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    What Is Nebbiolo Wine (Best Varieties, Taste & Characteristics)

    Nebbiolo Wine Guide

    Nebbiolo wine, native to the Piedmont region of Northern Italy, is renowned for creating intense, full-bodied, and brutally tannic flavours – all while appearing as pale as a Pinot Noir!

    In this article, we'll explore everything there is to know about Nebbiolo wine, its taste, the comparison to other wines and Nebbiolo history.

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    Nebbiolo Wine: Everything You Need to Know

    Nebbiolo Wines on a Table

    Most notably, nebbiolo is the type of red grape used to produce Barolo and Barbaresco, two of the world’s most prestigious (and priciest) wines.

    However, as you’ll soon discover, Nebbiolo also appears in a number of more accessible, entry-level wine styles from Italy and other countries.

    What is Nebbiolo Wine?

    Nebbia, the Italian word for “fog” is where the name Nebbiolo comes from.

    This is probably due to the grapes’ natural bloom, which develops during harvest and looks like white powder. Or perhaps it results from the best Nebbiolo spots above the valley’s accumulating fog.

    Nebbiolo has a long hang time due to its early flowering and late ripening, which results in high sugar levels, acidity, and tannins.

    The problem is to harvest the fruit with all 3 of these components ripe and in harmony.

    You can find tar, rose, mint, chocolate, liquorice, and truffle aromas in the best Barolos and Barbarescos.

    They age beautifully, and the greatest take ten years to reach their peak.

    Nebbiolo Wine Taste

    Cherry, Coffee, Anise Tasting Notes

    Nebbiolo wines not only have a light appearance, but they also have a light scent with enticing red fruit and rose scents that float around the nose.

    Everything changes the instant it enters your mouth.

    As leathery goodness sticks to your teeth, tongue, and gums, you will now understand what “grippy tannins” means if you didn’t know what they were before.

    After that, you can expect dramatic aromas to follow such as:

    • Cherry
    • Coffee
    • Anise
    • and earthy notes

    Is Nebbiolo Wine Best Served Cold?

    Nebbiolo Wine Serving Temperature Visual

    Nebbiolo is best served chilled between 13°C - 16°C or 55°F - 61°F.

    This is best achieved using a specialist wine fridge, as they maintain a consistent temperature, unlike traditional refrigerators.

    If you don't have a wine fridge, you can purchase one here, or read our guide to buying wine fridges here.

    Nebbiolo Food Pairings

    You can pair these wines with foods that have fat, such as butter and olive oil, rather than anything that is overly lean due to the high tannin content.

    Rustic Italian food will likely come to mind first, and that’s a terrific place to start!

    Surprisingly, savoury Chinese foods and spicy Asian cuisine pair nicely with Nebbiolo.

    Characteristics of Nebbiolo Grapes

    Nebbiolo smells like earthy tar and delicate rose petals.

    Its soft colour conceals a strong structure.

    It takes longer to mature and mellow than any Italian grape.

    It also takes longer to ripen.

    Wine Regions of Nebbiolo

    Nebbiolo Grapes & Vineyards

    Nebbiolo is exclusively grown in Piedmont, and region of Italy.

    While Nebbiolo only accounts for about 8% of all Piedmont grapes, it’s a region that produces more of this grape than any other in the world.

    Nebbiolo is an exceedingly tricky grape to grow, much like Pinot Noir.

    It struggles to fully ripen, blossoms early and ripens late. It also appears to favour particular hillside settings and soils rich in clay and silt.

    Nebbiolo is regarded as a “terroir-expressive” grape type, much like Pinot Noir, in that it absorbs more of the earth’s soil and climate characteristics than other grapes.

    This implies that the taste of the grape can vary greatly depending on where it is grown.

    Nebbiolo Wine & Grape History

    Nebbiolo Wine From Italy

    Nebbiolo is thought by ampelographers to be a native of the Piedmont region, however, some DNA evidence points to its possible origin in the nearby Valtellina region of northern Lombardy.

    Pliny the Elder, who lived in the first century AD, praised the extraordinary quality of the wine produced in the Pollentia region, which lies northwest of the current Barolo DOCG zone.

    Although Pliny does not explicitly identify the grape used to make Pollenzo wines, his description is comparable to later accounts of wines made with Nebbiolo, making it possible that this is the earliest record of Nebbiolo-based wine in the Piedmont region.

    Nebbiolo was first specifically mentioned in 1268 when a wine known as “Nibiol” was mentioned as being grown at Rivoli, close to Turin.

    A record from 1303 mentioned a producer in the Roero area possessing a barrel of “nebiolo” followed (sic).

    Italian jurist Pietro Crescenzi praised the wine made from “nubiola” in his treatise Liber Ruralium Commodorum from 1304 and said it was of outstanding quality.

    The Nebbiolo vine enjoyed great respect in the region, as evidenced by legislation in the 15th century in the La Morra region (in what is now the Barolo zone).

    These regulations stipulated severe fines, the right hand being amputated or even hanging for repeat offenders, as punishments for chopping down a Nebbiolo vine.

    Nebbiolo Vs Other Wines

    Different Wine Bottles on a Shelf

    Nebbiolo vs Barolo

    The grape from which Barolo and Barbaresco wines are produced is called Nebbiolo.

    Although Nebbiolo is grown in limited quantities worldwide, the Piedmont region of northern Italy is where it is most commonly found.

    Nebbiolo vs Sangiovese

    While Nebbiolo has a highly distinctive nose of dried fruits (think figs or prunes) linked with floral notes (roses or violets for many people).

    Sangiovese has red fruit smells, frequently with a bitter cherry or cranberry accent; these secondary scents of leather and tar swiftly develop in Nebbiolo.

    Learn more about Sangiovese here.

    Nebbiolo vs Pinot Noir

    While Pinot Noir and Nebbiolo are renowned for having exquisite scents, there are no more similarities.

    The smells and aromas of the two wines are quite different. Pinot Noir typically contains significantly lighter tannins and lower acidity than Nebbiolo, which typically has more tannin and acidity.

    Learn more about Pinot Noir here.

    Nebbiolo vs Barbera

    Dark-skinned Barbera grapes yield ruby-hued wines with vibrant cherry aromas and tannins that are noticeably rounder and softer than Nebbiolo’s.

    Barbera flourishes in warmer areas and doesn’t make wines that are flabby or flat because of its high acidity.

    Its attraction to New World growers in Australia and California is the result of this.

    Related wine guides:

    Is Nebbiolo Sweet or Dry?

    It is possible to make sweet Nebbiolo; for instance, in the Nebbiolo d’Alba DOC, winemakers make sweet and even sparkling Nebbiolo wines.

    Classic Nebbiolo is a dry wine.

    How Strong is Nebbiolo?

    The alcohol percentage of Nebbiolo wine is between 13-15%.

    Before You Go...

    Nebbiolo Vineyard

    We hope you enjoyed our article on Nebbiolo wine.

    Do you need to know about other popular wine types to add something extra to your next dinner party?

    Read our next article about popular red wines (and why) here...

    Popular Red Wine Types (Full Guide)

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    philip thompson Author: Philip Thompson
    Philip is the General Manager at Expert Wine Storage, and is very knowledgable about all things relating to wine and wine storage, including wine fridges. He is regularly featured in media outlets sharing his knowledge on wine. Connect on Linkedin