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WSET Diploma: Unit 3: Italy > Piedmont > Flashcards

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Giacomo Conterno

1895- 1971
Italian grape grower and producer and one of the first to bottle his own Barolo



Dominated by the Alps. Capital of region is Turin. Vineyards are two distinct groups: north-east near Lake Maggiore and south-east in the Langhe and Monferrato hills. Severe climate in winter, but long summer and warm autumns.

Largest vineyard are for production of DOC and DOCG wines. 40 different appellations. Reputation for quality red wine production. Most important are DOCGs Barolo and Barbaresco. IGT classification not recommended in this provence, many wines classified under general Piemonte DOC.


Langhe DOC

Increasingly important, often style of Barolo or Barbaresco at lower prices. Some international styles aged in new oak.


Barolo DOCG

Nebbiolo grape, premium proces. Long maturation period of two years in large oak casks, one in bottle. Modern wineries now ageing in new oak barriques.
Great concentration and complexity, high tannin, acidity and alcohol. Need further bottle ageing to show full potential. Develop floral (rose/ violet), strawberry, mushroom, leaves, tar and leather.


Barbaresco DOCG

Nebbiolo grape. Less body and complexity than Barolo but shorter minimum ageing requirements. Similar price range.


Barbera d' Asti and Barbera d'Alba DOCG

Barbera grape. Growing reputation. Two main styles- light, sour cherry fruit to be drunk young or oak aged, higher tannin, complex, needing bottle age to show potential. Medium price.


Dolcetto d' Alba DOC

Dolcetto grape. Soft and fruity, damsons, light tannin and low acidity.


Dogliani DOCG

Finest production region of the Dolcetto grape.


Nebbiolo d' Alba DOC

Satellite appellation of Barolo. Softer, less intense and faster maturing Nebbiolo than that produced in Barolo or Barbaresco.


Roero DOCG

Left bank of the river Tanaro, directly across from Langhe. Significant quantities of Nebbiolo and Arneis produced.


Moscato d' Asti DOCG

Moscato grape, highly perfumed, grapey, to be drunk young and fresh. Moscato d' Asti is slightly sparkling. (Asti DOCG is fully sparkling. Refer to Unit 6)



Cortese grape. Limstone dominant soils, hillside vineyards. Dry white with high acidity and a steely backbone.


Gattinara DOCG

Long history of high quality Nebbiolo (known locally as Spanna) production, long- lived wines, with substantial ageing in oak. Vineyards planted on the Vercelli and Novara hills.`



Qualitatively outstanding and highly distinctive wine region in north-west italy whose principal city is Turin (see map under italy). This subalpine part (its name means ‘at the foot of the mountains’) of the former kingdom of Savoy was the driving force behind Italian reunification in the 19th century and led the initial phases of Italy’s industrial revolution. Its geographical position both isolated and protected it during the period of Habsburg, Bourbon, and papal domination which marked Italian life between 1550 and 1860, while its proximity, both geographical and cultural, to France (the kingdom’s court and nobility were Francophone until well into the 19th century) gave it both an openness to the new ideas of the European enlightenment and relative prosperity—in stark contrast to the poverty of much of the rest of the peninsula. In 2010, total annual wine production averaged over 3 million hl/79 million gal, with over 75% doc or docg. In Piemonte vines are planted at elevations, which can vary from about 150 m to above 400 m (490–1,150 ft), with the best, south-facing sites typically devoted to nebbiolo, while the coolest positions are planted with dolcetto (or moscato in the zones in which it is grown). barbera is widely planted in between. Average summer temperatures and rainfall are very similar to those in Bordeaux. Although there are 12 Nebbiolo-based DOCs or DOCGs, only the world-famous barolo and barbaresco supply significant amounts of wine. gattinara, for example, which is the largest of the Nebbiolo DOCs outside the langhe hills, encompasses hardly more than 100 ha/247 acres of vineyard. Very much more common is Barbera, planted virtually everywhere in the provinces of alba, asti, and Alessandria, often with scant attention to its viticultural needs, while the best sites are reserved for the more valuable Nebbiolo. It was therefore considered Piemonte’s workhorse grape, resulting necessarily in modest wine, until the 1980s when high-quality and expensive oak-aged Barberas appeared on the market, showing its real potential and radically changing perceptions. dolcetto , almost as ubiquitous as Barbera and similarly considered modest rather than great, delivers most of Piemonte’s fruity red wine for early drinking. It ripens even earlier than Barbera and is regularly vinified in less than a week to make sure the fermentation tanks are empty before Barbera and Nebbiolo are harvested. White grapes, with the exception of the moscato used extensively for various spumante and frizzante (most notably asti), used to be a virtual afterthought in Piemonte, but the region’s production of white wine grew considerably in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Part of this surge is due to the renewed popularity and commercial success of Asti and moscato d’asti, but wines based on cortese such as gavi and those from the Colli Tortonesi and Alto Monferrato have also become increasingly popular. Native Piemontese varieties such as arneis and favorita (Vermentino), mere curiosities in the early 1980s, were planted on 925 ha and 464 ha respectively in 2010. While the 1980s saw the arrival and a certain acceptance of international varieties, they never established a real foothold here, no doubt due to Piemonte’s many high-quality, unique indigenous varieties. While the plantings of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir have helped trigger a budding and promising metodo classico production under the Alta Langa DOC, other white Piemontese varieties, such as erbaluce (dry as well as sweet), timorasso, and nascetta, as yet produced in tiny quantities, are beginning to earn deserved recognition. Piemonte is the only region in Italy that does not allow the production of igt wine. Instead, an overarching DOC Piemonte, the size of the entire region, was created, encompassing more than 60 individual DOCs and DOCGs. The intention was to brand the region’s entire production at the highest quality level in order to obtain greater prestige and success in the international market. But the system failed, because the Piemonte DOC’s production rules had to be as flexible as those of an IGT to allow both international varieties and higher yields. This weakened the significance of the DOC system as well as the notion of origin in high-quality wines, while the expected added prestige for the region did not materialize. The only radical refinement of the Piemontese DOC system has been the creation of recognized smaller subzones or single-vineyard sites, called Menzioni Geografiche, of which especially Barolo and Barbaresco have taken advantage, but other DOCs and DOCGs are bound to follow, Barbera d’Asti being a case in point.



