Synonym: Brunenta, Chiavennasca, Marchesana, Martesana, Nebiolo, Picotendre, Picotèner (or Picotendro), Picoultener, Prunenta, Spanna.
Commonly mistaken for: Bolgnino, Bonaria, Croatina, Dolcetto, Freisa, Grignolino (or Chiavennaschino), Nebbiolo d’Alba, Nebbiolo dolcetto, Rubiola, Spannibiò, Spannina.
Origin: Nebbiolo is a red wine grape typical variety of Piedmont (region of northern Italy), native to the zone of Alberese and the Langhe. Cultivated since the 14th Century in the zone of Langhe, around Aosta, Vercelli and in Valtellina (Crescenzi 1495). The origin of the name is not certain, but there are two interesting hypotheses. The ripe Nebbiolo grape has very prominent bloom that gives it a “foggy” or “frosted” look, so the name could come from the Italian word “nebbia” (fog). It is an alternative possibility that the name simply comes from the late ripening of this variety: during the period of autumn fogs, and again the Italian words “nebbie autannali”.
This grapevine is characterized by a high intravarietal phenotypical variability, probably caused by a primordial multiplication by seed, or by effect of accumulation of genetic variations, or by the presence of virus.
Within the variety Nebbiolo this variability produces groups of individuals (biotypes) different both in vegetative organs (leaves, shoots etc) and reproductive organs (bunches). These biotypes can be classified under their two zones of origin: Langhe and Valtellina.
- Biotype Lampia: Has a bigger apex of the shoot in comparison to the other biotypes, with leaves medium-large size, 3-lobed or 5-lobed; has pyramidal bunches with a developed wing. The berry is small size; the skin has a good colour, but less intense than biotype Michet.
- Biotype Michet: Very small apex of the shoot; the leaves have medium-small size, 3-lobed; berry of medium dimensions and dark colour.
- Biotype Rosè: Growing tip not so cottony; the leaves have medium size and 3-lobed, the connection to the petiole is of red colour. Bunches have medium-large size and conical form. The berry shows a characteristic violet colour.
- Biotype Bolla: Growing tip of silvered white colour without reddish edges; leaf medium size of blade, orbicular shape rarely 3-lobed.
- Biotype Briotti: Very vigorous vines, with leaves and clusters of larger size. The bunch is characterized by a dense distribution of berries and more developed wings.
- Biotype Chiavennascone: Vigorous vines, with more developed internodes; the leaves and bunches are of larger size. The bunch is dense and of pyramidal form. Shows a susceptibility to botrytis.
- Biotype Intagliata: Leaf with big sinuses and high density of teeth. The bunch is of medium-large size, with a loose density of berries. The berry shows good colour in the first phases of maturation.
Agronomic and environmental aspects: This variety is a very late-season ripener, therefore it needs higher exposures, especially in cooler climates, in order to reach maturity. It is very sensitive to soil and geography, these can modify the characteristics of the wine, as well as the pruning (rod pruning is perferred) and training system. In Italy traditional systems are used, such as the modified Guyot (vertical shoot positioned, and rod pruning) with 16-20 buds per vine, divided on 2 or 3 canes (or shoots), which a spur is added. It needs a high rapport between exposed leaf surface and production per vine, therefore bunch thinning is recommended to improve the quality of the final product. Nebbiolo generally prefers a long and late pruning and it performs much better in calcareous rather than sandy soils. In regards to its compatibility with the principal rootstocks, there is a good affinity with 420A but different apparent problems with hybrid rootstocks from riparian X rupestris (as 3309C and 101-14) in the calcareous soil.
Diseases, pests and disorders: Susceptible to powdery mildew, but it shows a good resistance to downy mildew and botrytis. Particularly sensitive to the frosts and spring rains, that can cause alternation of production and “hen and chicken”.
Growing Tip: fully open, cottony, of silvered white colour with reddish edges.
Leaf: medium or large size of blade, pentagonal or orbicular shape. Has open V or U-shaped petiolar sinus, rarely lyre shaped; the lateral superior sinuses are bigger and U or lyre shaped, while the inferior (if there are any) are like an open V. The profile is flat and hairless; the connection to the petiole is of a pink colour.
