Langhe is the hilly sub-region east of the Tanaro river and south of Alba, in the Cuneo province of Piedmont. The name 'Langhe' is the plural form of langa, a local word for a long, low-lying hill. Since its introduction in November 1994, the Langhe DOC has gained considerable repute for its innovative viticulture and use of international varieties (Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc are prime examples). The creativity this affords the local winemakers has led to a new generation of high-quality wines, many comparable to the prestigious 'Super Tuscans' from Tuscany.
The Langhe area is home to some of the most prestigious wines in Italy, including Barolo and Barbaresco, Asti and Dogliani. For wines which do not conform to the production criteria (production area, grape varieties or winemaking techniques) associated with these prestigious names, there is the Langhe DOC. This DOC covers a much wider area than most others and has more relaxed production restrictions, allowing winemakers to experiment with varieties and techniques not sanctioned under other DOCs. The most obvious effect of this advantage so far is the surge of Langhe Chardonnay wines being produced.
A Langhe DOC wine may be rosso, bianco or rosato (red, white or rosé), a blend or a varietal. It can be still, frizzante (semi-sparkling), novello (an early-release, youthful style for reds) or passito (made from dried grapes).
Quite exceptional in its level of detail is that the Langhe DOC laws include the title 'Langhe Nascetta del Comune di Novello', exclusively for white Nascetta wines from Novello, a village at the very south-western corner of the Barolo viticultural area. The village's vineyards are located at an altitude of just under 1500ft (460m), and are blessed with the same clay-marl soils and southern aspect as Barolo.
The Langhe area has a long history of vinegrowing and many of the wines made here use traditional, well-established grape varieties such as Arneis and Favorita (Vermentino) for whites, and Nebbiolo, Dolcetto and Freisa for reds. In 2011, the new DOCG Alta Langa Metodo Classico was forged in the fires of Italian wine bureaucracy, and at that time the former Dolcetto delle Langhe Monregalesi DOC was dissolved, and its viticultural area transferred under the now-broader Dogliani DOCG banner.