Piedmont is one of Italy’s primary wine producing regions, home to world famous red wines such as Barolo and Barbaresco. Yet there is far more to this diverse region than traditional wine reports generally cover. With a plethora of DOCG wines and plenty more DOCs, wine lovers could immerse themselves in Piedmont for a lifetime without exhausting the curiosities that can be found here.
Situated in the northeast of Italy, just north of coast hugging Liguria and just south of the Alps, Piedmont’s undulating hills, long sunny growing seasons and mountain breezes provide ideal conditions for the maturation of local varieties such as Nebbiolo, Barbera, Dolcetto, Cortese and Arneis.
The sheer wealth of wine growing zones is overwhelming at first and arguably for this reason, many remain completely ignored. Another defense of the limited coverage these denominations receive is that prominent grape varieties such as Barbera and Dolcetto make up the bulk of reds. Deeper inspection reveals many similarities.
The most iconic of Piedmont’s wines is undoubtedly Barolo. Its rich history and reputation as the king of wines and wine of kings, along with its ability to mature over many decades, makes Barolo the go to wine in the region. Alongside this, its Nebbiolo based neighbour is not far behind in terms of international interest. While generally a little softer than Barolo, Barbaresco is a treasure trove of rolling slopes, single vineyards and small family growers with with generations of heritage behind them.
There are other red grapes however. Dolcetto, known as the little sweet one, produces light, cherry driven wines with plenty of acidity. The best come from areas such as Dogliani and Ovada. They rarely age well beyond a few years, but nevertheless are worthy local wines deserving of greater study.
The race is on. Alta Langa is one of the up and coming areas of Piedmont with many producing expanding their vineyard holdings here. Already a DOCG, it is home to wines from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and is highly rated for its potential to produce high quality sparkling wines.
Asti DOCG is a long established appellation for the production of still and sparkling wines from the Moscato grape. They are generally sweet although there are some dry examples.
Barbaresco is one of the great red wines of Italy, produced in Piedmont from the late ripening, thick skinned and totally captivating Nebbiolo grape, these wines can age and improve for decades.
Barbera d’Alba DOC is perhaps the most important expressions of the Barbera grape. it produces dark, fleshy wines with lots of black fruit and acidity.
Barbera d’Asti is a DOCG appellation in Piedmont. The wines are made with 100% Superiore wines can be made in the sub zones of Colli Astiani and Tinella. As of 2014 the wines of the Nizza sub zone belong to separate DOCG.
Barbera del Monferrato is a DOC covering red wines made from Barbera around the town of Monferrato in Piedmont. Up to 15% of Freisa, Dolcetto, Grignolino can also be used in the wines. As of 2008, Barbera del Monferrato Superiore has its own DOCG.
Barolo is a world class growing area in Piedmont producing exceptionally complex wines from Nebbiolo that can age and improve for many years.
Brachetto d’Acqui is a lightly coloured red wine from Piemonte made either as a still, sparkling or passito style wine. Brachetto d’Acqui is all about fun. More often than not we see it as a simple sweet sparkling wine.
Bramaterra is one of the upper Langhe’s Nebbiolo based appellations. It is often blended with Croatina.
The hills around Tortona in Piedmont provide the backdrop for Colli Tortonesi DOC, an area covering around 200 hectares and the source of wines from a range of different red and white varieties.
Dogliani DOCG is one of Piedmont’s great expressions of the Dolcetto grape.
Dolcetto from Asti is one of a group of Dolcetto expressions from Piedmont.
Gattinara DOCG is one of Alto Piemonte’s Nebbiolo based reds. Here the variety is known as Spanna.
Gavi DOCG is an important white wine produced in Piedmont from the Cortese variety.
With almost 1500 hectares under vine, the Langhe is one of Piedmont’s most important areas. The DOC is primarily used to showcase varietal wines, particularly from Nebbiolo and Dolcetto.
Lessona DOC is one of Alto Piemonte’s Nebbiolo (known here as Spanna) based appellations. It is often supported by small amounts of Vespolina and / or Uva Rara.
Nebbiolo d’Alba DOC covers wines made exclusively from Nebbiolo around the town of Alba. It allows for a ‘superiore’ version, as well as sparkling red and rose wines.
Nizza DOCG is one of Piedmont’s more recent DOCGs and is the home of excellent red wines from Barbera. It was granted its own status after breaking away from the Barbera d’Asti classification in 2014. before which Nizza might be found as sub-zone reference on the label.
The Roero Valley is one of Piedmont’s lesser known but premium wine producing areas. Nebbiolo is grown here, but there is also an improving scene of Arneis production and it is this high potential white grape that is working hard to put put Roero on the map.
Ruché di Castagnole Monferrato is a small appellation focussing on the Ruché variety. These reds wines often boast fresh aromas of cut flowers.
Strevi is perhaps one of the best areas in Italy for the Moscato Bianco grape. These rolling hills offer the perfect conditions for Passito style wines.
Alba DOC is a little used appellation allowing for the production of red wines from a minimum of 70% Nebbiolo blended with a minimum of 15% Barbera. Production is still low however and most eligible producers prefer to label under more established appellations.
Albugnano is a very small appellation high up in the hills north of the city of Asti in Piedmont. It covers just the village of Albugnano and four others where at this higher altitude, Nebbiolo ripens well to produce both a red and rosé version.
Following the overwhelming success of Barbera based ‘Superiore’ wines from around the town of Monferrato, it was upgraded to DOCG status in 2008.