Bunch: medium or large size; of pyramidal or conical form, with densely distributed berries and with one wing, that in some cases look like a second cluster.
Berry: of medium dimensions, round or elliptic; thin skin, but strong, of a uniform dark-violet colour, covered by much bloom.
These selections of Nebbiolo have been chosen to cover a full range of Nebbiolo characteristics to cater for whatever wine styles are required. They have been selected from some of the best vineyards in North Eastern Italy. The biotype “Lampia” predominates because it is more easily adaptable to different soils and climates.
- MAT 1:The bunch structure and the growing tip shows that is one of the biotypes prevailing in Langhe, probably biotype “Lampia”. The vine has medium-high vigour, with a semi-erect vegetation growth habit. The leaf has a medium-large size, 3 or 5-lobed; the bunch has medium size and conical form, with round berries. Good resistance to botrytis. Very early bud bust, approximately few days before Chardonnay.
- MAT 4:Biotype “Rosè”, growing tip not so cottony; the leaves have large size and are 3-lobed, the connection to the petiole is of red colour. The bunch is medium sized, of conical form. The berry shows a characteristic violet colour. Shows a low fertility of 0.7-1 bunches per shoot.
- MAT 5:Biotype “Lampia”. Bunch is medium-large, of pyramidal form with wings. The berry has medium-small size and short and oval shape. Susceptible to botrytis and powdery mildew in rainy conditions.
- MAT 6:The vine has medium-high vigour. The form of tip is half-open. The growing tip is big, typical of “Lampia” biotype, characterized by a conical form. The berry has small dimension and round shape; the skin has a good colour, but less intense than the other clones. Not so early bud bust (approximately a few days after Chardonnay).
- MAT 7:Biotype “Lampia”. Vines of medium vigour, characterised by a low fertility (0.7-1 bunches per shoot) with bunches of medium to large dimension, sometimes winged, of pyramidal form. The berry has medium to large size, round, very dark-violet colour.
- MAT 8:Biotype “Lampia”. Vines of low vigour and high productivity. The bunch and the berry are small, with a thick skin covered by a good quantity of bloom. Very late ripening, approximately 1 week after Cabernet Sauvignon.
- MAT 9:The vine has medium vigour, with a medium and constant production. The bunch, of long pyramidal form, has large size. This type of bunch prevails in the area of Langhe, under the biotype “Lampia”. The berry has medium-small dimension, blue to black colour, with a good quantity of bloom.
- MAT 10:Selected from the biotype “Lampia”. Vines of medium-high vigour and low-constant production. The leaf has large size, 3 or 5-lobed. The conical bunches are of medium size, with medium density of berries. The berry is of medium dimension, dark-violet colour. The ripening time is approximately the same of Cabernet Sauvignon.
Principal Viticultural and Physiological Characteristics:
(1): The vigour of these clones can be classified between medium and high, but inside this category can be noted some differences: + (more vigorous); - (less vigorous).
(2): The fertility is expressed in number of clusters per shoot.
(3): The bud burst in this variety is early, approximately 2 days before Chardonnay, but inside this group of clones there are some differences: + (later); - (earlier).
(4): The ripening in this variety is late, approximately 1 week after Cabernet Sauvignon, but inside this group of clones there are some differences: + (later); - (earlier).
(5): The colorimetric range was tested from the juice not by phenolic analysis:
1) Very slightly coloured
2) Slightly coloured
4) Strongly coloured
5) Very strongly coloured
Wines made from Nebbiolo are typically dark, acid, tannic and high in alcohol. The best smell of cherries, violets and black liquorice or truffles and have rich, chewy, deep and long-lasting flavours. A good Nebbiolo made in Piedmont is traditionally aged for several years in oak, and after this by further years of bottle ageing to develop intense floral flavours especially roses and violets; for example the famous wines Barolo and Barbaresco take more than three years of aging. Is important to remember that it is not a wine with high content in anthocyanins and that with the aging its colour takes on yellowish reflexes. Nebbiolo is also important for several DOC and DOCG (Carema, Ghemme, Gattinara, Boca, Lessona, Bramaterra etc.).