The Story of Fine Wines from the Langhe Region

It is my intention as a way of introduction to both ‘Piemonte Imports’ who are vintners of fine wines from Piedmont ‘The Langhe’ and to write the story about the grape called “Nebbiolo” (Foggy) It may have gained this name due to the foggy bloom on the grape, at the late ripening in October when there is a lot of fog in the hills of the Langhe; however, the real reason for this name is not known.

The very beautiful region of the Langhe is located in the area of northern Italy called Piedmont. An area of undulating hills and valleys with small towns located on hilltops with winding old cobbled streets. There is a big valley that is separated by the Ligurian Maritime Alps to the south, the river Bormida of Spogno to the east and the Asti hills and the Tanaro River to the north. The Tanaro also encloses these hills to the west. (Official Gru Maps) – download the official geographical Gru maps of Barolo and Barbaresco.

Borolo designations of origin include the territory of the Municipalities of Barolo, Castiglione Falletto, Serralunga d’ Alba, Monforte d’ Alba, Novello, La Morra, Verduno, Grinzane Cavour, Diano d’ Alba, Cherasco and Roddi. The region of the Langhe is divided into two definite areas of different soils. The valley that separates the region stretches from Novello in the south along the valley floor to the east side of Grinzane Cavour. The region on the east side of the valley has ancient helvetian soils which are chalky beige looser calcareous marl strata combined with more reddish weathered sandstone and limestone, along with high levels of iron and phosphorous. This part of the Langhe produces wines that are generally deeper in colour and body and have good aging potential. They are more bold and intense as well as harsher in tannins. This wine matures more slowly; it reaches its full potential after at least 12 years, and can be enjoyed after 8 years. It has very long cellaring of up to 50+ years. These wines are produced in the Serralunga Valley.

On the west side of this dividing valley we have tortonian soils which have blue tinted marls. This soil is a compact calcareous marl mixed with sand and is fresher more fertile soil rich in magnesium, manganese. This results in a more perfumed, elegant, softer and rounder wine. It has a more ruby red colour and matures within four years. Some of the most expensive and very high quality wines come from this area, names such as, Brunate, Bricco, Cannubi, Preda, Sarmassa, and Rocche. Another important factor to consider is that due to the many valleys and hills dotted around the Langhe region this creates its own microclimates.

The making of the traditional Barolo and Barbaresco has changed from its conception in 1268 to present day. It started as a very heavy sweet wine and moved on to a sparkling wine; I imagine this was due to the bottling before maceration was complete. Before the vineyards were established, the grapevines were originally found in the densely forested area of the Langhe, all of the vines were owned by the king. The penalty for stealing these grapes was a hand being removed for the first offence and if caught again could result in death. This is one of the reasons that Barolo is known as the wine of kings.

Since 1966 and 1980 respectively the introduction of DOC and DOCG labeling has made it better regulated to produce a wine that is of a very high quality, I am going to elaborate on this in my next Blog, ‘The DOCG explained’.

Remember Barolo and Barbaresco are wines to be enjoyed with a meal or a relaxing afternoon with friends; it can be drunk in summer or winter. Make sure you have the correct Glass: stand the bottle upright and extract the cork for a minimum of four hours before you drink. Temperature is critical – 16 to 18 degrees. Remember these wines are art in a bottle not alcohol in a bottle. One would savor the time to drink a bottle with a friend over an afternoon, along with strong cheeses and good conversation.

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