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Taittinger Brut La Francaise (375ML half-bottle)
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
A prestigious and distinctive region for red wines in northwestern Italy, Piedmont is responsible for some of the country’s longest-lived, most sought-after wines. Set in the foothills of the Alps, the terrain consists of visually stunning rolling hills. The most prized vines are planted at higher altitudes on the warmer, south-facing slopes where sunlight exposure is maximized. The climate is continental, with cold winters and hot, muggy summers. Despite the rain shadow effect of the Alps, precipitation takes place year-round, and a cooling fog provides moisture that aids in the ripening of grapes.
Easy-going Barbera is the most planted grape in Piedmont, beloved for its trademark high acidity, low tannin, and juicy red fruit. However, the most prized variety is Nebbiolo, named for the region’s omnipresent fog (“nebbia” in Italian). This grape is responsible for the exalted wines of Barbaresco and Barolo, known for their ageability, firm tannins, and hallmark aromas of tar and roses. Nebbiolo wines, despite their pale hue, pack a pleasing punch of flavor and structure, and the best examples, when made in a traditional style, require about a decade’s wait before they become approachable. Barbaresco tends to be more elegant in style while Barolo is more powerful. More affordable and imminently drinkable Nebbiolo can be found in the larger Langhe area as well as Gattinara, Ghemme, and other less-prominent appellations. Dolcetto is Piedmont’s other important red grape, ready to drink as quickly as Barbera but with lower acidity and higher tannin. White wines are less important here but can be high in quality, and include Arneis, Gavi, and sweet, fizzy wines made from Muscat.
Responsible for some of the most elegant and age-worthy wines in the world, Nebbiolo is the star variety of northern Italy’s Piedmont region. Grown throughout the area as well as in neighboring Valle d’Aosta and Valtellina, it is at its best in the Piedmontese villages of Barolo and Barbaresco. Nebbiolo is a finicky grape, and needs a very particular soil type in order to thrive. Outside of Italy, it often fails to show the captivating aromas for which it is so beloved, but some success has been achieved in parts of California.
In the Glass
Nebbiolo is an elegant variety with mouthwatering acidity and a compelling perfume of rose petals, violets, fresh tar, licorice, clay, and dried cherries. Light in color and body, Nebbiolo is a more powerful wine than one might expect, and its firm tannins typically need time to mellow. With age, it develops a velvety texture and a stunningly complex bouquet.
Nebbiolo’s love affair with food starts in Piedmont, which is home to the Slow Food movement and some of Italy’s best produce. The region is famous for its white truffles and wild boar ragu, both of which make for excellent pairings with Nebbiolo.
If you love Barolo and Barbaresco but can’t afford to drink them every night, you can try the more wallet-friendly, earlier-drinking Langhe Nebbiolo. But Piedmont’s best-kept secret is the northern part of the region, where outstanding earthy and rustic versions of the variety (known here as “Spanna”) are produced in Ghemme and Gattinara.