You’ll fall in love with Piemonte

Judging by recent posts, you might think we’ve gone off the deep end for the Piemonte (or Piedmont), and you’d be right.  Julie and I spent six days in the Langhe (an area inside the Piemonte region) last September. Why would we fall in love with a wine region, thousands of miles away from home where they don’t get many visitors and they don’t speak our language?  Over the next few weeks, I’ll try to give you an idea of why you might like to visit and fall in love with Piemonte, too. Consider this an introduction or a preview to upcoming posts.

The Piemonte Region
The Piemonte region is in the far northwestern corner of Italy. Rural and very hilly, vineyards cover all the prime hillsides. Some aspects of the region are compact: the Barolo wine region is only 5 miles wide at its widest point.  The Barbaresco region is only a short way away and is even smaller than Barolo.  There is so much more to the area than just the well known areas, all the more reason to return.

Vineyards cover the hillsides, and the next town is not far away.

Vineyards cover the hillsides, and the next town is not far away (That’s Barbaresco in the distance)

The Piemonte is less touristy than many areas of Italy.  In fact, Rick Steeves’ Italy tourbook doesn’t list the Piemonte region at all.  It’s as if it doesn’t exist.  If you’re the type who likes places just a bit off the beaten path, you’ll really enjoy the region.

Evening view of the Barolo hills.

Evening view of the Barolo hills.

The towns, built in the Middle Ages, were perched on the hilltops for strategic reasons. Now we just enjoy their beauty.

We stayed in Neive, one of the 3 towns in the Barbaresco district.

We stayed in Neive, one of the 3 towns in the Barbaresco district.

Vineyards
Unlike the U.S., vineyards in Italy are open for walking.  In fact, there are signed hiking trails from town to town which go right through the vineyards.  Want to go walk in a famous Barolo cru like Cannubi?  Yep.  Go right ahead.  If you go in September, you can see nearly ripe grapes hanging on the vine. Beautiful!

Nebbiolo grape clusters show medium size grapes in  long clusters with "wings"

Nebbiolo grape clusters show medium size grapes in long clusters with “wings” at the top.

You’ll learn identify the various grapes by the appearance of their vines, the grape bunches and the grapes themselves.

Barbera grapes are big, with thin skins - the wines have good acidity and low tannins.

Barbera grapes are big, with thin skins – the wines have good acidity and low tannins.

Moscato grapes - one of the few cases where the wine really does taste just like the grape.

Moscato grapes – our B&B had Moscato grapes available at breakfast every day.

Wine: Moscato, Arneis, Dolcetto, Barbera, Barbaresco, Barolo
The best known wines in the region are Barolo and Barbaresco, elegant wines made from the Nebbiolo grape.  However, most winegrowers make a variety of wines, including Langhe Nebbiolo, Barbera, and Dolcetto. Prefer white wines?  Arneis, Anascetta, Favorita, Langhe Bianco – so many wines to try! 

Very nice dry sparkling wines we rarely see in the US.

Very nice dry sparkling wines we rarely see in the US.

Arneis is the common dry white wine.

Arneis is the most popular dry white wine, although there are many others as well.

Barbaresco is made from the Nebbiolo grape

Barbaresco is made from the Nebbiolo grape

Nebbiolo is also the heart and soul of Barolo.

Nebbiolo is also the heart and soul of Barolo.

Piemontese Cuisine
You won’t go hungry here! Piemontese cuisine offers many traditional dishes from the beginning of the meal to the end.  There is Michelin star dining available in the area, but you might find the local wine bars so full of good food and friendly people that you have no need to go anywhere else.

After work - apertivo time!

After work – apertivo time. Buy a glass of wine and the bar provides the snacks!

Vitello tonnato is a classic primi - first course

Vitello tonnato is a classic appetizer

Tajarin pasta, also a favorite primi.

Tajarin pasta, Julie’s favorite primi.

Even in an informal wine bar, the food is well prepared.

Even in a wine bar, the food is well prepared. Wash it down with a local Barbaresco

Activities: winery visits, truffle hunt, vineyard walks, cooking a harvest meal
Bigger wineries do have tasting rooms, but you can visit very small wineries where a wine tasting is more of a visit with the winegrower where he or she will want to share their story and show you their vineyards in addition to sharing their wines with you.

Massimo's winery is at his home.

Massimo’s winery is at his home (Massimo Rivetti)

The region is famous for its truffles, and if you visit in the fall through spring, you might get the opportunity to go on a truffle hunt.

A successful truffle hunt.

A successful truffle hunt.

You can take a cooking class, but during harvest, you might have the opportunity to cook for a vineyard crew.

Cook a harvest lunch for a hungry winery crew!

Cook a harvest lunch for a hungry winery crew! (Pelissero Pasquale)

Whatever you do, leave a little time to just relax!

You might even find time to nap in the afternoon sun

You might even find time to nap in the afternoon sun

People
The reason you’ll want to return? The people. You’ll be struck by the warm welcome you receive and how people you have only just met treat you as a friend.  You’ll want to visit to make your own personal connections.  Here are a couple of ours:

Nicola invited us to join him out in his vineyard.

Nicola invited us to join him out in his vineyard (Trediberri)

Franco pulled over just to say "hi".

We met Franco at his winery early in the week. Later in the week, he pulled over just to say “hi” (Cantina del Bricchetto)

The best part of any place is the people you meet and how they welcome you.  The people you meet here will be people you want to see again.  You might find apertivo time extending well into the evening with new friends!

Warm summer evenings with new friends

Warm summer evenings with new friends (L’Aromatario in Neive)

Comments
6 Responses to “You’ll fall in love with Piemonte”
  1. Duff's Wines says:

    We did Puglia, Calabria, and Campania last year. This year is committed but next year – the Piemonte? Thanks for the great overview. Like Conrad, I’m drooling.

  2. Wine Pass says:

    This article really showcases Piemonte nicely! I feel like there’s so much to say about it, but you summarized it all really well, from the open-to-all vineyard walks to the medieval towns decorating the top of every hill…and as always, amazing pictures to go with it.

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