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Piedmont [Piemonte] Wine

Piedmont (Piemonte in Italian), in the north-western corner of the Italian Peninsula, is arguably Italy's finest wine region. It sits at the foot of the Western Alps, which encircle the region to the north and west, forming Italy's naturally formidable border with France. To its southeast lie the northernmost Apennine Mountains – L'Appennino Settentrionale. These low coastal hills divide Piedmont from its long, thin neighbor Liguria, which is all that separates Piedmont from the Mediterranean Sea.

The name Piemonte means 'the foot of the mountains', and this emphasis on the surrounding topography is entirely justified; not only did the Alps and Apennines once protect the region from invasion, they are also largely responsible for its favorable climate. While Piedmontese winemaking has always benefited from the latter, it wasn't until the region's mountain defenses were successfully breached (first by the Romans, then repeatedly by the French) that advanced oenology finally arrived here. The introduction and regular updating of foreign winemaking technologies is one of the main reasons that Piedmont remains so viticulturally advanced compared to other Italian regions. The region's proximity to France also plays a part.

Piedmont: 'at the foot of the mountains'

Piedmont is often described as the 'Burgundy' of Italy, a reputation due to its many small-scale, family wineries and a focus on quality which sometimes borders on obsession. What Burgundy does with Pinot Noir, Piedmont does with Nebbiolo – not the region's most widely planted grape, but the one which has made the largest contribution to the quality and reputation of its wine. Nebbiolo grapes are behind four of Piedmont's DOCGs: Barolo and Barbaresco (two of Italy's finest reds), Roero and Gattinara. Nebbiolo wines are known for their 'tar and roses' bouquet, and the pronounced tannins which can make them unapproachable in their youth but underwrite their excellent cellaring potential. The grape is known as Spanna in the north and east of Piedmont, and is used in at least ten local DOCs including Carema, Fara and Nebbiolo d'Alba.

Barbera, a dark-skinned variety from the Monferrato hills, is Piedmont's workhorse grape, although it is responsible for a growing number of superlative wines, sold mostly as Barbera del Monferrato, Barbera d’Asti or Barbera d'Alba. Barbera-based wines from Piedmont are classically Italian: tangy reds with good acidity and aromas of fresh plums and dark cherries. They are noticeably less tannic than their Nebbiolo-based counterparts, making them more enjoyable (and more marketable) earlier on in their lives. This has made Barbera popular among wineries and consumers alike, and consequently Barbera is Piedmont's most widely planted red variety.

The third red grape of Piedmont is Dolcetto, with several DOCs to its name (d'Alba, d'Acqui and di Ovada are the top three). Although its name means 'little sweet one', Dolcetto is usually used to make dry red wines with an appetizing, gently bitter finish. Unfortunately, the care and attention lavished on Nebbiolo and Barbera too often leave their poor cousin Dolcetto lacking refinement and complexity. 

Brachetto is also worthy of mention, not least for its role in the sweet, sparkling reds of the Brachetto d’Acqui DOCG. So too is Freisa, with its broad portfolio of sweet, dry, still and sparkling red wines made in Asti and Chieri.

Although Piedmont is known as a red-wine region, there are three Piedmontese white wines which are known the world over, although for very different reasons. The first two are crowd-pleasing Moscato d’Asti and sparkling Asti Spumante, both made from Moscato grapes grown around Asti. The third is Gavi, the Piedmontese white of the connoisseur: it is made from Cortese, a local variety which has also proved popular in Colli Tortonesi and Alto Monferrato.

Although not as prestigious as the whites above, the Arneis grape is increasingly popular for its delicate, exotic perfume and the refreshing, dry Roero Arneis whites it produces from its stronghold of Roero. Likewise, appreciation of Vermentino-like Favorita is now rising, and even local obscurity Erbaluce (of Erbaluce di Caluso), has benefitted from Piedmont's 300% increase in white-wine production over the past three decades.

With more DOCGs (15 as of December 2010) and DOCs (45 and climbing) than any other Italian region, and about 40% of its wine produced at DOC/G level, Piedmont is challenged only by Veneto and Tuscany for the top spot among Italian wine regions. It is a region which has identified its star grapes while continuing to experiment with new varieties in the background. Viognier has been trialed by at least one well-respected winery, and the ever-successful Chardonnay is also present in many Piedmont vineyards. Although secure for now, over the next decade Piedmont will be exposed to increasing competition from other Italian wine regions seeking to usurp its crown.

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Here are some wines produced in this region and all sub-regions, only the first 500 will be shown.
Wine Name
Grape 
Popularity
Giacomo Conterno Monfortino, Barolo Riserva DOCG, Italy Nebbiolo $672 96
Gaja Barbaresco DOCG, Piedmont, Italy Nebbiolo $198 107
Gaja Sperss Barolo - Langhe, Piedmont, Italy Nebbiolo $235 150
Giacomo Conterno Cascina Francia Barolo DOCG, Piedmont, Italy Nebbiolo $159 182
Bartolo Mascarello Barolo DOCG, Piedmont, Italy Nebbiolo $139 210
Produttori del Barbaresco 'Barbaresco DOCG', Piedmont, Italy Nebbiolo $33 255
Giuseppe Mascarello e Figlio Monprivato, Barolo DOCG, Italy Nebbiolo $119 260
Luciano Sandrone Cannubi Boschis, Barolo DOCG, Italy Nebbiolo $152 273
Falletto di Bruno Giacosa 'Le Rocche del Falletto', Barolo DOCG, Italy Nebbiolo $270 289
Gaja Sori Tildin Barbaresco-Langhe, Piedmont, Italy Nebbiolo $376 297
Gaja Sori San Lorenzo Barbaresco-Langhe, Piedmont, Italy Nebbiolo $386 303
Marchesi di Barolo 'Barolo' DOCG, Piedmont, Italy Nebbiolo $77 316
Pio Cesare Barolo DOCG, Piedmont, Italy Nebbiolo $67 317
Domenico Clerico Ciabot Mentin Ginestra, Barolo DOCG, Italy Nebbiolo $90 338
Castello Banfi Vigne Regali 'Rosa Regale' Spumante, Brachetto d'Acqui DOCG, Italy Brachetto $20 402
Gaja Costa Russi Barbaresco-Langhe, Piedmont, Italy Nebbiolo $367 406
Falletto di Bruno Giacosa 'Falletto', Barolo DOCG, Italy Nebbiolo $176 437
Giuseppe Rinaldi Brunate-Le Coste, Barolo DOCG, Italy Nebbiolo $151 515
Fontanafredda Barolo DOCG, Piedmont, Italy Nebbiolo $58 555
Giacomo Borgogno & Figli Barolo DOCG, Piedmont, Italy Nebbiolo $65 594
Luciano Sandrone Le Vigne, Barolo DOCG, Italy Nebbiolo $120 603
Martini & Rossi Asti Spumante DOCG, Piedmont, Italy Muscat Blanc a Petits Grains $13 632
Travaglini Gattinara DOCG, Piedmont, Italy Nebbiolo $30 704
Bruno Giacosa Albesani Santo Stefano, Barbaresco DOCG, Italy Nebbiolo $176 756
Falletto di Bruno Giacosa Asili, Barbaresco DOCG, Italy Nebbiolo $141 764
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