You might say Nebbiolo is the vinous equivalent to turning the amp to 11. High in acid, tannins and anthocyanins, it can be used to make a range of red wines with intense aromas and flavors. A native of Piedmont, Italy, its name is thought to derive from the Italian word for fog, nebbia, which blankets the Langhe during harvest. There, the grape fosters complex styles that are signature to the area, like ageworthy Barolo and Barbaresco, as well as fresh, fruity, berry-tinged wines meant for immediate consumption. Though greatly associated with its home region, astute winemakers elsewhere have also begun to identify ideal terroir for Nebbiolo.
Italian immigrants introduced Nebbiolo to Argentina during the 19th century. Viña Alicia was among the country’s first wineries to create high-quality versions. It’s now the only producer to use one of the two original clones, which was brought over by owner Rodrigo Arizu’s great-great-grandfather, Francisco Ferraris. They yield a wine known for its notes of roses, black currants, violets and coal tar, as well as its ruby hue that evolves to garnet as it ages.
Almost 700 acres of the grape are planted down under, mostly in the Yarra Valley, Hilltops, Adelaide Hills and Margaret River. Luke Lambert, winemaker of his eponymous label in the Yarra Valley, believes that despite the many French grapes found in Oz, the soil and climate in several of its wine regions are well suited to Italian varieties. The granite and granitic sand soils of his Denton Vineyard, for example, yield Nebbiolo with bright fresh red fruit, aniseed, red flowers and fine tannins.
Though Nebbiolo is just starting to gain interest here, the grape is regarded by many as one of its best-kept secrets. Luca Paschina, general manager and winemaker of Barboursville Vineyards, planted some in 1995. He believes Virginia-grown Nebbiolo has signature aromas of dried strawberry, flowers, cedar and chocolate, along with a citrus note that he feels is unique to the regional terroir. “[Nebbiolo] shows softer tannins, [yet is] still very chewy, with a more intense brick-orange tone and great aging potential,” he says.