Boca is a red wine appellation in the north of Piedmont. It generally blends a good proportion of Spanna (Nebbiolo) with Vespolina and Bonarda Novarese.
Calosso DOC is a tiny appellation dedicated to the Gamba Rossa variety. The wines are extremely rare.
The relatively small DOC of Canavese produces white wines from Erbaluce and reds from Barbera and Nebbiolo.
Carema DOC is a tiny appellation producing red wines from the Nebbiolo grape, known locally as Picotener. The high altitude of this area offers tremendous potential, but with only two wineries the future looks bleak for this DOC.
Cisterna d’Astii is a very small appellation close to the town of Asti. It focuses on the production of red wines from the Croatina grape.
Collina Torinese is a small red wine appellation focussing on Barbera, Bonarda and Malvasia Nera di Brindisi.
The Colline Novaresi are home to cooler climate wines from Erbaluce and red from Barbera, Nebbiolo, Uva Rara, Vespolina and Croatina.
Colline Saluzzesi DOC is a little known appellation in Piedmont. Interestingly it permits the pink hued Quagliano to appear as a mono-varietal wine.
Cortese dell’Alto Monferrato is a white whine produced from Cortese grapes in the Monferrato hills just to the east of Turin.
Coste della Sesia DOC is a small appellation in Alto Piemonte. Dry whites are made from Erbaluce while reds can be made as varietals from Nebbiolo, Croatina and Vespolina.
Produced using 100% Dolcetto grown around the town of Acqui in Piedmont, Dolcetto d’Acqui DOC is a light, fruity red wine best enjoyed young.
Dolcetto d’Alba DOC covers red wines made with Dolcetto grown around the town of Alba in Piedmont. Superiore versions are more structured.
Dolcetto di Diano d’Alba is home to red wines produced from the Dolcetto around the town of Diano d’Alba in Piedmont. Covering around 300 hectares of vineyard at higher altitudes than neighbouring Dolcetto appellations, it produces light but complex red wines from calcerous, sandy and tufa-rich soils.
Dolcetto di Ovada DOC covers red wines made from Dolcetto around the town of Ovada in Piedmont. Dolcetto di Ovada Superiore achieved its own DOCG in 2008.
Dolcetto di Ovada Superiore achieved its own DOCG status in 2008 and is now the most important expression of Dolcetto grown around the town of Ovada in Piedmont.
Sometimes just referred to as Caluso DOCG, it produces still white wines, either dry or in the passito style, as well as Metodo Classico sparkling wine.
The Fara DOC is a red wine appellation established as long ago as 1969. Its popularity has dwindled and is rarely used. In theory though, reds, including a riserva, can be produced from Nebbiolo, Uva Rara, and / or Vespolina.
Established as long ago as 1972, Freisa d’Asti DOC is a mono varietal appellation for the Freisa grape variety and can be made in either a still red (including a Superiore) or sparkling style.
Freisa di Chieri is Piedmont’s key appellation for the Freisa variety.
The tiny appellation of Gabiano produces red wine made predominantly from Barbera. It allows for small amounts of Freisa and / or Grignolino.
The wines of Ghemme provide an interesting interpretation of Nebbiolo, known locally as Spanna. Given DOCG status in 1997, it also allows for a small amount of Uva Rara and/or Vespolina. Riserva versions require at least 46 months of ageing with at least 24 of them in barrel.
Grignolino d’Asti is a light and fruity red wine produced from the Grignolino grape in Piedmont’s Monferrato province. The wines are famed for their sour cherry notes and high acidity.
Grignolino del Monferrato Casalese DOC is produced using a minimum of 90% Grignolino and up to a maximum of 10% Freisa.
Loazzolo DOC is a tiny area in Piedmont for the production of late harvest wines from the Moscato Bianco grape. Production is tiny and there seems little interest in the denomination.
Also referred to as either Malvasia di Casorzo DOC or Casorzo DOC.
Named after a local priest born in Castelnuovo, Malvasia di Castelnuovo Don Bosco was created in for local red wines produced from the Malvasia di Schierano grape. It is most commonly found as a sparkling, low alcohol wine in the sweet style.
Monferrato DOC is a large appellation covering around a thousand hectares near the town of Monferrato. Both red and white wines are made here. Whites made from Cortese can only be made in the Casalese sub-zone.
In the absence of a large IGP classification, Piemonte DOC is the catchable appellation for winemaking in the region. Importantly, it provides and opportunity for producers to experiment with varietal wines.
Pinerolese DOC produces a number red varietal wines from Barbera, Bonarda and Freisa.
Produced in the north of Piedmont’s Alessandria province, Rubino di Cantavenna DOC is a red wine produced from anywhere between 75% and 90% Barbera, and blended with Grignolino and / or Freisa.
The tiny appellation of Sizzano was formed in 1969 for the production of red wines from Nebbiolo and Uva Rara. There are only a few hectares currently registered within the DOC however.
Terre Alfieri was granted DOCG status in 2020. It was previously a DOC focussed on the production of Barbera.
Located high up in the north of Piedmont, Valli Ossolane gives a lighter, fresher style of wine. The most accessible producer is Cantine Garrone.
Verduno is a small red wine appellation in Piedmont focussing on the Pelaverga grape. Situated around the village of Verduno, which is better known for the production of Barolo, it was created in 1995 to showcase the variety’s historic ties to the area. It produces interesting wines that match fresh acidity with red berry and menthol characteristics.