The Piedmont Wine Region, particularly in the Langhe sub-region, is the land of castles, vineyards and romantic hills shrouded in mist. The Alps hover over this lovely wine region, and the region’s name, in fact, makes reference to this (Piemonte means “at the foot of the mountain”). In autumn, thick fog hovers on the brightly colored hills (the red and orange vines actually “glow” with the reflection of the snowcapped Alps) and you can just make out the castle tops and hill topped villages poking out at the top. Piedmont is located right in the northwest corner of Italy, with Switzerland to the north, France just west and the beautiful Mediterranean coastline and fishing villages of Liguria only an hour and a half south.
Burgundy of Italy
Piemonte is often called the “Burgundy of Italy”, as it is most famous for its boutique wines and outstanding gastronomy (Piedmont is home to the famous white truffle). In fact, the region attracts gourmet travelers and wine enthusiasts from all over the world who go there to simply eat and enjoy fine wine. This type of traveler has been coined as a “Gastronaut”, and Piedmont is firmly on the Gastro-map. It’s no surprise that the Slow Food movement (now an international phenomenon) began here (in the amusingly named village of “Bra”). The three best areas in Piedmont (for scenery and quality of wines) are the Langhe, Roero and Monferrato sub-regions. The principal city in Piedmont is Turin, a beautiful cosmopolitan city known for two main reasons- its superb chocolate makers, and for the “Shroud of Turin”, which attracts Catholic pilgrims regularly.
Winemaking in Piedmont is amazingly artisan and boutique. Production is microscopic, especially for the top wines, and most wineries are family owned. Vineyards tend to be very small and neatly kept. Entire villages are dedicated to wine production and wine is a part of daily life. The harvest festivals in Piedmont are almost as wild as Carnival, and nearly everyone participates in the local festivities. The wine villages of Alba and Asti are two of the most well-known and are definitely good choices as bases for exploring wineries, along with sightseeing. Alba holds the annual Truffle festival (which attracts chefs from all over the world) and Asti holds the medieval “Palio” festival, a lively event.
Barolo and Barbaresco
The superstar wines from the region are the DOCG Barolo and Barbaresco Cru wines (named after the villages themselves where these Cru vineyards lie), both tremendously rich red wines made with the native “Nebbiolo” grape. Angelo Gaja is without a doubt the most famous producer of both Barbaresco and Barolo wines. Piedmont is also home to many other native grape varietals such as Dolcetto and Barbera (2 of the best red grapes, after the Nebbiolo) and Cortese (a white varietal used to make the deliciously fresh Gavi di Gavi wines) and another native white called “Arneis”, known for being highly perfumed and delicate.
A Piedmont Tour is an absolute must for visiting food and wine lovers. While Tuscany is full of monumental art cities (such as Siena, Pisa, Florence, Lucca), Piemonte’s attraction is its small charming villages (like Grinzane Cavour, La Morra, Verduno) and “Slow Food” style of touring. The food is simply out of this world, the landscapes are gorgeous, the wines are sublime and the people extremely friendly- all of the components one needs for an unforgettable gourmet tour!