What is Nebbiolo wine?

What is Nebbiolo wine?

Have you ever tried one of the famous Italian red wines Barolo or Barbaresco? If you answered yes, that means you have also tasted Nebbiolo!

Read on to discover all things Nebbiolo (neh-bee-oh-low), including why you should be drinking our 2020 Single Vineyard Nebbiolo.

Where does Nebbiolo come from?

Nebbiolo is an ancient grape varietal, with the first records dating back to the 1300s. It is most famously grown in the Piedmont region in north-west Italy. The two most famous wines from Piedmont are both produced from Nebbiolo: Barolo and Barbaresco. 

Outside of Italy, Nebbiolo is grown sparingly with small plantings in the USA, Chile, South Africa, New Zealand and at home in Australia. Australia accounts for a large share of the vines grown outside Italy (approximately 200 hectares), however this is a tiny amount in comparison to the 5,500 hectares in Italy! 

Fun fact: Do you know the origins behind the name Nebbiolo? In Autumn (when Nebbiolo is ready for harvest), Piedmont is usually covered in a thick layer of fog and mist. 'Nebbia' is actually the Italian word for fog, and this is how many people believe the name Nebbiolo came to be. 

A finicky grape in the wild

Nebbiolo grapes are very fussy in regards to soil, climate and harvest conditions. Fruit takes a long time to ripen and is usually one of the last varieties to be harvested. The grapes require a lot of sunshine to reach maximum ripeness, however also dislike extreme heat meaning careful vineyard management is needed throughout the growing season. High-quality vines are usually planted on sloping vineyards for maximum sun exposure. 

Nebbiolo vines are also picky with soil type, preferring low-fertile, clay and limestone soils with sand.

This finicky nature is one of the reasons Nebbiolo hasn't been very successful in many other wine regions around the world. 

Nebbiolo in Australia

While Nebbiolo’s origins can be traced back to the 14th century in Italy, it’s a relatively new grape to Australia. Australia’s first plantings of Nebbiolo date back to the 1980’s in Mudgee, NSW, however the climate here soon proved too warm for the fussy Nebbiolo grape to flourish. 

Cuttings of Nebbiolo were taken to cooler climate Victoria, where the King Valley embraced this Italian varietal. Other cooler climate wine regions soon followed suit and plantings of Nebbiolo have slowly increased around the country as the wine has gained popularity. 

One of the regions that Nebbiolo suits is Pemberton in Western Australia, home to our estate vineyards. Smithbrook Winemaker Ben said: "I’m unaware of any other Nebbiolo being grown in Pemberton but won't be surprised to see more in the future. It seems the warm days and cool nights of the growing season really suit this variety, and our unique loamy gravel limestone soils help us achieve the ripeness yet retain acidity of this long-lived variety."

What does Nebbiolo taste like?

With a pale, translucent colour (similar to that of Pinot Noir) one could be forgiven for thinking that Nebbiolo was a light-bodied red wine, however that couldn't be further from the truth.

Winemaker Ben said: "Who doesn’t love Nebbiolo? I can't think of many wines that exhibit full bodied characteristics and structure, while maintaining such an elegant fruit profile with subtle aromatics. The variety has a tendency to produce a wide range of terroir driven styles, almost all featuring the unique rose petal, dark cherry aromatics, with a lighter coloured hue, but astonishingly complex and robust tannin structure that really sets it apart from other varieties popular in Australia just now."

Nebbiolo is a high tannin, high acid wine, with plenty of complexity and structure on the palate. As a younger wine, Nebbiolo tends to exhibit rose, cherry and raspberries with lifted notes of citrus, like blood orange. Spice and savoury characters of star anise and clay complement the bold, grippy tannins. With age, these wines develop deep, intense aromas and flavours of truffles and leather alongside the primary fruit characters.

High quality Nebbiolo also has the ability to age brilliantly. The high acid and tannin levels allow these wines to be cellared for decades.

Nebbiolo and Food

Try dishes with higher fat content like red meat, creams or cheeses – the fat and protein in the food can help to mellow the wine's tannin structure. Try a glass of Nebbiolo with truffle pasta for a decadent and absolutely delicious combo.

Ben said: "The intensity on the palate is unexpected from a lightly coloured wine, its rich and consuming, with the classic tannin structure that makes it an ideal wine to pair with an array of fine foods. I love Nebbiolo for its complexity, mouthfeel and the best examples always leaves you wanting more."

2020 Single Vineyard Nebbiolo

"Excellent quality, excellent value. This is a nebbiolo worth tracking down. It tastes of black licorice and red cherries, menthol and tobacco, and while it's dry and tannic to close it's juicy and moreish through the palate. You could ask for little more."

94 Points, Halliday Wine Companion 2024

On his winemaking ethos behind producing this Italian varietal, Ben said: "I’m hands off. The aim is to preserve the natural nuances of the variety rather than be heavy handed and try to force the wine in any direction. Less is more when making Nebbiolo."

The 2020 Single Vineyard Nebbiolo is drinking perfectly now and with a cellaring potential of eight years this wine will continue to gain complexity with age.

Shop all the Single Vineyard wines here. We are offering an exciting promotion for the Smithbrook Single Vineyard range: for a limited time, purchase 5 bottles and receive a bonus bottle of Single Vineyard Nebbiolo! Simply add 6 bottles to your cart for this automatic discount to apply.

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