Nebbiolo is a red Italian grape variety predominately associated with the Piedmont region where it makes the (DOCG) wines of Barolo and Barbaresco. Nebbiolo is thought to derive its name from the Piedmontese word 'nebbia' which means 'fog'. During harvest, which generally takes place late in October, an intense fog sets into the Langhe region where many Nebbiolo vineyards are located.
lternative explanations refers to the fog-like 'bloom' that forms over the berries as they reach maturity or that perhaps the name is derived from the Italian word 'nobile', meaning noble.
Although there are dozens of clones and Nebbiolo is prominent, and famous for producing world renowned red wines, the reality is that this grape variety makes up barely 3% of all the wines produced in the Piedmont area.
There are twice as many acres planted with Dolcetto and ten times as many planted with Barbera. Part of the reason for this, Nebbiolo is one of the more problematic grapes for both viticulturists and winemakers to grow and work with. It is very sensitive to both soil and geography and can yield wines that vary widely in body, tannin and acidity, as well as aroma and flavour complexity.
A late ripening grape, the vines need the best exposures, especially in cooler climates, in order to reach maturity. It performs better in calcareous rather than sandy soils. Nebbiolo grape skins are relatively thin, but quite tough and fairly resistant to molds and other pests.
Many winemakers and in particular local viticulturists feel that the Nebbiolo varietal can be even more difficult to get physiologically ripe and work with in the winery than Pinot Noir. It can be changeable, moody and unpredictable while undergoing typical vinification and aging procedures in the winery.
Nebbiolo traditionally produces lightly coloured red wines that can be highly tannic in their youth with scents of red berries, liquorice, violets and roses. As they age, the wines take on a characteristic brick-orange hue around the rim of the glass and mature to reveal other aromas and flavours such as violets, liquorice, wild herbs, dark cherries, wild raspberries, truffles and tobacco. Nebbiolo wines can reward several years of aging to balance out their natural tannins with other varietal characteristics, resulting in rich, complex wines.