Our Piemonte Wine Dinner

Barbaresco, Barolo and Much More
Just back from a wine touring week in the Piemonte (Piedmont) region of Italy, Julie and I were eager to share a glimpse of that area with our wine dinner group.  We prepared a Piemonte menu we hoped would be both authentic and tasty.  How did we do?

The White Wines
We always start a wine dinner with sparkling wine.  I had hoped to bring back an Alta Langhe sparkling wine, but realized on our last day in Italy that I had purchased 10 (!) more bottles than I had thought. Oops!  No room for 1 more.

Alta Langhe sparkling wine - this is what we wanted

Alta Langhe sparkling wine – this is what we wanted

We don’t get Alta Langhe sparkling wines in Minnesota, so I had to settle for this one, our one outsider.  Not so bad, it was from Lombardia, the next region to the east.

Same method as Alta Langhe (methode Chamenoise)

Same method as Alta Langhe (methode Chamenoise)

Next we had Roero Arneis and Langhe Bianco.  These were perfect aperitif wines with our Apertivo course.  The Arneis was lean and crisp, the Langhe Bianco was more full bodied and fruit forward.  The Asti sparkling wine was quite sweet, and had to wait until dessert.

Roero Arneis, Langhe Bianco, and Asti

Roero Arneis, Langhe Bianco, and Asti

Apertivo
Apertivo was one of our favorite discoveries, and one we would love to keep in our Minnesota lives.  Every day after work, you meet up with friends at a local wine bar.  Whether you are a factory worker or an executive, you make time for this tradition. You buy a glass of wine, and the establishment provides light appetizers (and sometimes much more).  This can be as simple as potato chips, but often includes breadsticks, prosciutto, and other finger foods.

First: Apertivo, a time to gather with friends

Apertivo, a time to gather with friends

We made homemade breadsticks the afternoon of our wine dinner, they need to be fresh and crisp.  Success!

Homemade breadsticks

Homemade breadsticks

One of our wine dinner group members brought two kinds of Prosciutto, one from Italy and one from our local favorite, La Quercia.  If you don’t get yours from Italy, then definitely go local.  It’s what the Piemontese would do!

Prosciutto and sausage; wrap it around a breadstick

Prosciutto and sausage; wrap it around a breadstick

The last of the garden tomatoes and basil went into this tasty bruschetta.  Very garlicy, so we made sure everyone had some.

Bruschetta with fresh, local ingredients

Bruschetta with fresh, local ingredients

Dolcetto, Barbera, Barbaresco, Barolo
We brought all these wines back from Italy, and we spent time with the winegrower of each wine.  What a treat to share these with friends!  We opened the Dolcetto with Apertivo.  As a simple daily table wine, you wouldn’t expect it to compare to the more elegant reds to follow at dinner.

Dolcetto, Barbera, Barbaresco & Barolo

Dolcetto, Barbera, Barbaresco & Barolo

Truffles, Secret Weapon of the Langhe
On our visit to Italy, we found out just how much they love their truffles.  Alba, one of the cities in the Langhe, is the world center for the white truffle.  Every weekend in October and November, people fly in from around the world for the famous white truffle auction and to sample this rare treat.

We participated in a truffle hunt during our trip, what fun!  September is a bit early for white truffles, but we did find several of the black summer truffles.  They are so rich and stinky fresh out of the ground.  I think US Customs might have had a different idea if I decided to try to bring one back.

Much fresher and more smelly, I don't know how we could have brought it back.

Fresh and very smelly, I don’t know how we could have brought it back.

I was able to procure a black summer truffle like the one above with some help from an Italian restaurant in town.  It was fresh, but it did lack a bit of the punch of the ones we dug out of the ground with the help of our truffle dog, Rocky.

A fresh black truffle shipped from Europe

A fresh black truffle shipped from Europe

After apertivo, you go home.  You would relax and perhaps go for a short stroll with your family before going to dinner.  Of course, since our guests were already at our house, we simply moved on to the next course.

Primo
Primo, or 1st course, is usually pasta or risotto.  Julie’s favorite was tajarin con sugo de carne (meat sauce), so that’s what we made.  Tajarin pasta is a Piemonte specialty, and it’s a bit of a competition to see how many egg yolks a chef can fit into her pasta.  We used 4 yolks per cup of flour and the pasta was very rich and delicious.  We dressed the pasta lightly with sauce, just like we had experienced in Italy.  All the better to enjoy the flavor and texture of the noodles, and not just the sauce.

