The reluctant story of Piedmont…
Posted on January 25 2024
Reluctant from this writer’s point of view, in the sense that the region is no longer the well-kept secret it once was, and 'wine tourism' is ever on the increase. The sheer beauty of the area, of course, its wines, and without doubt, its delicious cuisine, thoroughly deserve the spotlight.
Forty-five minutes south of the city of Turin, and you find yourself amongst a landscape of rolling hills, full of vineyards, with medieval villages atop these hills. Surrounded on three sides by the Alps, snow-topped mountains are a constant backdrop to these parts.
“But what about the wines?” I hear you ask. Well, I guess Barolo and Barbaresco are the obvious places to start! Only 25 minutes apart, they are positioned on either side of the small city of Alba and separated, in some respects, by the Tanaro River. The same grape is used entirely for both (Nebbiolo – deriving from ‘Nebbia’ meaning fog, so prevalent and beautiful in these parts during the autumn and winter seasons). Let your imagination wander for a moment... Similar soils in many respects, as well as great similarities in terms of vineyard slopes, elevation, and direction facing.
So why are the wines of Barolo and Barbaresco so incredibly different? The short answer is that’s a topic for a much longer piece… or an in-store tasting event, to truly demonstrate! I would simply leave the question open for now as to why Barolo wines are often described as ‘The King of Wines, and the Wine of Kings!’ (On this basis, Barbaresco must surely then be ‘The Queen of Wines’?).
It would be simple enough to leave Piedmont wines right there, but this would be a huge disservice to the other wines of the region. The other predominant red grapes are Barbera and Dolcetto. Both of which can be immensely enjoyable and certainly more accessible, price-wise, than their more ‘illustrious’ counterparts. The winemakers of the region will certainly be found regularly drinking these somewhat ‘lesser-known’ wines as part of their evening meals.
While it's fair to say the region is most widely known for its ‘reds’, there are also some excellent white wines made here. Arneis, Timorasso, and Cortese (of Gavi fame) are the most prevalent white grapes, although there are also some seriously delicious Chardonnay wines to be had.
Having had the good fortune of visiting the region a couple of times in recent months (and yes, adding to the wine tourism of the region..), I can testify to how incredibly warm and welcoming the Piemontese are, how even in the simplest of Trattorias, you’ll eat incredibly well. All with those rolling hills and snow-topped Alps never too far from view.
Perhaps a bottle from our great selection of wines from the region, a swirl of the glass, and a re-read of this piece, might even transport you there in your mind’s eye!
Medium-bodied and silky with plenty of juicy peach and pear fruit alongside stoney minerality. Perfect summer drinking...or for when you want to be reminded of summer!
Freshly perfumed with ripe citrus fruits and white flowers, this is the quintessential Piemontese white. Medium bodied, with a pithy impression to the fruit on the palate.
A fantastic alternative to Barolo that does much less damage to your wallet! This Piedmontese red is 100% Nebbiolo and delivers the deep, delicous red fruit notes you expect from the grape variety as well as hints of liquorice and tobacco. Gathering a real following in our shops and perfect with roast beef or game.
Wonderfully complex, mouth filling intensity, aged for a year in barrel and then two years in bottle before release, this is lovely perfumed Nebbiolo that ticks all the boxes at this price.
For a bit of wider reading on Piedmont – please consider the following (free) article by wine industry legend, Jancis Robinson - Eating in the Langhe | JancisRobinson.com