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New Customers Save $30 off $100+* with code AUGNEW30
New Customers Save $30* with code AUGNEW30
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A prestigious and distinctive region for red wines in northwestern Italy, Piedmont is responsible for some of the country’s longest-lived and most sought-after wines. Set with a backdrop of the visually stunning Alps, its 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 complete phenolic ripening of its 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 can require about a decade’s wait before they become approachable. Barbaresco tends to be more elegant in style while Barolo is more powerful. Across the Tanaro River in Roero and the farther north regions of Gattinara and Ghemme, provide more affordable and imminently drinkable Nebbiolo.
Dolcetto is Piedmont’s other important red grape, ready to drink within a couple of years of release. White wines are less important here but can be high in quality, and include Arneis, Gavi, Timorasso and the sweet, charming Moscato d'Asti made from Muscat.
Historically a dry, herb-infused, and sometimes pleasantly bitter fine wine, the ancient Greeks and Romans valued it for its great medicinal properties. They especially favored the addition of Artemisia absinthium, or wormwood, which they believed to have significant gastric curative properties. In the 16th century, a Bavarian medicinal wine flavored with wormwood called wermuth became popular in the French bourgeois circles. They called it vermutwein—soon becoming simply known in English as, vermouth.
Today vermouth isn’t regarded so much as a medicinal product but its variations are indispensable to any modern mixologist. The actual concept of modern, large-scale vermouth production started with the Piemontese in the 18th century where proximity to the Alps facilitated a great supply of desired herbs. Brands such as Cinzano, Martini, and then the French, Noilly Prat, led the way to the modern cocktail age.
Typically vermouths are Italian if red and sweet and French if golden and drier in character. The Italian Carpano shows deep flavors like cocoa, almond, marmalade, toffee, mint and bitter herbs while Contratto is sweet and more straightforward. Today France produces a delicately spiced vermouth called Chambéry from Savoie and Lillet of Bordeaux, owned by Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou in St. Julien, made from Sauvignon blanc and Semillon.