Primi: tajarin pasta with meat sauce

Primo: tajarin pasta with meat sauce and shaved truffle

We offered our guests paper-thin slices of truffle on their pasta.  I can still clearly recall the heady aroma!

Note: the salad you see in the background would never appear on the menu, and it wouldn’t be served with the pasta.  We found out you can ask for insalata mista and the restaurant would make one for you.  It’s just not something Italians order.

With the primo course, we opened the more serious reds: Barbera d’Alba, Barbaresco, and Barolo. Barbera comes from the Barbera grape, a larger red grape with a thin skin.  Barbera is usually full bodied, high in acidity but low in tannins.  Barbaresco and Barolo are both made from 100% Nebbiolo grapes.  The Nebbiolo grape is smaller (higher skin to juice ratio).  Barbaresco and Barolo are both known to be powerful but not super rich, a wonderful combination.  They have both high acidity and high tannins, so you really need to have them with food.  Some are so tannic you need to wait 10+ years before you drink them; I’m just not that patient.  These are not your fireplace cocktail sipper!

Secret Weapon: a fresh truffle to slice over the pasta!

Secret Weapon: a fresh truffle to slice over the pasta!

Secondo
The second course is usually meat.  We chose “costine di manzo brasato al vino Nebbiolo” (beef short ribs braised in Nebbiolo).   We served mashed carrots and rutabagas on the side.  Paired with the rich meat, the Barbaresco and Barolo shone, red fruit emerged and the tannins disappeared.  The Barbaresco and Barolo were so popular with our group, we needed to open another (different one) of each.

Secondi: beef short ribs braised in red wine with mashed carrots and rutabagas

Secondo: beef short ribs braised in red wine with mashed carrots and rutabagas

Formaggi
As in most of Europe, cheeses are served after the meal in Italy.  One of our favorites was Gorgonzola Dolce: fresh, creamy, and mild it was super nice slathered on a piece of bread and drizzled with truffle honey.

Formaggi: Gorgonzolla Dolce, Toma, Montasio

Formaggi: Gorgonzolla Dolce, Toma, Montasio

Dolce
One of our group made a beautiful chocolate cake for dessert, and even supplied the pistachio gelato.  The sparkling Asti was nice alongside, sweet but not cloying and of course, bubbles.

Dolce: chocolate cake with pistachio gelato

Dolce: chocolate cake with pistachio gelato

We had a great evening, sharing a bit of our Piemonte experience with friends.

We loved sharing a bit of our Piemonte experience with our Minnesota friends

We loved sharing a bit of our Piemonte experience with our Minnesota friends

Aftermath of a good wine dinner: glasses, lots of glasses

Aftermath of a good wine dinner: glasses, lots of glasses

Do you have any special travel experiences you’ve tried to share with friends back at home?

Comments
8 Responses to “Our Piemonte Wine Dinner”
  1. Great info. I just fell in love with Amarone, and was looking forward to trying a Barolo. Sounds like Amarone will be more my kind of wine.

    • Thanks for visiting! Yes, Barbaresco and Barolo are very different from Amarone, but you might enjoy them. Definitely give them a try, or you can get a sense of their character by trying a Langhe Nebbiolo at a nice price. Come to think of it, I need to spend some time with Amarone!

  2. talkavino says:

    That truffle looks spectacular! I think I would take a risk and try to bring it in 🙂 The truffle was what caught my attention, but the whole dinner and all the wines look wonderful. Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks, Anatoli. We already were carrying enough wine to get a remark from the US Customs agent, I didn’t want to risk the truffle. Maybe we should have just quickly used it in Italy before we left!

  3. This is definitely my idea of heaven! Arneis has stolen my heart ever since the first time I tasted it. It’s such an underrated Italian white…

  4. winesavi says:

    WOW! What a dinner! You even made your own grissini…that is awesome! I actually know the truffle dog rocky myself:) And is that a Alberto Voerzio Barolo I see in that picture? I just read about him and was thinking of visiting myself.
    Were you on a tour here or did you find all these places yourself?
    Thanks for bringing so much back with you from our beloved Piemonte. I see you found some great producers and some fun aperitivo habits back with you! If you are ever back in the area let me know!
    cin cin!

    • Hello Anna! Yes, we were on tour in September. That is so fun that you know Rocky. And yes, the Barolo in the photo is from Alberto Voerzio. We visited with him and he is a very nice up and coming Barolo winemaker, highly recommended. Another young Barolo winemaker we particularly like is Nicola Oberto of Trediberri. Thanks for visiting, and perhaps we can meet on a future visit; I know we’ll be back.

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