Piedmont Week: The Basics

Italy’s westernmost region, Piedmont, rubs shoulders with France and Switzerland in the foothills of the Alps and Apennines. This is where the region gets its name from: Piedmont literally translates into “foot of the mountain”.

Piedmont is divided into six sub-regions:

  • Canavese
  • Colline
  • Novaresi
  • Coste della Sesia
  • Langhe, and
  • Monferrato

Varietals grown in the region:

  • Dolcetto
  • Barbera
  • Nebbiolo

The most famous red varietal of Piedmont is Nebbiolo, from which the legendary Barolos and Barbarescos are produced. Barolo and Barbaresco remain Italy’s most esteemed traditional wines thanks to their quality. Nebbiolo is one of the world’s most site-specific grape varieties and, in terms of winemaking, one of the most difficult to master.

The two other main red varietals are Barbera and Dolcetto. Barbera, Piedmont’s most widely planted grape, is producing vibrant wines with a wealth of fruit flavors. Although its name means the ‘little sweet one’, Dolcetto is usually used to make dry red wines with light fruit flavors and gently bitter finish.

Although Piedmont is known as a red-wine region, it produces several well regarded white wine styles. The most famous are Moscato d’Asti  and Asti Spumante, both sparkling wines made from the Moscato grape. The local varietal Cortese and the Chardonnay are also used to produce white wines.