If you are into wine, here is a suggestion for a wine and food trip where you can discover full-bodied red wines from the Italian northern region of Piemonte. I will focus on Langhe, part of the much bigger area known as Langhe, Roero and Monferrato. It is here that the widely known red wine Barolo is grown and produced, taking its name from one of the villages.
Starting from 1896, the Italian Ministry of Agriculture demarcated the Barolo production zone to include the villages of Barolo, La Morra, Castiglione Falletto, Serralunga d’Alba and the northern half of Monforte d’Alba, later joined by Novello, Cherasco, Diano d’Alba, Grinzane Cavour, Roddi and Verduno.
Nebbiolo is the grape variety from which it is produced. What I learned from my wine tour is that with Nebbiolo you can make 4 types of wines: Roero, Nebbiolo, Barolo and Barbaresco. Some relate the name of this grape to the Italian word for fog, nebbia, a frequent visitor to this part of the country. The landscape is quite stunning and on sunny days you can see the Alps from here. On foggy days you can’t see anything half a meter from you.
Exploring the area by car gives you the possibility to enjoy the landscape. Each village has its stunning views and charm. The roads are dotted with wineries. In the map below you can see the villages. You can use it to make an itinerary.
I stayed in the village of Novello. Besides its small size, has an original castle, currently being renovated into a hotel. There are many castles in the area, the most famous of which is the one in Grinzane Cavour. This is where Camillo Benso di Cavour lived. He started there as a mayor, later moving to the city of Turin from which he became the mastermind behind Italy’s unification in 1861. Turin at that time was declared Italy’s first capital city and was in the region of the ruling monarchs, the Savoy.
Booking an apartment via Airbnb is easy and if you are a group of 3 people I would recommend contacting Carla and Alfredo, who rents the lower part of their house overlooking the village and the adjacent valley. Nice, clean and comfortable place for exploring the area.
Carla recommended me various restaurants, and I chose Il Grecale. A dogmatic person would think that if you are surrounded by hills rather than sea to focus on fish would be self-defeating, considering that meat is a big protagonist of the local cuisine, but I like daring choices and looking outwards. Desiring something from far away keeps us on a steady journey to curiosity and knowledge.
Booking a wine tour with Piemonte on Wine
You can make use of the excellent free booking service by Piemonte on Wine. You can do some preliminary research on their website and then either call them or email them so that they arrange directly with the wineries the time of your visit. The cost of wine tasting vary but it ranges between 5 and 15 euros. You get an explanation and some grissini with it. If you enjoyed the wine you can buy the bottles directly onsite.
If you don’t have a lot of time to stay in the area, you can squeeze two tours. You could focus on a big winery, such as Fontanafredda, producing some 7.5 millions bottles per year and end with a much smaller one like Rocche Costamagna, producing in the region of 90.000-100.000 bottles.
The area is not just picture perfect, dotted with castles; it is infused with significant history. This part of the country was a hotbed for the resistance movement during the Second World War. It provided inspiration to many important writers such as Cesare Pavese and Beppe Fenoglio. Literature and music are at the centre of the yearly festival in the hills called Collisioni, taking place in Barolo every July. Placebo will celebrate 20 years of their career. I bet they will open a nice bottle of Barolo to that!
The Vineyard Landscape of Piedmont: Langhe, Roero and Monferrato has been inscribed to the UNESCO World Heritage List since 2014. As it is relatively new, information is available largely in Italian. The area cuts across three provinces, Asti, Cuneo and Alessandria. Rivalries between cities make it more difficult to share best practices among them. These issues should obviously be surpassed in order to create the conditions to receive more people, as this type of slow tourism can appeal to many, and it does not need to be exclusive. On such a trip you can learn about the constant struggle man faced with nature in shaping its landscape, history and enjoy good wine and food.
It is likely that in the next few years Culturaal will take different journeys to explore the area. So stay tuned for more tips.
If you go
Fly to: Torino, Milano Malpensa, Milano Linate
Book a wine tour: www.piemonteonwine.it
Find out more: The association Strada del Barolo e grandi vini di Langa promotes the area and its wines. It gathers together over 100 wine producing companies, restaurants, B&Bs, hotels, museums, shops and wine houses.
Photos: Giacomo Facci, Antonio Rino Gastaldi, Ludovico Caldara. Culturaal, Beppe Simone CC BY-SA 4.0 – Map: © Strada del Barolo e grandi vini di Langa, edited by Federico Salzotti – Archeòtipo srl