In the dialect of the north west Italian region of piemonte, indicates the highest part of an elevation in the landscape or, in particular, a vineyard with a steep gradient at the top of a hill. The term was first used on a wine label by Luciano de Giacomi in 1969 for his Bricco del Drago, a blend of dolcetto and nebbiolo grapes from Alba, and has been extensively used for the other wines of Piemonte ever since.



Is a piemontese dialect term used for vineyard sites of the highest quality, particularly for those with an exceptional favourable southern exposure. More subtle variations also exist: a ‘morning’ sorì (sorì di mattino) with a south-eastern exposure or an ‘evening’ sorì (sorì di sera) with a south-western exposure. The term was first used on a wine label by Angelo gaja for his Sorì San Lorenzo Barbaresco 1967 and was widely imitated in the subsequent quarter-century.



One of the most renowned producers of high-quality, estate-bottled wines in piemonte, traces its origins to 1856 when the Gaja family opened a tavern in their home town of barbaresco and began serving their own wines to accompany the food. By the end of the 19th century, the wines were already being bottled and supplied to the Italian army in Abyssinia, a highly unusual development in their home district of the Langhe, where a tradition of bottled wine assumed real significance only from the 1960s. The firm became an important force after the Second World War under the direction of Giovanni Gaja, who began an important series of vineyard purchases in what is now the Barbaresco docg zone, a strategy that has given the house a total vineyard area in 2014 of 100 ha/247 acres, dwarfing all other family-owned Barbaresco houses, and an excellent selection of superior vineyard sites. Gaja wines gained worldwide recognition under Giovanni’s son Angelo Gaja, who took over the direction of activities in the late 1960s; trained at the oenological school of Alba and at montpellier, an indefatigable traveller in the world’s major viticultural areas, and a tireless and charismatic champion of his native region and its wines, he gave a new international perspective to the wines, pioneering small barrel maturation of both Barbaresco and barbera, and introducing international grape varieties—cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, and sauvignon blanc—to the vineyards of Piedmont (his Cabernet Sauvignon is called Darmagi, Piemontese for ‘what a shame’, supposedly his father’s reaction). He also acquired land in nearby barolo, with the 1988 Barolo Sperss marking a return to the zone from which the Gaja family made a wine from purchased grapes until 1961. In the 1990s, Gaja expanded his horizons even further, purchasing the Pieve di Santa Restituta estate in Montalcino, where the first brunello di montalcino produced under his supervision was made in 1993, and, more recently, the development of the Ca’ Marcanda estate in bolgheri on the Tuscan coast. In 1999, Gaja announced that he was renouncing the name he had made so famous and selling all the wine previously sold as Barbaresco DOCG, including his fabulously expensive single-vineyard Sorì San Lorenzo, Sorì Tildin, and Costa Russi bottlings, as DOC Langhe Nebbiolo, the catch-all appellation for declassified Barolo and Barbaresco and for wines containing up to 15% ‘foreign’ varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah. Gaja defended this controversial move by arguing that the estate’s traditional Barbaresco, made by blending grapes from different vineyards (considered historical practice in the zone), had suffered in prestige being considered a ‘basic’ Barbaresco in comparison with single vineyard bottlings, a trend he was striving to counteract.


