Discover the Wines of Piedmont at Schneider’s of Capitol Hill

The Wine Girl

The Piedmont region of Northwestern Italy, or Piemonte in Italian, can literally be translated to “at the foot of the mountains,” as it’s located at the base of the Alps.  The food of Piedmont is earthier than cuisine in southern Italy, with rich cheeses, pastas, meats, and truffles.

The region is admired and loved around the world for producing Barolos and Barbarescos, the king and queen of wines.  Barolo tends to be masculine and powerful with dark fruit and grippy tannins, while Barbaresco has a softer, brighter, more feminine character.  Both are made from the same grape, Nebbiolo, and both regions illustrate the truest expression of the variety.  Barbaresco has a two years minimum aging requirement while Barolo requires three years minimum aging.  Reserva designations require an additional two years in the bottle prior to release.

The history of Nebbiolo dates all the way back to the 12th or 13th century in Piedmont.  It is a thin-skinned and tannic grape with a delicate ruby color that offers notes of rose petals, violets, and spice.  These bold, deeply concentrated, and luscious reds are reserved for festive occasions and celebrations as they generally fetch some of the highest price tags in the world of wine.

If you’re honoring a life event and you’re searching for that special bottle to remember the occasion, these are some of the best options from northern Italy.  My personal favorites that showcase the best of both growing areas are:

2011 Cascina Adelaide Barolo ($39.99):

It is rare to find a Barolo of this high quality for only $40.  2011 Cascina Adelaide is a blend of Nebbiolo from some of the finest vineyards in Barolo.  They’re matured for 24 months in small oak barrels, then 6 months in the bottle before release.  The result is a wine with an intense ruby color, aromas of wild tart cherry, rosemary and a hint of vanilla and toasted oak. The palate is balanced by fine tannins and fresh acidity.  It pairs perfectly with red meat, wild game, truffles, and blue or mature cheese.

2010 Ratti Barolo Marcenasco ($49.99):

Dark red cherries, baking spice, tobacco, and savory herbal aromas explode from the glass. Full-bodied with velvety tannins, and ripe dark fruits appear on the palate.  The Marcenasco is made from grapes sourced from the famed La Morra vineyard.

2009 Produttori Barbaresco Rio Sordo ($74.99):

Rio Sordo Barbaresco is typically a feminine and lighter-bodied wine.  However, the 2009 packs a punch.  It’s very rustic and bold showing intense aromas of black cherries, forest floor, coffee, and eucalyptus with a firm tannin structure.  This 11-acre southwest-facing vineyard is about 900 feet above sea level.

2012 Sassaia Barbaresco ($49.99):

Soft ruby in color with aromas of violets, rose petal and a hint of spice.  Ripe dark cherry, chocolate, and hints of licorice on the palate mean this wine will continue to improve for decades in the bottle.

Since we all can’t drink like kings and queens every night, there are many other grapes of Piedmont that make excellent weeknight wines and are still exciting and interesting to drink.  These beauties will enhance your weeknight meals and bring elegance to your dinner table.  Some examples are Arneis, Moscato, Barbera, and Dolcetto. 

2014 Cornarea Roero Arneis ($19.99):

This white Italian grape is grown on the hills of Roero in Northwest Alba.  The Arneis varietal almost became extinct in the 20th century as Barolo producers began focusing only on Nebbiolo.  In the 1970s only the Vietti family propagated plantings of the grape, and saved it from complete extinction in the region.  Today, there has been a renaissance for the variety as exhibited by this lovely, medium-bodied wine.  Look for notes of white flowers, ripe pear, peach, and apricot on the nose and the palate, with rich texture and balanced acidity.

2015 Cantina Alice Bel Colle Moscato d'Asti ($16.99):

This fizzy, fresh white wine offers a delightful sweetness and tones of ripe tropical fruit, nectarine, apricot, zesty orange peel, and honey.

Barbera is an amazing and affordable alternative to Nebbiolo.  It is not considered as prestigious as Nebbiolo therefore it is not planted on the best vineyard sites.  However, it still earns a great reputation for its juicy, red berry fruit, fresh, racy acidity, and food-friendliness.  Barbera is the every-day, approachable wine of the people – meant to be consumed in its youth.  Enjoy these stellar examples of the grape that range in profile, from rich and spicy to light and bright with tart red cherry notes.  Pair Barbera wines with pizza, dark meats, veal, root vegetables, mushrooms, and blue cheeses.  Pop them in the fridge for 30 minutes before serving as the chill will make the aromas even more pronounced.  Some outstanding Barbera wines to drink now:

2011 Cascina Adelaide Barbera d'Alba Amabilin ($39.99):

This is a special single vineyard Barbera with more intensity and character as 15% Barolo is added to the blend.  Bold ruby in color with notes spicy white pepper, blackberry, black plum, violet, and vanilla.  A long, velvety finish with juicy acidity make for one stellar bottle.  

2013 Cascina Adelaide Barbera d'Alba Mie Donne ($15.99):

Mie Donne is the baby brother to Amabilin.  This is a delightful light-bodied red with so much mouth-watering acidity that it’s a brilliant accompaniment to almost any cuisine.  It’s so refreshing that it will excite your appetite and enhance your meal.  It is accessible, delightful, and loaded with tart red cherry flavor.

2013 Reva Barbera d'Alba ($19.99):

A bit more structure than the Mie Donne, the Reva is deeper and more rustic in style.  Darker fruits like blackberry, and ripe black plum with hints of dried strawberry on the nose and palate.  A long, lingering and enjoyable finish.

2013 Massolino Barbera d'Alba ($22.99):

Stainless steel aged, this Barbera is soft and velvety with notes of red cherry, violets, and dried blackberry.  Look for a hint of spice on the long, elegant, and restrained finish.

2012 La Spinetta Ca’ di Pian Barbera d’Asti ($27.99):

Barberas from the Asti zone tend to be lighter-bodied with more tart red fruit flavors and bright acidity than Barbera from Alba.  The Asti area is more well-known for its sweet, sparkling wines, however don’t overlook the wonderful Barberas. The Spinetta is a beautiful ruby color with bright aromas of blueberry and candied orange peel. Full-bodied with silky tannins, juicy acidity and finesse.

Take a virtual vacation to Italy this Spring by tasting the wonderful wines of Piedmont!