Langhe is a DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) region of Northern Italy, in the province of Piemonte (or Piedmont). The word is the plural form of langa, which is what the locals call a long, low-lying hill. That gives you the best indication of the famous Langhe landscape, parts of which are now UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The DOC area of Langhe covers a much wider area than most and has a long, long history of winemaking. Mostly, the wines from the region are traditionally made, with current winemakers following the legacy of their ancestors. The varieties found are quintessentially Italian, with Arneis, Vermentino, Nebbiolo, Dolcetto, Barbera and Freisa amongst the most common.
Langhe’s boundaries include some of the most famous wines for the highest level up in the classification chart – DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita). DOCG wines are governed by strict rules relating to their production, including what varieties are permitted, their yield limits, grape ripeness, winemaking procedures and barrel/bottle maturation. Every DOCG wine has to pass a taste test with numbered government seals to deter counterfeiting.
DOCG regions in Langhe include Barolo and Barbaresco, renowned for their Nebbiolo in particular (but don’t sleep on their Dolcetto and Barbera!) as well as Asti, famous for Moscato and Dogliani, known for Dolcetto. Unlike France, whose designations were determined by monks centuries ago, Italy’s classification system only came into effect in 1980, yet do not think this underestimates how seriously these classifications are regarded.
Barolo is among a favourite within the Sometimes Always team, so let’s dive into those a little further to understand the complexities of DOCG classification and its importance to the region. To earn the name Barolo, which is the name of a village, a Nebbiolo must undergo at least 38 months ageing prior to commercial release, 18 of which must be spent in barrel, with the remainder in bottle. To add a cherry on top and be designated riserva, a total aging time of 62 months must be achieved.
In short, DOCG wines mean business. Unsurprisingly, because of the hoops they have to jump through to earn the classification, they also command the highest prices. While a worthy investment, for those looking for a little more wallet-friendly substitution, a Langhe DOC wine would still offer an exceptional drink
The idea is that the tannic and fragrant Nebbiolo wines need time to soften and show their best attributes, with earth, truffles (another Piemonte speciality) and dark chocolate coming through with age. The key Barolo quality of ‘tar and roses’ is most desired, along with bright ruby colour, firm tannins and high acidity and alcohol. Barolo is considered some of the best – and most expensive – Italian wines, taking time, skill and patience to craft wines that have presence and power.
Within the rulebook, producers have their own specialties and methods, particularly around large format maturation, which allow each of the sites they pick from to show unique characteristics of terroir.
One thing that is undeniable – Piemonte is committed to wine. They have mastered their craft, stayed on course and perfected a range of unique wines over generations. Classifications are a good informer, but can often become over-politicised, rather than helpful. Some of our favourite Piemonte wines are among the cheapest (BeraBarbera can do no wrong!) so don’t be governed by price alone. Just like the Italians, it just takes a little passion, pasta and people to find your perfect Piemontese match.
Ave Maria. We have created a pack that is essentially an ode to Piedmont reds in all their glory. Three wines that are delicate, structured and traditional, yet each containing their own flavoursome rendition of some iconic grapes. Our favourite slurpy things with a good meaty pasta dish with a side of Italian disco.
Piedmont and Nebbiolo go hand in hand, but what about its other succulent siblings? Well, we’ve created a pack that heroes Nebbiolo’s nearest and dearest and firmly puts the region on the map as a jack of all trades (and master of them all too). This mixed pack covers all Piedmont bases, from aromatic whites, a juicy rosato, a sweet and creamy moscato to rare and fragrant reds. A liquid exploration.