The first news of this vine date back to the fourteenth century. According to someone, the name derives from the fog, because its grapes, veiled by the abundant bloom, seem surrounded by a thick fog, while others would be in regard to the late ripening of the grapes, often leading to harvest in the time of the mist autumn. Finally, an older version would derive the name "nebbiolo" from the noble, since this vine produces the best and strong wine. This vine has spread well demarcated areas, from Piedmont, Lombardy and Val d'Aosta. It has medium leaf or large, pentagonal in shape and orbicular, three-lobed, upper surface glabrous, green matte bottle color; medium or large bunch, pyramidal, elongated, a little compact, winged, often with a wing very pronounced; berry medium, round and sometimes ellipsoidal, with thin but tough skin, very waxy up to look like gray, dark purple. The maturation is delayed, from mid to late October.
Never as for any other Italian grape variety we can speak of ties with the territory, so that outside of Piedmont and Lombardy, Nebbiolo makes it hard, not only to find a distinct, but only to take root. All these difficulties arise from the fragility of the plant, but also from the long ripening of the grapes, which need heat, altitude between 300 and 450 meters-no more otherwise the cold slows down the ripening-and good ventilation to prevent the same bunches, very compact, being attacked by mold or swollen by the autumn rains. The traditional method provides only the best grapes, a very long maceration to extract polyphenols and aging in large barrels to allow the tannins and to extract all this evolve into austere wines, tannic, with a round fruit, but that rarely leave the spot market to be drunk, or at least are prepared from an oenological point of view .
Nebbiolo produced two of the finest wines from all over Italy: Barolo and Barbaresco, whose names come from two small villages in the heart of the Langhe, a short distance from Alba, where it is supposed the vine was born. In addition, to the left of the Tanaro River, which bisects the southern part of Piedmont, we have the Roero, an area on the rise for the production of high quality Nebbiolo, that are not noble and structured as those of the Langhe, but offer excellent drinkability.
Other realities to be taken into consideration are Ghemme and Gattinara, two oases tiny cut from the river Sesia, in the north of Piedmont, between Vercelli and Novara. Here Nebbiolo is called Spanna and is blended with Vespolina and for how small the productions there are surprises, thanks to the less heavy-clay soils, but more rock and even different weather-thermal-excursion conditions sharpening their wines, favoring finesse bouquet and mineral nuances, rather than the concentration of tannins.
The altitude is even more extreme when it comes to Carema, a town on the border with Valle d'Aosta, which gives its name to a production of great depth, but limited. Here Nebbiolo is called Picoutener or Picotendro. The same scenery of steep terraces carved into the mountains, it has in Valtellina, the only real bulwark of Nebbiolo, here called Chiavennasca, outside of Piedmont. Also in this case we are talking about a niche production. The fact that the minimum aging is of only 25 months makes us understand that the grapes do not have and do not point to the same polyphenols than Piedmontese, but they compensate for acidity and depth of bouquet thanks to a remarkable temperature. From west to east we have the Sassella, the flagship wine, with very fine strokes, Grumello and fresh with mineral notes, Inferno is perhaps the most rugged and crabby, and finally the Valgella, lighter, with many flowers. Also great Sforzato di Valtellina, Sfurzat, wine produced from the best grapes harvested and then wither on racks for three months, followed by a long wine-making to extract everything possible from the Nebbiolo grape skins and at least 12 months of aging in barrels. Note the very evocative names of wines, recalling the hardships to which the farmers have to undergo.
Synonyms: chiavennasca, Nebbiolo in Piedmont, Nebbiolo of Carema, nebieu, Nebieul, nebiolo, Picoutener, prunenta, span.