One of the great things about Italy is they have a long history of independent city-states retaining their culture and cuisine even though they are now unified under one banner.  One of the greatest red wines in history has survived because of this.  The Nebbiolo grape, despite being enormously finicky to grow and nearly impossible to grow outside of its native Italy, has survived for centuries because the proud people of the Piedmont region refused to give in and plant other international varieties and other economic pressure through the years.

Early history alludes to the alluring grape as far back as the first century AD.  Pliny the Elder noted the exception quality of the wine produced in what is now the Barolo region.  He doesn’t name Nebbiolo by name, but his description is eerily similar to what Nebbiolo is and looks like.  More definite records go back as far as the 12th century.  Nebbiolo doesn’t get the international attention until the 18th century when the English were looking for an alternative to Bordeaux during warring periods with France.

Besides the legendary wines of Barolo and Barbaresco, other wines from NE Italy that utilize Nebbiolo are Roero, Gattinara, Ghemme, Langhe and Nebbiolo d’Alba.  Despite the legendary reputation and popularity among collectors and conneusseurs, Nebbiolo is only about 3% of the total wine production of the Piedmont.  Even though the rarity of these wines can be vexing, the small production accounts for excellent quality control.

Wines made from Nebbiolo are known for ample amounts of acidity and tannin.  Because of this, most Nebbiolos are built for aging.  Some of the most high quality need at least a decade and can last for 4-5 decades.  As the wine ages, the bouquet becomes very complex and delightful with aromas of tar and roses being common. In the mouth, the acidity shines presenting a lively and complex beauty that is incredible with meats and wild game.   For lighter styles try some of the great Langhe and Gattinara wines that only need a couple years but may lack a bit of the complexity.

Today, Nebbiolo is known for making some of the finest red wines in the world such as Barolo and Barbaresco.  The thousands of years of growing in the Piedmont have allowed the grape to adapt perfectly with the terroir.  The result is a gorgeous wine so in tune with the Piedmont, that it barely survives anywhere else in the world!  During the Apollo sale, it would be unfortunate to not grab and try a bit of this tremendous varietal.