A row of bottles

Piedmont – It’s not just Barolo and Barbaresco…

5 March 2023

Mark Dearing


The finest wines of Barolo and Barbaresco are now highly coveted and sought after. For good reason, in our view. Over the past decade in particular, consumers seem to have finally latched on to the unbelievable quality and terroir-transparency that the great Nebbiolo grape can convey. Gone are days of brash, highly tannic alcoholic brutes that need decades to come around, as winemakers are now more occupied with their own Burgundy-adjacent model that prizes a purity of fruit and high toned expression, with a finessed power that can be highly alluring and sumptuous from the get-go, without negating their ageability.

Accompanying this general uptick in quality are inevitable price rises, as the production of the best wines, often from tightly demarcated single vineyard MGAs, has been far outstripped by the level of investment in the vineyards and cellars, and the market’s thirst for top wines from all over the world. In former years, top Piedmont wines were sold primarily in Italy and the US, at frankly giveaway prices. Producers have regaled us many times with stories of their parents having to tie loose bottles of their beloved Barolo with the far more popular Dolcetto and Barbera wines, otherwise they simply wouldn’t be able to sell them.

What all this proves is that Piedmont has a long and varied history that has survived thanks to a broadly quality driven, small-scale philosophy across the entire region, turning out wines that though now highly desirable, have always been made with the passionate drinker at heart. Speak to any producer about the wines they drink at home and usually it is not the Barolo or Barbaresco that adorns the most glamourous tables but Dolcetto, Nebbiolo or Barbera. These are the fresh and delicious bread-and-butter offerings that have long kept the wheels turning. They have a unique place in Italy’s wine landscape as these indigenous grape varieties don’t travel outside of Piedmont. Thus, they have all the ‘sense of place’ and the same open-hearted Piemontese feel as much grander labels. The maxim that a wine producer is only as good as their entry-level wine rings as true in Barolo and Barbaresco as it does all over Europe.

Here we have spotlighted six amazing value wines, each with its own unique story to tell, courtesy of some of the region’s most starry yet artisanal producers. In a world of snow-topped mountains, rich pastas, truffles and cheeses, it is in Piedmont’s ‘value arena’ that some of the most honestly delicious and rewarding bottles can be found.


Roero, Arneis, Fratelli Brovia

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Fratelli Brovia is a highly celebrated, traditional Barolo producer situated in Castiglione Falletto. They can trace their origins as grape growers as far back as 1863. The Arneis comes from Roero, a warmer sandier area situated roughly between Barolo and Barbaresco, and is one of the best expressions of the variety. Zesty with a cool citrus, white peach and mineral spine, it is refreshing but with real character. It was aged for 6 months in concrete tank on the fine lees.


Verduno doc Basadone, Castello di Verduno

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Castello di Verduno is a great old estate that is reaching new heights under the direction of winemaker Mario Andrion. The style is traditional and authentic, favouring wines with drinkability and finesse over power and point-scoring. The Basadone is produced from the historic indigenous grape variety Pelaverga, only found in this village in Barolo. The vineyards are south-east facing and the white soils are mainly composed of limestone. The vinification is short and the wine is aged in steel tank for 9 months to give a floral, elegant and refreshing wine with crispy cherry-driven fruits with touches of herb, flower and strawberry.

Barbera d'Alba, Elio Altare

Silvia Altare has fully taken over in charge of this famed Barolo estate and has continued to produce wines in the way that Elio set out, namely full of clear-cut, engaging fruits and soaring perfumes. Dubbed “masters of the barrique”, Silvia prefers to describe her wines as “modern traditionalists” and they are certainly packed with vivid character, offer silky textures and are some of the most intense wines Piedmont has to offer. Viticulture is organic and sulphur usage is incredibly low. The Barbera d’Alba is fermented in stainless steel for a quick extraction and then the wine is aged for five months in used barrique. These are some of the most honest, pure and environmentally friendly wines in the region.


Nebbiolo d'Alba, Valmaggiore, Marengo

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Justerini & Brooks has worked with Marco Marengo from the very beginning. In 2001 he broke out alone after his father died and, inspired by producers like Elio Altare, has carved out a small but loyal following from his base in La Morra. Though famous for his Brunate, Marco also owns a small, steep parcel of Nebbiolo in Valmaggiore, a sandy zone which produces enormously expressive wines with ripe pliant tannins.


Dolcetto d'Alba Bricco Oriolo, Azelia

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‘Bricco’ in the local Piemontese dialect translates as ‘hill’, indicating in this instance that the wine comes from a fillet of a single vineyard at the top of the slope. If you think Dolcetto is a light-weight, entry-level red then the Azelia Bricco Oriolo will serve to change that. Grown in Montelupo Albese, it is a full south facing site (which many would replant to the more valuable Nebbiolo) with vines averaging 55 years of age. Ageing is carried out exclusively in stainless steel to preserve the freshness and clarity of spicy red and black fruits, flowers and plums.


Nebbiolo Langhe, Disanfrancesco, Roberto Voerzio

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Roberto Voerzio is one of Barolo’s most acclaimed and highly sought after producers. Famed for his painstaking desire to keep yields low, he works off the tenets of incredibly high density plantings and regular green harvests to ensure that only the most pristine, clean fruit makes it in to the winery. The wines are an exquisite mix of silken fruits, sweet tannins and the most gorgeous aromas. This, the estate Nebbiolo is, for many, on a qualitative par with many other producers’ Barolo Classico. Long-aged for the style, it is raised for 12 months in barrels of varying sizes (30% new oak) and is then assembled in stainless steel where it ages for a further 8 months before bottling. Time has shown this to be an especially high quality wine for the money and it can be aged over at least ten years.