In Langhe, wine is more than a beverage—it’s a way of life. Winemakers in this hilly area located in the Piedmont region of northern Italy have been cultivating grapes here for many centuries. The region even has a coveted spot on the UNESCO World Heritage list due to its long history of winemaking. The best Langhe wines (particularly Nebbiolo) are intense, tannic, and long-lived, full of heady perfume and bright acidity. Its rich history coupled with the incredibly high quality of the wines has made Langhe a top destination for wine-loving tourists and serious collectors.
Our guide to the best Langhe wines will help you build a collection from this diverse Italian region. Investing in the full range of wines that this region has to offer is a great way to build an exciting collection that you’ll enjoy for many years to come.
What Makes Langhe Wines Distinctive?
“Langhe” is Italian for long, low hills, and it is a fitting name for this iconic Italian winemaking region. Langhe is located in the rolling hills east of the Tanaro river and just south of Alba. These hills have helped preserve traditional farming in Langhe. Modern equipment can’t harvest fruit on some of the uneven slopes, so much of this work is still done by hand. The top Langhe producers hand-pick their grapes, ensuring that only the ripest berries are used in the final blend.
The slightly chilly, misty conditions in Langhe allow the grapes to develop very high acidity.
Another reason why the best Langhe wines are so high in quality is that the terroir and climate are perfect for growing long-lived, acidic grapes like Nebbiolo. Langhe is a cold terroir due to its close proximity to the glacier-topped Alps to the north. The region is also often covered in a thick blanket of fog (“nebbia” in Italian), particularly in the early morning hours. These slightly chilly, misty conditions allow the grapes to develop very high acidity. This is where the Nebbiolo name originates—winemakers noticed that these grapes thrived in fog-shrouded vineyards. The soil also plays a role in quality. Most of the region has limestone and clay soil. The best vineyards also have a complex subsoil of marl, chalk, and sulfur sands that effectively drains excess water and prevents the fruit from becoming diluted.
Yet terroir and climate are only a small part of the greater picture. To start a collection of the best Langhe wines, you should become familiar with the many types of wine made here, as each has its own distinctive characteristics.
The Most Valuable and Delicious Langhe Wines
The best Langhe wines for collectors have high acidity and firm tannin, as these two qualities allow these wines to age for exceptionally long periods of time. Some of the longest-lived wines made in this area are:
- Barbera d’Alba: This is an acidic, juicy wine made from a blend of Barbera and Nebbiolo grapes. It’s relatively low in tannin, but its high acidity allows it to age for many years. Barbera d’Alba is among the finest wines made in the Langhe region.
- Barolo: Made from Nebbiolo grapes, Barolo is deeply concentrated in flavor. Some of these wines are quite tannic, but many modern producers are making Barolo wines that are slightly lower in tannin and therefore more approachable in their youth. They are full of complex flavors such as tar, roses, and dried fruit. These are usually the most valuable wines from Langhe and the best Barolo vintages can age for many decades.
- Barbaresco: Also made from Nebbiolo grapes, Barbaresco is high in acidity, but is less tannic than Barolo. These wines also soften much earlier, so they don’t take as long to reach maturity as Barolo. They are light-bodied and well-structured, with very prominent aromatics.
If you’re looking to collect age-worthy and valuable wines, focus on Barbera, Barolo, and Barbaresco.
All of the varieties above are potentially age-worthy and valuable, especially when made by the best Langhe wine producers. However, grape varieties are diverse in Langhe, so not all of the wines from this region are acidic and tannic. Langhe also produces round Dolcetto and light sparkling Friesa, among many other varieties. Here are a few of the best wines from this region that are usually meant to be drunk young:
- Arneis: A crisp, floral white wine.
- Langhe Bianco: A blend of Arneis, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc that is soft and fruit-forward.
- Langhe Dolcetto: A dry, juicy red wine.
- Dolcetto di Dogliani: A bolder, softer Dolcetto.
- Dolcetto delle Langhe Monregalesi: A more delicate, acidic Dolcetto.
- Langhe Favorita: An acidic white wine.
- Langhe Freisa: A refreshing, acidic sparkling red wine.
- Langhe Nebbiolo: A softer, more approachable Nebbiolo than Barbaresco and Barolo. It’s made from declassified grapes that didn’t make it into Barolo or Barbaresco blends.
There are many other varieties and styles made in Langhe that are not listed here. For example, some producers are beginning to experiment with non-native grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, though these styles aren’t very common.
