The reputation of Piedmont as an excellent winemaking region is based on the Nebbiolo grape and two splendid wines made with this variety: Barolo and Barbaresco. In fact, Barbaresco is known as the queen of Piedmont as it is considered the finer and more elegant of the two. Floral aromas, acidity, and robust tannins mean it improves over time, developing aromas of tobacco and gaining in depth. Some winemakers aim for harder and sweeter wines, although this is not the typical essence of Barbaresco wines. Barolo wines also have a range of styles but in general they are more powerful, with a slightly higher alcohol content, and spend longer ageing in wood.
Attempts to export Nebbiolo to other countries have not really been so successful except in parts of Australia and the USA. Nebbiola is not an easy grape. It is a very demanding variety regarding where it grows — it cannot abide cold or wind, or excessive warmth. It performs best and provides excellent fruit if it is worked with utmost care and skill but, if not, it can produce acidic and bitter wines which explains its uncertain reputation. Modern Nebbiolo wines are smoother and allow the fruit to come to the front while maintaining part of their natural tannicity.
The best Nebbiolo wines exude aromas of cherries, dark chocolate, roses and, even, tar. Their scents can surprise drinkers who, having tasted the tannicity and sharp acidity, take another smell of the glass and are seduced by delicate fragrances. Aromas of leather, liquorice and dry grass appear over time and the acidity and tannins become rounded, creating some of the most extraordinary and unforgettable wines in the world.