A trip to Piedmont
I recently spent a short vacation in Italy at the beginning of September and I had the chance to discover the beautiful landscape of Piedmont. Planned as a short part of my vacation, I stayed for about 4 days in La Morra and visited the area around. The view is spectacular: high hills completely covered by tall but perfectly alined and trimmed vineyards, most of the hills having some type of castle/fortification built on top of it from older times.
The grapes grown in the area are, for whites: Chardonnay, Riesling and some other local varieties, and, for the reds, Dolcetto d’Alba, Barbera d’Alba(for Alba region) and Barbera d’Asti(for the Asti region), and Nebbiollo – the king grape of Piedmont used to make Barolo and Barbaresco. The traditionalists use only Slovenian oak for aging in medium size and big barrels, while the modernists use strictly new French oak barrels. A Barbaresco is aged for 2 years: 1 year in oak and 1 in bottle, while a Barolo is aged for 3 years: 2 years in oak and 1 year in bottle. A Riserva is aged for an additional year in barrel.
Most of the Barolo’s I tasted were 2006(a spectacular year for Nebbiollo and Barbera, with good structure) and 2007(a year with better freshness and designed for earlier drinking). Everybody recommends drinking a Barolo when it is at least 10 years old – I can understand why: most young Barolo’s have huge tannins that demand aging. However, Barbera d’Alba – aged for 1 year in oak, is a more approachable alternative in its youth and can be drunk while waiting for Barolo to age.
Just like in France where there is an early harvest this year, in Piedmont growers experience the same pattern: an earlier than usual harvest. All of the properties I visited started to harvest already almost 10 days in advance. The Dolcetto’s were the first to be picked.
I made some prior appointments to visit a few wineries and tasted some really interesting wines, both traditionalist and modernist styles. I visited the areas and cities of Serralunga d’Alba, Castiglione Falletto, Barolo, Monforte d’Alba and drove around Turin, Asti and the rest of Piedmont. My itinerary looked as following:
– day 1: visit at Braida di Bologna Giacomo Cantina Winery – famous for its Bricco dell’Uccellone made from Barbera d’Asti, and I was also invited to a lovely family lunch by Raffaella Bologna(Braida’s owner) at her residence.
– day 2: visit at G.D. Vajra with wines from Barolo and Serralunga d’Alba(Luigi Baudana).
– day 3: visit at Cavallotto – a traditionalist in Castiglione Falletto.
– day 4: visit at Luciano Sandrone – a modernist in Barolo.
I will write separate posts about each winery I visited and the wines tasted over the following days. Overall, Piedmont is a great place to visit, with amazing food – even the most humble Trattoria offers a 3-4 courses meal, the wines at restaurants are reasonably priced(20-30% mark-up) and really good. In about 2 weeks time the truffles season kicks off and that is really the best time to go visit Piedmont.