Grapevine & Vintner Profile, Wining & Dining

An Introduction to Virginia’s Nebbiolo

By Matthew Fitzsimmons Few grapes are as synonymous with the region they come from as nebbiolo. Indigenous to the Piedmont region of northwest Italy, it’s the source of two of the world’s most famous (and expensive) wines; Barolo and Barbaresco. Powerfully tannic yet possessing delicate aromas and expressive fruit, wine critic Madeline Puckette famously quipped drinking nebbiolo was like “Getting kicked in the face by a ballerina”. Nebbiolo’s relationship with the mountainous Piedmont isn’t coincidental; even the name is a reference to its home. Many believe the word Nebbiolo comes from the Latin Nebula, which means ‘fog’ or ‘mist’. This fog inundates the region during harvest, helping regulate the temperature of the grapes. Such conditions contribute to nebbiolo’s reputation as a finicky, terroir-driven wine. Early budding yet late ripening, few places outside Piedmont are thought to have the near-goldilocks conditions to allow nebbiolo to mature to full ripeness. Its requirement for an especially long growing season gives many Virginia winegrowers pause when considering it for their vineyard, given the state’s erratic weather. So it’s somewhat surprising that nebbiolo is nevertheless gaining traction in Virginia. According to the 2021 Virginia Grape Report, 47 acres of nebbiolo are now grown in the state. While that’s nowhere near the acreage of Cabernet Franc or Chardonnay, neither is it an outlier found in only a handful of locations. A growing number of winegrowers seem to think nebbiolo is worth the investment. But why? Luca Paschina: The OG (Original Grower) of Virginia’s Nebbiolo Luca Paschina of Barboursville Vineyards is probably the person most responsible for the grape’s introduction into Virginia. His love of nebbiolo is understandable. Not only is Luca a native of Piedmont, nebbiolo is the first wine he’s ever made. When asked to compare how the different growing conditions of Virginia and Piedmont impacts…

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