Renato Ratti

Industrious and dedicated winemaker based at La Morra in barolo in the north west Italian region of Piemonte. One of a group of so-called modernist Barolo producers seeking a more accessible Barolo (see barolo for more details), he was particularly keen to promulgate the notion of terroir. In 1979 he was one of the first to draw up a map of the best Barolo vineyards, or crus, which, with limitations, is still valid today.



Small but historically important wine region in the hills between the towns of Vercelli and Novara, producing nebbiolo-based red wine in the north west of Piemonte (see spanna for more on its neighbours). It was important enough to have been classified in the 16th and 17th centuries but had only 95 ha/234 acres of vineyards in 2011. In the 19th century, these hills were far more widely planted with Nebbiolo than the langhe, and the wines were more highly prized than either Barolo or Barbaresco. The long decline of viticulture here was halted when Gattinara was awarded docg status in 1990. In 2004 an overarching DOC, Coste della Sesia, including the Lessona and Bramaterra zones, was created in an effort to safeguard its wine production. Although production regulations faithfully reflect the historical practice of blending in the local uva rara and/or vespolina grapes, used in the past to compensate for unripe Nebbiolo grapes in cool vintages, practically all Gattinara is now made of 100% Nebbiolo, a sign of improved viticulture, lower yields, and, possibly, climate change. Gattinara is a seriously ageworthy wine with long mandatory ageing of 35 months (47 months for Riserva), and single-vineyard wines are the rule rather than the exception. The region as whole did not escape the fashion for barrique ageing entirely, although most wines today are aged in large oak casks. Gattinara tends to be lighter and a little more acid than Barolo, yet more perfumed with tangy acidity and a long ageing capacity while still representing excellent value.



Culinary capital of the langhe, famous for its red wines and white truffles, and where in the past, before estate bottling became the norm, producers would sell their grapes to bottlers and négociants on the Piazza Savona immediately after the harvest. Since 2010 it also is the name of a rather irrelevant DOC for Nebbiolo-Barbera blends covering all of Roero, Barolo, Barbaresco, and Dogliani. See also roero and nebbiolo d’alba.


Nebbiolo d' Alba

Is an Italian doc red produced from nebbiolo grapes grown in 2012 on a growing total of 649 ha/1,603 acres of vineyard in 34 communes surrounding the city of alba in piemonte. Seven of the communes are partially inside the Barolo docg zone, although the areas which can produce Nebbiolo d’Alba—the southern sections of Monforte d’Alba and Novello, the north eastern tip of La Morra, all but a western slice of Diano d’Alba, the northern parts of Verduno, Grinzano Cavour, and Roddi—have been excluded from the Barolo zone. Most of the vineyard land is on the northern bank of the river Tanaro in the Roero hills (which, absurdly, does not belong under the administration of Alba as it lies outside the langhe), on sandier soils that yield wines that are softer, less intense, and faster maturing than a Barolo or a Barbaresco, more generically ‘Nebbiolo’ and less pointedly characterful. The demarcation of the DOC Nebbiolo d’Alba comprises the whole of the DOCG roero, and therefore can be used by Roero producers for declassification of their wines, but as such is infrequently used. This may change, as the Roero DOCG is much less famous than Nebbiolo d’Alba.



Plural of Langa, name given to the hills to the north and south of the city of Alba in the province of Cuneo in piemonte on the right bank of the River Tanaro. The soils, composed of clay marls, are the classic ones for the nebbiolo grape, and produce the Langhe’s most famous wines barolo and barbaresco, although they can also yield barbera, dolcetto, and moscato of excellent quality. The hills gradually rise to the south of Monforte d’Alba, creating a climatic limit to the cultivation of Nebbiolo, and to the south of Dogliani up to 600 m/1,970 ft. The area is increasingly important for the production of traditional method sparkling wines based on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir under the docg Alta Langa. Langhe is also the name of a regional doc, overlapping with the DOCG roero on the left bank of the Tanaro (and therefore not part of the Langhe geographically). The Langhe DOC is used for non-traditional grape varieties such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Arneis, and Nas’cetta, and as a DOC category into which more geographically limited DOC wines can be declassified: Dolcetto d’Alba can become Langhe Dolcetto, for example, or Barbera d’Alba may become Langhe Rosso. Most Barolo and Barbaresco producers who bottle a cheaper Nebbiolo for relatively early drinking label it Langhe Nebbiolo as, perversely, the DOC Nebbiolo d’Alba is almost entirely confined to the left bank of the Tanaro, coinciding with Roero, and includes only tiny parts of the classic Barolo communes.



