How the Piemonte’s once-humble nebbiolo grape remade its image

Jul 15, 2019 254

BY: Dale Robertson

Not so long ago, as in well less than a century ago, grape growers in the Piemonte in northwest Italy were mostly subsistence farmers, scratching out a living selling their fruit in bulk to cooperatives. Then, World War II made a mess of the region’s economy — its industrial center, Turin, was badly bombed — and the world’s wine consumption, outside France and Italy at least, was minuscule compared to what it is today. You couldn’t have found one American in a hundred, or probably a thousand, who had ever heard of Barolo or Barbaresco.

But those vineyards in the vertiginous rolling hills of the Langhe, south of Turin, had an inherent value their owners couldn’t have imagined back in the day. Once global wine culture began to evolve, starting in the mid-1980s, and cellar practices followed suit, the nebbiolo grape took its rightful place on everybody’s short list of top-drawer varietals.

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