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Nebbiolo Beyond Barolo Wines of the Moment

January 14, 2022

Barolo and Barbaresco, located near the town of Alba in Piedmont, are the two most famous appellations featuring the Nebbiolo grape. But, as fans know well, there are other haunts for the variety throughout Northern Italy.

Nebbiolo is one of the world’s noblest red wine grapes. Native to Northwest Italy, the variety may get its name from the Italian word nebbia (“fog”), a reference to its late-ripening tendencies (Nebbiolo doesn’t mature until well into the Fall, when colder, wetter weather starts to roll in). The most famous expressions of the grape, Barolo and Barbaresco, are aged in barrel and bottle for extended periods before they are released into the market. These are wines designed to age for decades, and their prices reflect both their prestige and their relative scarcity.

Lovers of Nebbiolo with neither the patience nor the resources to invest heavily in Barolo/Barbaresco are advised to look elsewhere in Piedmont—as well as in neighboring Lombardia—for their Nebbiolo fix. There is plenty of excellent (and ageworthy) Nebbiolo to be had, most often at more-affordable prices.

A gorgeous vista of vineyards on a hillside in Barolo during golden hour.


The Roero DOCG is just northwest of Barolo, across the Tanaro River; the soils here are sandier and siltier than the limestone marls found in Barolo, and while Roero Nebbiolo is often just as powerful as Barolo, its tannins tend to be marginally softer. As Barolo prices climb steadily upwards, the top wines of Roero look better and better. Top producers: Malvirà; Matteo Correggia; Cascina Val di Prete; Cascina Ca’Rossa


Whereas Barolo and Barbaresco are situated in the Langhe Hills, in southeastern Piedmont, the area known as the “Alto Piemonte” (“Upper Piedmont”) covers a section of northern Piedmont running roughly from Torino to Lake Maggiore. Although the Carema appellation, not far from Torino, is a source of highly perfumed, mineral Nebbiolos from morainic soils (seek out the wines of legendary Luigi Ferrando), most of the wine regions of the Alto Piemonte are clustered in the Sesia River Valley north of the city of Novara. It’s worth noting that this area—which includes Nebbiolo-focused appellations such as Ghemme, Gattinara, Lessona, Boca, and several others—was once the commercial capital of Piedmontese winemaking. The ravages of phylloxera, combined with the heavy industrialization of Northern Piedmont after the two World Wars, decimated the region’s wine culture to the point where many of these regions contain more abandoned vineyards than productive ones. Top producers: Nervi-Conterno, Antoniolo, Monsecco (Gattinara); Rovellotti, Tiziano Mazzoni, Cantalupo (Ghemme); Conti; Le Piane (Boca); Proprietà Sperino; Sella; Massimo Clerico (Lessona).


This tiny appellation sits above the Dora Baltea River, right near the Valle d’Aosta’s border with Piedmont. Nebbiolo is called Picotendro here, and while the wines are comparable to the lightweight versions grown on the terraces of Lombardy’s Valtellina, there are only a handful of Donnas producers of any commercial significance. The one most commonly seen in the US market is the local cooperative, Caves Cooperatives de Donnas.


Valtellina’s vineyards climb the hills above the town of Sondrio, on Italy’s border with Switzerland. The terraced vines grow in the shadow of the Rhaetian Alps—from which the geographic indication “Terrazze Retiche di Sondro” (“Rhaetian Terraces of Sondrio”) derives. Soils are sandy, silty and rocky. The Nebbiolo wines of this region, where the grape is called Chiavennasca, are known for being lighter, more ethereal, and lower in alcohol than most of their Piedmontese cousins. Top producers: AR.PE.PE.; Rainoldi; Mamete Prevostini; Nino Negri; Sandro Fay