Nebbiolo: general information

general information managed by Istituto per la Protezione Sostenibile delle Piante - CNR
How to cite this source Schneider A., Boccacci P., Raimondi S., 2014. Nebbiolo. In: Italian Vitis Database,, ISSN 2282-006X
acknowledgments Ager Foundation, Regione Piemonte
botanical information
type of origin
Vitis vinifera
variety group
not available
variety for
Registered in the National Catalogue
Official name
Nebbiolo N.
official synonyms (3)
synonyms reported in the National Catalogue
  • Spanna (Province di Novara e Vercelli)
  • Chiavennasca (Valtellina (Sondrio))
  • Prunent (Val d'Ossola (Verbano-Cusio-Ossola))
documented synonyms (4)
synonyms documented by the Istitution that appear with the eventual support of the literature
  • Spanna (Province di Novara e Vercelli)
  • Chiavennasca (Valtellina (Sondrio))
  • Prunent (Val d'Ossola (Verbano-Cusio-Ossola))
  • Picotendro (Valle d'Aosta)
released clones
  • shoot
  • leaf
  • bunch
  • berry
Historical references

Nebbiolo is with no doubts one of the most renowned Italian historical grape varieties. Its earlier quotation dates to 1266 (the date has been established with certainty only recently by J. Vouillamoz), making Nebbiolo one of the varieties attested by more time. In Piedmont only Gragnolato (a white grape variety perhaps now disappeared) boasts the oldest citations. The "Nibiol" mentioned in the thirteenth century historical document was present in the vineyards belonging to the Rivoli castle, near Turin. A few decades later (at the beginning of the fourteenth century) its spread was already quite broad: from Alba and from Roero to Asti’s surroundings (De Crescentiis, 1309); from the Val d'Ossola (present with the synonym of Prunent), to the current province of Turin (Comba and Dal Verme, 1990), always keeping a presence well documented almost everywhere. According to D. Zoia, the estimated first reference in Valtellina (province of Sondrio) goes back to the 1500: is this a well known area for Nebbiolo’s alpine culture.

Such frequent occurrence in relatively ancient historical texts indicates Nebbiolo was considered a variety of high value, because only noble grape varieties deserved a name in written texts. Furthermore, it also indicates Nebbiolo’s expansion in north-western Italy was significant in the past. There aren’t other references to Nebbiolo in other Italian regions nor in foreign wine-growing areas, if not somewhat sporadic and always starting from the nineteenth century.

It 's only starting from the nineteenth century that Nebbiolo succeeded with the style of still and austere wine with which came out to the top today, replacing a Nebbiolo sweet and sparkling in vogue earlier. In territories of Northern Piedmont, Nebbiolo is the ingredient of the wines from Lessona, Ghemme and Gattinara, whose fame dates back from few centuries ago. In his monograph of Nebbiolo, Giorgio Gallesio (1817-39) indicated the variety as "Nebbiolo canavesano" (i.e. ‘Nebbiolo from Canavese’, a region in northern Piedmont), defining it as “the principal grape from the foot-Alps" to emphasize the special vocation to its culture of the territories in the north side of the Po river.

distribution & variation

Nebbiolo accounts today 5500 ha in Italy. Except some occasional presence in the north-east of the country (it must be underlined that in Sardinia Dolcetto is mistaken for Nebbiolo), the principal growing area is located in the province of Cuneo in Piemonte (in the surroundings of Alba and the Roero) where there are slightly less than 4000 ha. In the lower Aosta Valley and in Northern Piedmont (Torino, Biella, Vercelli and Novara Cusio-Ossola provinces) there are in total 500 ha and in Valtellina (Sondrio province) other 800 ha.  In the other regions of the world Nebbiolo is very rare, while there are small quantities (400 ha in total) in the New World, especially USA, Mexico, Australia and South-America.

Nebbiolo has in Northern Italy many local synonyms, among which the most important are: Chiavennasca in Valtellina, Prunent in Val d’Ossola (extreme north of Piedmont), Picotendro (or Picoltener) in the lower Aosta Valley, Spanna in the provinces of Biella, Vercelli and Novara. In these last provinces, the variety Croatina is called Nebbiolo, which can lead to some confusion. In the South eastern of Piedmont Dolcetto is instead called ‘Nibiò’ (in the local dialect), name still used today in certain areas.

At the foot of the western Alps, in the old vineyards, now being abandoned, located at the mouth of the valleys, several distinct varieties called Nebbiolo were recovered, like the ‘Nebbiolo d’Antom’ (Antom’s Nebbiolo), the Nebbiolo scarlatìn (Scarlet Nebbiolo), the Nebbiolo di Aisone (from Aisone, a village were it was intensively grown in the past). All these grapes are homonyms Nebbiolo with a very limited cultural importance today. The only one with a reputation somewhat more than local, is the so called Nebbiolo di Dronero (from Dronero), which turned out to be identical to the Neiret from Pinerolo or Bourgnin, today known as Chatus (the French denomination).

All the presumed Nebbiolo ‘sub-varieties’ defined by the grape farmers from Alba, among which Lampia, Bolla, Michet and Rosé (Dalmasso et al., 1959), must be allocated to a unique genotype, except in the case of Nebbiolo rosé (the same as Chiavennaschino from Valtellina), which turned out to be a different variety, though genetically related to Nebbiolo. Freisa, Vespolina and other minor varieties from Piedmont are also closely related to Nebbiolo (Schneider et al., 2006).

technological use

Nebbiolo gives wines of highly power, complex aroma and great elegance, among the most appreciated (for quality and values) in the world. The great structure requires wood aging for a period more or less prolonged, which increases ranging from the wines produced in the Roero, to the ones from Barbaresco and from Barolo, and to the wines from Northern Piedmont: Lessona, Gattinara and Ghemme. The pigment contents of Nebbiolo grapes are never high, while in the anthocyanin profile cyanidin and peonidin prevail. Therefore, varietal Nebbiolos never exhibit the intense and violet colours of most reputed wines from Bordeaux, but a shade and a tonality rather different.

In Northern Piedmont Nebbiolo is blended with other varieties such as Croatina and Vespolina, both rich in colour, in quantities more or less important but always lesser. Also, there are successful experiences of producing Nebbiolo in rosé style and even sparkling Nebbiolo.

bibliographies (4)
authors year title journal citation
Comba R., Dal Verme A. 1990 Repertorio di vini e vitigni diffusi nel Piemonte medievale Vigne e vini nel Piemonte medievale. Ed. L'Arciere, Cuneo.
Dalmasso G., Dell’Olio G., Corte A. 1962 Nebbiolo. In: Principali vitigni da vino coltivati in Italia. MAF, Roma, Tomo II, 37.
de Crescentiis P. 1309 Opus ruralium commodorum Ristampa anastatica dell'edizione di Strasburgo del 1486. Biblioteca internazionale "La Vigna", Vicenza.
Schneider A., Torello Marinoni D., Boccacci P., Botta R. 2006 Relazioni genetiche del vitigno ‘Nebbiolo’. Quad. Vitic. Enol. Univ. Torino, 28, 93-100.
updated at 2016-11-16 14:59:37 (7 years ago)