Know your Wines before the Alba Festa del Vino
- Written by Valerie Quintanilla
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Ready for a Piemonte wine lesson? Read up, then head to Alba for some knowledge application – yes, with wine tasting. If only school was this much fun.
Each year, the city of Alba plays host to the Langhe and the Roero winemaking municipalities for the Festa del Vino. The half-day event gives wine lovers and curiosity seekers alike the opportunity to taste different varietals and winemaking styles from more than 700 local labels.
This year’s showcase is sure to draw a little more pride as the area continues to celebrate its UNESCO World Heritage Site designation for the Langhe-Roero and Monferrato Landscape. Six wine areas and 29 towns make up the newly minted UNESCO Site, totaling 10,789 hectares of rolling hills and rural, wine making beauty.
Before you head to Alba to see and taste what has made the Langhe and Roero one of the world’s top wine making regions, read about it.
Get To Know The Langhe
The Langhe sits south and east of Piemonte’s Tanaro River in the province of Cuneo. The area is most loved for its wine, cheese, hazelnuts, and truffles (particularly the Alba white truffle.). The region’s most prestigious DOCG wines are the ageable Barolo and Barbaresco, made from the Nebbiolo grape. Regulations and standards are strict to maintain the highest of quality.
The Barbaresco zone is about 640 hectares with roughly 200 producers from four villages: Barbaresco, Neive, Treiso, and San Rocco Seno d’Elvio. In general, Barbaresco wines are considered more elegant, in part due to the lighter, more calcareous soil. The soft tannins can also be attributed to early fermentation and shorter maceration periods. With a slight maritime influence, the climate is somewhat warmer than Barolo, so harvest comes earlier.
Barbaresco DOCG Regulations
100% Nebbiolo with 2 years minimum aging, including 9 months in wood; Barbaresco Riserva requires 4 years minimum aging. Minimum alcohol: 12.5%.
Barolo is nearly three times the size of Barbaresco at 1700 hectares. More than 900 producers in the Barolo zone are authorized to label their bottles “Barolo”. The wines come from 11 villages with two soil distinctions that produce different wine styles:
- Tortonian sandy marl soil gives off a more feminine style that can be found in Barolos from Barolo, La Morra, Cherasco, Verduno, Novello, Roddi and areas of Castiglione Falletto.
- Helvetian sandstone clay soil gives a more muscular style to the wines from Monforte d’Alba, Serralunga d’Alba, Diano d’Alba, Grinzane Cavour, and the remaining parts of Castiglione Falletto.
Barolo’s continental climate gives the area an extended summer and fall, which helps Nebbiolo reach optimum ripeness.
Barolo DOCG Regulations
100% Nebbiolo with 3 years minimum aging, including 18 months in wood; Barolo Riserva requires 5 years minimum aging. Maximum yield per hectare: 8 tonne of grapes or about 7,000 bottles. Minimum alcohol: 13%.
Get To Know The Roero
Roero neighbors the Langhe and Monferrato to the left side of the Tanaro River. Primary wines from region include the Nebbiolo-based Roero Rosso or Riserva and the white Roero Arneis (still and sparkling, or spumante).
The Roero winemaking area totals about 878 hectares in 23 villages. With a sandy, clayey, and sea-fossil rich soil, the area’s wines are ready to drink much younger than its age-worthy counterparts from Barolo and Barbaresco. Roero (Rosso) DOCG gained designation in 2005. Pre-DOCG designation, it was permitted to contain 2 to 5% Arneis.
Red Roero DOGC is made of 95% Nebbiolo. About 200 vineyard hectares are dedicated to this wine production. It must be cellar-aged for twenty months, six in wooden barrels, while Roero Riserva requires at least 32 months total of aging, also with a minimum of six months in wood.
White Roero Arneis DOCG and Roero Arneis Spumante are 100% Arneis grapes, which make up 425 hectares of the Roero vineyards.
Ready to Taste?
Many varietals and winemaking styles run through the Langhe and Roero. For the uninitiated, this was meant to provide a basic overview of the top players in the area’s wine scene.
If you make it to Alba’s Festa del Vino, try these out; but don’t forget to sample Favorita, Dolcetto, Barbera, Pelaverga, Freisa, Nebbiolo, and all the other beautiful wines coming from the area.
The Festa features primarily small producers (think 3k+ bottles annually). Don’t be surprised if it’s the winemaker or a family member pouring you a glass. And don’t be afraid to ask questions – it’s the best way to learn more about their wines, their style, and the region.
The Alba Festa del Vino
Presented by Go Wine
Date: Sunday, 28 September
Time: 14:00 to 20:00
Cost: €12 (€10 for Go Wine members), includes souvenir tasting glass
Location: Piazza del Duomo, Alba Centro Storico – the makeshift wine route is set up by homogeneous areas along Via Cavour and Via Maestra.
Valerie Quintanilla is an American travel and wine writer who lives in the Langhe. Follow her expat chronicles on her blog, www.GirlsGottaDrink.com, Twitter, and Instagram. While marketing is her official trade, she also organizes travel and wine tours around the Langhe.