Increasingly important vineyard area and docg on sandy hills on the left bank of the River Tanaro in the piemonte region of north-west Italy which takes its name from the villages of Montaldo Roero, Monteu Roero, and Santo Stefano Roero to the north west of Alba. Geographically as well as administratively it is not part of the langhe, from which it is separated by the River Tanaro, but it shares its most important red grape variety, nebbiolo, although the wines tend to be softer and earlier-maturing than those from barbaresco and barolo. In spite of ongoing marketing efforts, Roero’s expression of Nebbiolo deserves to be better known. This is perhaps why many Roero producers own vineyards in or buy grapes from the more famous Barbaresco. Significant quantities of red barbera and white arneis are also grown in Roero.



Extensive DOC in the hills to the east of Turin in the provinces of Asti and Alesssandria in Piemonte. Traditionally known for light and often sparkling Barbera del Monferrato, lately the region’s wines have gained in quality resulting in the elevation of Barbera del Monferrato Superiore to docg, entailing 14 months of ageing as well as a higher alcoholic content compared with that of the normal DOC. While Monferrato serves as an overarching DOC, allowing also for the production of international varieties, which, however, cannot be mentioned on labels, the region boasts a handful of interesting smaller denominations dedicated to local varieties. Grignolino del Monferrato Casalese DOC is a pale and tannic red regularly offering more interest than most italian rosés; Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato DOCG, a rare, aromatic red wine with classic Piemontese tannic structure; and Strevi, a sweet wine made from dried Moscato grapes, while Monferrato Casalese is a dry white made from Cortese and not unlike Gavi. Although Monferrato is overshadowed by its more illustrious neighbours, notably the Langhe, its highly original wine styles deserve more attention.



Town and province in piemonte in north-west Italy whose name appears in local varietal reds made from Dolcetto, Freisa, and Barbera d’Asti. Unlike its counterpart Barbera d’Alba, made from vines traditionally planted in lesser sites where Nebbiolo will not ripen, Barbera has always been given supreme vineyard sites in Asti. Barbera d’Asti was elevated to docg in 2010, with three superior subzones: Tinella, Colli Astiani or Astiano, and Nizza. However Asti’s name is most commonly associated with playful, aromatic, lightly sparkling wine with modest alcohol levels that is Italy’s biggest-selling wine. In 1993, along with the superior moscato d’asti, Asti Spumante was elevated to docg status and renamed Asti, largely in an effort to distinguish it from the host of frizzante or sparkling wines produced in Italy from a host of grape varieties of very varying quality. Both Asti and Moscato d’Asti are produced from Moscato Bianco (muscat blanc à petits grains) in the provinces of Asti, Cuneo, and Alessandria, where vineyards total 9,490 ha/23,440 acres shared by 4,000 growers spread over 152 communes. Production has increased from 40 million bottles in the 1970s to 107 million bottles (or 800,000 hl/17,597,539 gallons) in 2011, made possible by a vine density of 4,000 vines/ha and a permitted yield of 10 tonnes/ha, although average vineyard size is just 2.45 ha/6 acres. Due to this fragmentation, large bottlers and négociant houses have traditionally dominated production. With the invention of the tank method (see sparkling winemaking) at the end of the 19th century, industrial production of Asti became a reality. The combination of large-volume production and small-scale viticulture has necessarily made Asti a blended wine from many sources, masking geographical differences in sites and zones. However, more and more producers are bottling their own produce, resulting in more artisanal wines, with single-vineyard bottlings becoming increasingly common. Asti comes in several versions, each determined by its alcoholic content, residual sugar, and intensity of sparkle. Asti differs significantly from Moscato d’Asti: it is more alcoholic (6 to 9.5% rather than Moscato d’Asti’s maximum of 6.5%), and it is fizzier (at least 3 bar of pressure in the bottle rather than Moscato d’Asti’s maximum of 2 bar). The best and ripest grapes are normally reserved for Moscato d’Asti. Often scorned for the many mediocre wines released under the Asti name, the wine never lost its popularity. The image and sales of Moscato in general and Asti in particular received a huge boost in the 2000s when several rap artists who had formerly praised the virtues of Champagne switched to mentioning Moscato in their songs. The subsequent boom in the US led to increased demand, and a call from the larger producers to enlarge the vineyard area. The Asti Consorzio has expressed doubts, fearing that expansion may prejudice quality.



