alba, Nebbiolo d’Alba, Verduno Pelaverga and the less known Nascetta di Novello, a premier Piedmontese grape grown entirely within the borders of the Langhe Hills and the only white vine native to Langhe.
Among the producers, Angelo Gaja is without a doubt the most famous for both Barbaresco and Barolo wines. Elio Altare, Gigi Rosso and Giacomo Conterno are equally renowned producers. Other famous names are Fontanafredda, Albino Rocca, Fratelli Barale and Poderi Einaudi while the consortiums in every village offer good quality wines at reasonable prices.
Most wineries can be visited and have shops where you can taste and buy their products. Check their websites for opening hours and keep in mind that you might need to make an appointment before you visit.Any suggestions?
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