If you’re looking to collect age-worthy and valuable wines, focus on Barbera, Barolo, and Barbaresco. If you want a mix of age-worthy and approachable young wines in your collection, seek out some early-drinking wines from the Langhe hills as well, such as refreshing Freisa or fruity Langhe Bianco. Regardless of whether you’re looking for an age-worthy wine or one that’s more approachable, the key to finding the best Langhe wines is to select bottles from top producers.
The Best Langhe Wine Producers
Langhe is home to many of Italy’s most reputable producers, some of which have been making wine for centuries. The producers that make some of the most valuable and collectible wines are:
- Azelia: Produces a number of Barolo labels as well as Barbera d’Alba, Dolcetto d’Alba, and Langhe Nebbiolo.
- Bruno Giacosa: Known for top-rated Barolo, Barbaresco, Arneis Barbera Dolcetto, and sparkling wines.
- Ceretto: Crafts quality Barolo and Barbaresco.
- Domenico Clerico: Makes Barolo, Barbera, Dolcetto, and Arte (a blend of Nebbiolo and Barbera).
- Elio Altare: Best known for Barolo and Langhe Nebbiolo but also makes Dolcetto d’Alba, Barbera d’Alba, and other red blends.
- Elio Grasso: Produces Barolo, Langhe Nebbiolo, Barbera d’Alba, Dolcetto d’Alba, and Langhe Chardonnay.
- Gaja: Makes a wide variety of wines, including Barolo, Barbaresco, Langhe Nebbiolo, Brunello di Montalcino, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and other proprietary blends.
- Giacomo Bologna: Primarily known for Barbera d’Asti and Barbera d’Alba, but also makes Brachetto, Barbera del Monferrato Frizzante, Dolcetto d’Alba, Moscato d’Asti, and Langhe Nebbiolo.
- Giacomo Conterno: Produces very high-quality Barolo.
- Giuseppe Mascarello e Figli: Known for making top-quality Barolo, including the Monprivato label, which is only made in the best vintages.
- Marchesi di Grésy: Crafts fine Barolo and Brunello di Montalcino.
- Roberto Voerzio: Makes a wide range of high-quality Barolo labels.
- Vietti: Produces some of the best Barolo in Langhe in a variety of labels.
If you’re interested in collecting Nebbiolo specifically, then consider wines from Gaja. This producer makes many different styles of Nebbiolo that are great examples of the diversity of wines available in Langhe. Some of Gaja’s best labels and vintages are:
Gaja Sorì Tildìn Langhe (muscular with dark berry flavors)
Gaja Conteisa Langhe (mellow and silky)
Gaja Sperss Langhe (full-bodied, moody, and floral)
Gaja Sorì San Lorenzo Langhe (rich and spicy)
Gaja Costa Russi Langhe (slightly sweet, with black fruit flavors)
Gaja also makes excellent wines from non-native grapes. For example, Gaja crafts high-quality Chardonnay, including the Rossj Bass and Langhe Gaia Rey labels. Some of the best vintages of these wines are 2012, 2015, and 2016. Or, you can invest in one of Gaja’s Cabernet Sauvignon vintages, like 1998 Darmagi Langhe—a medium-bodied, smoky wine that is fascinating to drink.
Whether you buy classic Barolo or a more unusual style for the Langhe region like Cabernet Sauvignon, almost all of the wines made by top producers in this area are well-structured and perfectly balanced. It’s rare to find a poor-quality wine from the Langhe hills.
How to Build the Best Langhe Wine Collection
If you’re planning on starting a Langhe wine collection, one important tip to remember is that climate change has impacted the flavor of these wines over the past few years. Temperatures in the Langhe hills have risen, and this is producing wines that are riper and slightly less acidic than vintages of the past. This means that many modern Langhe wines are more approachable in their youth and you may not have to wait as long for them to reach maturity. However, if you’re waiting to drink or resell your wine when it reaches its peak, this also means that you should verify the ideal drinking window more frequently for any wines made after 2005.
The best Langhe wines gain steadily and predictably in value over time.
Despite this recent trend, Langhe wines are still some of the longest-lived in the world, especially those made primarily from Nebbiolo. For this reason, starting a Langhe wine collection is a wise move for Italian wine enthusiasts. The best Langhe wines gain steadily and predictably in value over time, so when you buy a young vintage, you can keep it in storage for 15 or more years and resell it on the secondary market for a profit if you choose. Or, you may choose to drink these wines yourself. Aged Langhe Barolo is one of the most elegant and complex wines you will ever taste; it’s a gastronomic experience that every wine enthusiast should try at least once.
Whether you are starting your high-end wine collection or adding to an established portfolio, Vinfolio is your partner in buying, selling, and professional storage. Contact us today to get access to the world’s finest wine.