Is a renowned Italian dry white docg zone of 1,455 ha/3,595 acres and the most interesting expression of the cortese grape in piemonte. It is produced in 11 communes (Bosio, Carrosio, Capriata d’Orba, Francavilla Bisio, Gavi, Novi Ligure, Pasturana, San Cristoforo, Serravalle Scrivia and Tassarolo) in the south east of the province of Alessandria. Although the name of each commune (and even single vineyards) may appear on labels, stylistic differences are not (yet) evident, and most wines are blends of more than one commune. The red dolcetto grape was also important here until phylloxera devastated the vineyards. At its best, Gavi is fruity and aromatic, occasionally with mineral notes and a tangy, citric finish. In the past the wines tended to be rather neutral, caused by excessively high maximum yields, which have recently been reduced to 9.5 tonnes/ha or 60 hl/ha, and lower yet for single-vineyard wines. For a white wine best known in its still form, Gavi comes in a surprisingly wide range of styles: frizzante, spumante, and metodo classico (with a minimum required lees ageing of 18 months), and méthode ancestrale all allowed. Although there are several barrique-aged examples, most producers stick to the conventional winemaking practice of temperature-controlled fermentation in stainless steel, leading to a certain sameness in the wines. More interesting Gavi tends to come from producers such as Castello di Tassarolo who focus on organic and biodynamic practices while fermenting the wine with ambient yeast. Thanks partly to the high quality achieved by the pioneering La Scolca estate in Rovereto di Gavi, the wine enjoyed great commercial success in the 1960s and the early 1970s, first in the Italian market and subsequently abroad, before the emergence of friuli as an important source of fresh white wine from international varieties. Increasing competition in its category from trentino and alto adige, as well as from Friuli, has subsequently put Gavi under a certain commercial pressure, but the trend towards indigenous varieties may well work in Gavi’s favour.



Italian white grape variety most closely associated with south east piemonte, in the province of Alessandria where it was first recorded in the early 17th century. No relatives have so far been identified. Total plantings had reached almost 3,000 ha/7,000 acres by 2010 and it is the basis of no fewer than nine docs. Its most highly regarded wine is gavi, produced initially to serve the fish restaurants of Genoa and the Ligurian coast not far to the south. The Cortese dell’Alto Monferrato a few miles west, like the Cortese grown on the Colli Tortonese, rarely achieves the ripeness, or winemaking proficiency, of Gavi. At its best, the wine is clean and fresh. The use of oak is usually misguided.



The dominant and best grape variety of valpolicella and bardolino in north east Italy, producing fruity, red wines with a characteristic sour cherry twist on the finish. Wines from the better Valpolicella producers who reduced yields in the 1980s and 1990s demonstrated that lack of body was not an inherent characteristic of Corvina. Since then, it has enjoyed great success as the best variety for amarone. Producers such as Allegrini have also illustrated that wines made solely or predominantly from Corvina such as La Poja can be serious, barrel-aged reds. Corvina, sometimes called Cruina, has traditionally been confused with corvinone. dna profiling at san michele all’adige in 2005 supported a parent–offspring relationship with rondinella. Presumably fuelled by the popularity of Amarone, Italy’s total plantings of Corvina Veronese increased substantially in the early 21st century to reach nearly 7,500 ha/18,525 acres by 2010.



Ancient, tiny red wine zone high up in the subalpine Novara Hills in the north of the piemonte region of north-west Italy. Its promotion to docg in 1997 was intended to rescue its minuscule vineyard surface, less than 60 ha today. Like gattinara across the River Seisa in the Vercelli Hills with its satellites lessona and bramaterra, Ghemme is made from the nebbiolo grape (with a mandatory minimum of 85%) while the addition of bonarda, uva rara, and/or vespolina. For more details, see spanna, the local name for Nebbiolo.


Barolo, Castiglione Falletto, Serralunga d’Alba, Diano d’Alba, Grinzane Cavour, Monforte d’Alba, Novello, Cherasco,
La Morra, Roddi and Verduno.

What are Barolo's 11 villages?