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Region Italy : Piemonte

Italy : Piemonte


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Piemonte, meaning ?at the foot of the mountain?, is surrounded to the north by the snowy peaks of the Alps. The other boundaries are Lombardia to the east, France to the west and northwest, Switzerland to the north and Liguria to the south.

Piemonte is a very important region in the history of Italy, united in 1870 under the union of its twenty distinct regions, as we know it today. The first King of Italy was the original king of Piemonte and Sardegna. The crown family name, Savoia, gave name to the area, now part of France, known as the Savoy. The original territory included the Liguria region and the Riviera Ligure once extending to the city of Nizza (modern Nice) and the island of Corsica, now also French.

The city of Torino (Turin) was the capital city and it was the first official capital of Italy after the unification. Torino was politically critical to the birth of the ?Risorgimento? movement, which functioned as an anchor to the free world in the revolutionary Italy of the 18th century. Torino also became the center of Italian industry, in particular the automobile industry. Fiat has its home in Torino, employing hundreds of thousands of workers. It became a destination for southern Italians fleeing from poverty and lack of opportunity. During the Socialist movements of the late sixties, it was the site of very famous riots.

Piemonte is the second largest region, after Sicily, and it is largely mountainous. More than two thirds of the entire territory is occupied by the Alps and Appennino (lower mountain range), leaving only a little over a quarter in plains. It is ranked fifth among the regions in population (4,288,000), and vineyards cover approximately 59,000 hectares, of which 43,700 hectares are registered DOC or DOCG plots. This is the most of any region.

Piedmont is admired, above all, for its red wines, led by the regal Barolo and Barbaresco. It is often compared to Burgundy, because some of the single vineyards are often shared by more than one producer and also because of the similar difficulties in harvesting and vinefying the Nebbiolo, the most important grape of the region. Nebbiolo takes its name from the Italian word ?Nebbia? (fog), a name which graphically describes the typical environment in which the grapes are grown. The climate is rigid by Italian standards, with distinct changes of season. Winters are cold with plenty of snow and summers are, for the most part, hot and dry. Sprint and fall are temperate to cool with fog normal at harvest time.

A majority of the region?s vineyards are located in the Langhe and Monferrato hills, which are connected to the Apennines in the southeast. However, several wines of significance are also grown along the foothills of the Alps to the north between Lake Maggiore and Valle d'Aosta.

Similar to Burgundy, the wines are usually classified by geographical area ? Barolo, Barbaresco, Gattinara and Carema, to name a few towns. They stretch from the province of Alba on the Tanaro River with the nearby ?Langhe Hills? to the north toward Valle d?Aosta in an area called the Canavese

Within the Alba region there is another micro-growing area called Roero, famous for the Arneis grape, one of the three great white grapes of the region. The other two whites are Gavi and Erbaluce. Gavi is produced from the Cortese grape, grown in the south of the region near Liguria. Erbaluce is the wonderfully aromatic grape of the ?Canavese? near the town or Ivrea, northwest of Torino.

Barbera ranks as the most popular vine for reds where there are two distinct growing areas: Alba and Asti, hence Barbera d?Alba and Barbera d?Asti. Dolcetto, often referred to as the ?Beaujolais? of Italy, is enjoyed young for its mellow, round flavors. Other famous red wines are Brachetto d?Acqui, Freisa and Grignolino. Moscato d?Asti is the fresh, light and flowery sparkling wine which represents the largest variety produced here, second in quantity only to Chianti.

Piedmont has the most DOC-DOCG zones, with fifty, and stands proud as the region with the largest percentage of its wines officially classified. For craftsmanship, respect for tradition and devotion to native vines in their historical habitats, the Piemontese have no rivals in Italy.

Until recent years, this region maintained the most traditional approach to wine-making, and IGTs, in general, did not exist. From the mid-nineties to now, some of these practices have changed. Some ?Barolistas? and Barbaresco producers have adopted new methods of vinification and aging, politically and ideologically creating a diversion of styles. The Piemontese that once criticized the Tuscan producers for embracing the more ?international styles? are now also producing wines that combine local grape varieties with international grapes. Some of the most common new IGT in the region are some Crew Barbaresco that are blended with Cabernet Sauvignon. These wines cannot officially be called Barbaresco and have been declassified to the IGT appellation Rosso delle Langhe, often associated by a proprietary name. Other new blends also named Rosso delle Langhe or Rosso del Canavese are obtained by blending the indigenous Nebbiolo and Barbera.