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What is Nebbiolo wine?

What is Nebbiolo?

Pronounced neeby-oh-low, this noble grape varietal is mostly grown in northwest Italy in the Piedmont region and produces some of the country’s most loved and most renowned wines. 

So, what is special about Nebbiolo? Is Nebbiolo the same Barolo and Barbaresco? What does Nebbiolo taste like? And where is Nebbiolo grown in Australia? Let’s take a closer look at this distinguished red and find out a little more about it! 

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How to pronounce Nebbiolo infographic

Nebbiolo is pronounced neeby-oh-low.

What wines are similar to Nebbiolo infographic

Nebbiolo has a similar weight to Pinot Noir and Sangiovese.

What food pairs well with Nebbiolo infographic

Nebbiolo pairs well with high fat dished like slow braised meat and aged cheese.

How long can I cellar Nebbiolo for infographic

You can cellar Nebbiolo for up to 10 years.

What is the wine profile of Nebbiolo infographic

Nebbiolo is mid-weight wine with higher tannins.

Do you know what Nebbiolo is named after infographic

Nebbiolo is named after the Italian word for fog (nebbia).



Rose, cherry, leather, tar, and anise.    



Cool to moderate climates such as King Valley, McLaren Vale, and Adelaide Hills



Cheeses like aged parmesan, plus slow-braised meat dishes.



Nebbiolo is more age-worthy than many red wines, and in most cases can be cellared for up to 10 years or more where deeper, more nuanced flavours are developed, and the variety's signature firm tannins have had a chance to soften. 



Nebbiolo is another of Italy’s Piedmont varieties and it could be argued that it is the most revered of Italy, from an international standpoint at the very least. As a variety, it is held in the highest regard by wine makers and wine drinkers across the world. and would only be rivalled by Pinot Noir in its ability to express the most subtle nuances of various terroirs. 

A big difference, though, is that Nebbiolo hasn’t much escaped from its northern Italian confines. To this day, approximately 75 percent of the world’s plantings of the variety are still in Piedmont.

As a variety, Nebbiolo has a very long history, with its first mention in 1266, and repeated mentions throughout 13th and 14th century literature. Its age and DNA testing draw the conclusion that its parents are extinct, though it is impossible to determine whether it was originally from Piedmont or Valtellina. 



In Italy, the two most famous Piedmont regions where Nebbiolo is grown are Barolo and Barbaresco, so like Champagne or Burgundy in France, the wine is referred to as Barolo or Barbaresco.



Small plantings of the Nebbiolo grape were made in the Hunter Valley in the early 1980s, but it wasn’t until the Pizzini family started planting it in the King Valley during the late 1980s that the variety started to make itself known. The first single varietal Nebbiolo produced by the Pizzini family was the 1991 vintage. While Nebbiolo is difficult to grow, Australian winemakers are crafting some stellar, award-winning examples.  



There are only around 200 hectares is Nebbiolo grapes planted in Australia. Some of the best Nebbiolo wine in Australia is grown in King Valley, McLaren Vale, Adelaide Hills, the Yarra, Hunter and Alpine Valleys, and Heathcote, where the climate is cool to moderate and offers a good diurnal shift (warm days and cool nights) to allow the variety to show its best. 

Nebbiolo is said to be derived from the Italian word for ‘fog’, and Henschke’s plantings of the variety are situated on an elevated north facing slope in Eden Valley, which sees its own share of fog, and produces a consistently great example.It’s also thriving in Hilltops in NSW, where alternative varieties have hit their straps. 

According to Australian growers of Nebbiolo grapes, patience is critical in quality production. Vine age is hugely important in getting consistent fruit quality that balances intensity, aromatics, and structure.  

“Whilst Nebbiolo is my favourite grape, it is easily the most difficult to grow,” explains Peter Saturno, CEO of Adelaide Hills’ Longview Wines. “Being the last to pick, it has longer time on the vine and therefore exposure to more issues and elements, but ask most wine industry people and they will say some of the greatest wines made today are made with the Nebbiolo grape.” 

Stuart Knox is a wine writer, wine show judge, and owner of Sydney’s Fix Wine Bar + Restaurant, and says he’s a huge fan of Nebbiolo. 

“What has really hooked me is that I find a uniqueness to the individual terroirs, a similarity across each region, and most remarkable for me is that they all carry characters that speak to me of Australian Nebbiolo, not attempting to replicate the wines of Piedmont.” 



Nebbiolo sits comfortably between big, tannic varieties like Shiraz, and lighter Pinot Noir, and delivers wines of amazing aromatics, and great fruit intensity without weight, mostly due to its traditional characters of bright acidity and distinct tannins. It delivers aromas and flavours of rose, cherry and raspberry, leather, tar, and anise.    



When it comes to comparisons to other red wines, Australian Nebbiolo is mostly medium-bodied and similar in weight to Pinot Noir and Sangiovese, so if you enjoy those varieties, you should give it a go.  



As its origins are in Italy, it makes sense that the best food pairings for Nebbiolo are Italian-style dishes, especially those that feature braised or fattier cuts of meats, and those with a lot of cheese like parmesan, pecorino, and wash-rind. 

One of Nebbiolo’s characters is an anise aroma and flavour, so it also pairs well with richer Asian-style dishes that contain spices like Sichuan pepper, five spice, clove, star anise, and cinnamon. 

For a quick look at what pairs with Nebbiolo check out these tasty dishes and recipes.



At its heart, Nebbiolo is crafted to be enjoyed with great food and good friends, so why not give it a try today – you may just discover a delicious new favourite! 

Published on
15 Aug 2023


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