Deep in the Langhe region of Piedmont on steep limestone hills the late ripening Nebbiolo grape thrives. When conditions like southern exposure and a long, fairly dry growing season are in place the grape ripens to perfection, showing an aromatic bouquet of roses, licorice and tar.
The best expression of Nebbiolo is found in Barolo DOCG. For a wine to be labelled as such, the grapes must be grown in one or more of the communes of Barolo, La Morra, Monforte, Serralunga and Castiglione. The two distinct soil types that that contribute to the differences in the wine styles are the blue tinted Tortonian found in Barolo and La Morra making a softer, fruitier style, and the light brown Helvetian soils in Monforte and Serralunga, recognized for more structured and longer maturing reds. Castiglione, on the other hand, has a combination of the two soils.
Historically it has been very common for merchants to blend wines creating a consistent house style, however there has been a recent move toward grower-producers listing the commune name as well as an approved individual vineyard or cru on the label.
Today, Barolo must be aged for a minimum of three years before release and 18 months of which must be in oak. Similarly, Barolo Riserva must be aged for a minimum of five years before release while the time in oak remains the same. The modern trend has moved toward shorter maceration on the skins, ageing in small barriques so there is gentle oxidation to help soften and stabilize Nebbiolo’s high tannins; the resulting wine is generally approachable earlier on.