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Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

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Italy’s northernmost wine zone in the alpine far north of lombardy where the nebbiolo grape (here called Chiavennasca) is cultivated, is a narrow valley formed by the River Adda as it flows from east to west before emptying its waters into Lake Como. Despite its 46-degree latitude, the valley—protected to the north by the Alpi Retiche and to the south by the Alpi Orbie—has a relatively privileged climate (not unlike the warmer wine regions across the border in switzerland) with a high percentage of sunny days and moderate and evenly spread rains throughout the year. The steep, terraced vineyards optimize solar radiation for grape ripening. A certain amount of daytime heat is also stored and released during the cooler hours of the evening and night by the dry stone walls of the terraces and the very rocky soils of the vineyards. All of this helps compensate for lower median temperatures than in Nebbiolo’s classic areas in piemonte to the south west. Nonetheless, the wines themselves, while unmistakably Nebbiolo, do tend to be rather lighter, with more perceptible tannins and acidity than the wines of the langhe or those made from spanna in the Novara-Vercelli hills.