High up on the rolling hills, the vineyards of Piedmont in northern Italy are constantly working and producing and striving for greatness. Because of the cooler climate, fuller-flavored heavy reds have a difficult time ripening; however, the sunny days and cool nights lend the perfect atmosphere for growing lighter-bodied, fruit forward reds and whites that ripen evenly with perfect balance and acidity. Without question, Nebbiolo is the king of Piedmontese wine, world-renowned for Barolo and Barbaresco. Named for the fog, these earthy reds are certainly ethereal: lots of loam, mushroom and red fruit dominate. In the world between the earth and sky, however, there are myriad reds and whites to attract your attention as well.
Dry whites from Piedmont have only recently garnered popular attention, but these wines can appeal to many white wine drinkers. The lighter-bodied, crisp Gavis are citrus and mineral-driven and work beautifully as before-dinner cocktails as well as served with lighter aperitifs, salads or grilled fish dishes. On the other end of the spectrum, Arneis is a fabulous alternative for Chardonnay drinkers; richer in body and smooth in texture with lower acidity and lush orchard fruit flavors. Arneis is one of my favorite grapes to serve with creamy pasta or chicken dishes.
Barbera and Dolcetto are the other two dry red grapes grown in the area. Both of these produce soft, plush reds that tend not to be super heavy in body, so I often recommend them to both Pinot and Merlot drinkers. These reds are superb with savory meat dishes, even barbecue! In addition, both Barberas and Dolcettos work well with a variety of cheeses and appetizers and make excellent hostess gifts.
On the other side of the spectrum, Brachetto and Moscato d'Asti make up the bulk of sweet wines produced in the area. Juicy and fruity and often with a built-in refreshing spritz, Brachetto (red) and Moscato (white) not only serve to pair with cakes, desserts and chocolates, but also function as superb summertime, porch-sipping wines.
Venture out this season and check out some of the (next-to-famous) wines Piedmont has to offer!