Langhe Nebbiolo and Nebbiolo d’Alba: what’s the difference?

Glasses with Nebbiolo and Nebbiolo d'Alba wine Boroli

Langhe Nebbiolo and Nebbiolo d’Alba are two undisputed protagonists of Italy’s wine culture. Before delving into the differences, here’s a solid summary on what unites them. Nebbiolo is one of the noblest and most representative grape varieties in the Italian wine landscape, an expression of the rich context of Piedmontese labels: land of wines of great elegance and complexity. Among these, Langhe Nebbiolo and Nebbiolo d’Alba hold a prominent place, offering unique tasting experiences, but also raising some questions: what is the difference between Langhe Nebbiolo and Nebbiolo d’Alba? In this article, we will savor the details, down to the subtlest and most characteristic hints, exploring the viticultural heart of the Langhe, a production area that enchants for the beauty and quality of its wines. A magic that for centuries has traversed the Piedmontese hills just like that light mist, the same haze observed on the grapes – that’s why it’s called Nebbiolo wine. 

What types of wines are produced in the Langhe region?

If we don’t exactly know where the Langhe region is, we must bring our minds to southern Piedmont, between the provinces of Cuneo and Asti, and imagine a hilly landscape, soft, with autumnal pastel shades. It’s a geographical area famous worldwide for exceptional wine production. It’s the birthplace of prestigious wines like Barolo and Barbaresco, both exclusively produced with Nebbiolo grapes. In addition to these giants, the Langhe area produces a wide variety of wines, including full-bodied reds, aromatic whites, and Metodo Classico sparkling wines. From Dolcetto to Barbera, but also refined whites like Arneis and Moscato find in this area the ideal terrain to express all their aromatic potential. 

If we were to indicate among these, only one to serve as a standard-bearer of the oenological heritage of the Langhe region, the choice would probably fall on Barolo. Called “the king of wines and the wine of kings,” with a strict disciplinary and unparalleled structure, Barolo is a full-bodied and complex wine, with great aging potential, endowed with intensity, depth, personality. 

The culture of Barolo has been carried on by Boroli since the 1500s, with deep roots that draw from the most authentic winemaking tradition. The Barolo DOCG – cultivated by Boroli in the vineyards of Castiglione Falletto – is the perfect bottle to savor the balance between structure and elegance of the Langhe region.

The Differences between Langhe Nebbiolo and Nebbiolo d’Alba 

The differences between Langhe Nebbiolo and Nebbiolo d’Alba primarily lie in three factors: the production area, the organoleptic characteristics, and the production regulations that define each denomination. Here’s a summary of the main distinctions: 

  • Production Area: Langhe Nebbiolo is produced in the extensive area of the Langhe region, which includes several municipalities in the province of Cuneo. This denomination allows for a certain flexibility in terms of terroir, giving rise to wines that can vary considerably depending on the specific cultivation location. Nebbiolo d’Alba, on the other hand, has a more limited and defined production area, concentrated around the city of Alba and in some neighboring municipalities. This narrower geographical boundary tends to produce wines with more uniform characteristics compared to the vast area of the Langhe. 
  • Organoleptic Characteristics: Langhe Nebbiolo tends to have a more varied aromatic profile, ranging from floral and fruity notes to more earthy and spicy tones, reflecting the wide diversity of the Langhe terroir. They are known for their elegance, with fine tannins and good acidity promising excellent aging potential. Nebbiolo d’Alba, given its origin from a more restricted area, tends to show a slightly more intense aromatic profile, with a more pronounced presence of tannins, while maintaining the elegance and complexity typical of Nebbiolo. These wines can exhibit a slightly more robust structure, ideal for aging, which further enhances their qualities. 
  • Production Regulations: Both denominations have specific regulations that establish the viticultural and vinification practices, including yield limits, minimum alcohol levels, and aging periods. These rules are designed to ensure the quality and typicality of wines produced under each denomination but may vary slightly between Langhe Nebbiolo and Nebbiolo d’Alba, influencing the final characteristics of the wines. 

How Many Types of Nebbiolo are There? 

Before trying to define the different types of Nebbiolo, it’s worth remembering that “Nebbiolo” is the name of the grape variety, the grape from which some of Piedmont’s oenological masterpieces can originate. Among these, the aforementioned Barolo and Barbaresco – both wines that use Nebbiolo exclusively, with different criteria distinguishing the denominations, including cultivation territories, aging times, and methods. It’s interesting to note that Nebbiolo – although considered a unique variety – can vary greatly from one vine to another. In this analysis, we mention three of what are defined by experts as pseudo-subvarieties (or cultuvars): “Nebbiolo Lampia,” “Nebbiolo Michet,” and “Nebbiolo Rosé.” These ramifications in the different varieties originate from a peculiarity of the cultivation itself: Nebbiolo is particularly receptive to the stimuli and specifics of the terrain – its long roots (reaching up to 7 meters) capture the essence of details like few other grapes. 

What does Nebbiolo pair with? 

Before delving into pairings: what does Langhe Nebbiolo taste like? It’s a complex and aromatic wine, which can suggest notes of red fruits, such as cherries and raspberries, sometimes accompanied by hints of rose and violet; aging also encourages nuances of anise, tobacco, and spices. 

All the complexity of Nebbiolo, together with its distinctive tannins, pairs beautifully with rich and savory dishes that can contrast its robustness. First of all, red meats: a nice piece of roast, a grilled steak, or a fragrant braised dish are ideal. The richness of the meat blends perfectly with the tannic structure of the wine, creating an impeccable balance. 

Even wilder tastes, dishes based on wild boar, deer, or duck, go beautifully with the earthy notes of the wine, enhancing its complexity without being overwhelmed. Excellent pairings with Nebbiolo are also dishes based on truffles (another excellence Made in Langhe) and cheeses, such as well-aged Parmigiano Reggiano or a robust pecorino – intense flavors that contrast and at the same time enhance the tannic power of Nebbiolo. To stay on theme with regional dishes, bagna cauda and risotto are always winning combinations. In conclusion, choosing the right pairing for Nebbiolo means looking for dishes that reflect its intensity and complexity, for a symbiosis of flavors. 

To elevate the best dinners, the Boroli cellar proposes its Langhe Nebbiolo 1661. 

A convivial label that conveys the best flavors of the grape variety, intense and fruity. The cadastral document dated 1661 attests Brunella as an area dedicated to the production of great grapes for great wines. An occasion, and a wine, which are unforgettable. 

VISIT THE
WINERY

The Boroli cellars, located in Castiglione Falletto, are the perfect place to experience the magical territory of the Langhe through tasting experiences and to enjoy an unforgettable experience of discovery and great wine.

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