Fresh Fruit, Fresh Wine, Fresh Perspective- The Piedmont Wine Region
If you are planning a trip to Italy, and you’re trying to decide which areas to visit, the lesser known wine region of Piemonte (Piedmont) is definitely worth a stop. As we continue our theme of lesser traveled places in Italy we are going to take you to a place where food and wine are a cherished part of the local culture and the countryside rolls on forever.
There are some wine connoisseurs out there that are yelling at their screens right now in contention of the fact that this area is a lesser known region. After all, the wines that come out of Piedmont are world renowned and who has never heard of Barolo and Barbaresco?? That statement is only partially true. The wines here are unbelievable and at an amazing value, but the production is often on a smaller scale than some of the larger regions. Because of this, many other places around the world don’t have as much exposure to these fabulous vinos. In the United States, if you are looking for a bottle of Chianti, it’s usually fairly easy to find because there are large producers like Ruffino and Banfi that distribute big quantities to the US. You are hard pressed to find a Barbaresco on most menus or in stores because the quantities just aren’t there. If you are interested in partaking in a wine themed boxing match, and would like to share your opinion, we will be doing a side by side comparison of the wineries and the wines of the region in an upcoming post (Tuscany vs. Piedmont).
Another reason this area doesn’t get as many vacationers as it’s Central Italian neighbor is due to its location. Many visitors to Italy choose a main tourist location first, and then look to see what is close to do around them. Since most trips start with Rome, Florence, or Venice, people look in those general areas for day trips or places to visit that aren’t too far. Since Piedmont is located on the Northwestern part of the country, it isn’t a convenient side trip from these main hubs so it doesn’t get as much foot traffic as it deserves (although from Milan it’s only about 2 hours). Luckily for us, our Italian cousins were kind enough to share some of their secret places with us during our time in Italy, and according to them, Piemonte is a must go. For more back story of our cousin guided trip in search of hidden gems of Italy… click here. If you remember, we mentioned they picked us up in a rental station wagon which is an annual tradition for them to drive this to the Piedmont Region and load up on some of the country’s best wine. It is a testament to how good the wines of this region really are. Although they wouldn’t admit it… I think they were a little disappointed that the 2 extra humans in the car took up valuable wine real estate.
As a side note… if the wine isn’t enough to convince you to come to Western Italy, then we’ll let you in on a little secret that you won’t be able to resist. Driving through the extensive vineyards and the vast countrysides of the area we noticed a lot of small trees that from a distance looked a little like olive trees. They were Hazelnut trees…. and hazelnut makes NUTELLA!!! Yes, Nutella originated here and you can put it on everything… nutella on your toast, on your fruit, on your pancakes… you get the picture. It was actually first produced in small little town in the region called Alba.
Alba is a nice, centrally located town in the region that has a lot to offer. There are tons of restaurants and cafes here (obviously with great wine selections) and many stores along the cobblestone streets. It is possible to rent apartments in Alba which puts you in a great location to visit the surrounding vineyards and wineries during the day, and come home and walk the streets and shop in the evenings. Plus, you should definitely stop and get some nutella gelato (not sure how that’s even legal) at one of the local shops.
Although Alba is a perfect location to explore the area, we opted to stay at one of the family run wineries not too far up the road. And although we won’t talk in detail of the different wines and wineries we discovered until our Tuscany vs. Piedmont post, we would be remiss not to mention this beautiful winery and the accommodations they offer. In the stunning, vine covered hills of Langhe there is a winery that also serves as a Bed and Breakfast for its guests (for a link to their site click here). It is owned and run by a husband and wife team, Gianpaolo and Luisella, and they are very passionate about their wine making and their hospitality. We were overwhelmed with their kindness and how welcome they made us feel during our stay. The husband, and winemaker, Gianpaolo is responsible for one of our favorite Barolos we tried during our stay in Piemonte… Paolo Manzone Meriame.
One of the things that stood out to us about this place was the importance of creating an authentic experience. Everything they did, from the daily breakfasts to the wine tour was done with care. During our wine tasting Luisella even brought us in some fresh figs and fruits that she just picked from her garden to add to the cheese platters. Outside of the awesome wines and amazing hospitality, the views from this property (and from our room) were nothing short of stunning.
We definitely recommend Cascina Meriame for your stay in Piemonte. They really do it well there in every aspect. Piemonte in general was an amazing experience for us. We were able to relax and enjoy the vast landscape and the great wines and everything seemed private and exclusive due to the very low tourist traffic. I guess this just means we will have to join our family on their yearly trip to stock up on amazing wines… but I think we should probably bring a second station wagon.