Italy

Italy’s Best Wine Region: Piemonte

Psst… I’m going to let you in on a secret.  Italy’s best wine region?  It’s not Tuscany.  It’s further north, halfway between Milan and Nice, France.  I’m talking about the gorgeous rolling hills of Barbaresco and Barolo, Italy, the region known as The Langhe!

Want to spend time unwinding amongst the rolling hills as far as the eye can see, drinking the best wine in Europe (in my opinion!), and eating delicious white truffles over tajarin or plin pasta all day long?  If yes, then the Langhe is for you my friends.  The Langhe is a geographic region in the Piedmont, or Piemonte, of Italy south of the Alps, two hours southwest of Milan and 3 hours northeast of Nice.  It is one of my favorite parts of the world to relax and unwind.

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Since living in Stuttgart we’ve trekked across the Alps each fall to fill our car trunk with as much Barbaresco, Barolo, and Nebbiolo as we can fit in order to bring home.  Then we try to sparingly drink them throughout the year until we can come back down and replenish our stock!

This year we brought along our good friends before they move back to the States, and it was the best break filled with lots and lots of laughter.  These three had me rolling in laughter all weekend long.  I’m thinking the extra belly laughs kept all the pasta and wine weight off… ; )

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The gorgeous village of Nieve behind us

The Piemonte is famous for the Barolo and Barbaresco wines produced here, the King and Queen of Italian wines.  Both are made from 100% Nebbiolo grapes, and the subtle difference between the two wines depends on which terroir the grapes come from as well as some aging requirements such as the number of months aged, time spent in oak barrels, and time spent in the bottle before they can be inspected and released with a DOCG label.  Barolo is typically more robust than the delicate Barbaresco.  While I absolutely love both, I’ve always swayed towards Barbaresco as my favorite.

You can also get bottles of Nebbiolo, which are use the exact same grapes as Barolo or Barbaresco, but don’t necessarily have to age as long but it’s ultimately up to the wine maker to choose fermenting and barrel aging process.  The Barbaresco region includes the towns of Nieve, Treiso, and Barbaresco town, and the Barolo region is comprised of the towns Barolo, Serralunga d’Alba, Castiglione Falletto, and some parts of La Morra, Monforte d’Alba, and a few others.

The Italian word for fog is Nebbia and is where Nebbiolo grapes receive their name.  It was actually so foggy on the first day we were here that you couldn’t see more than 10 feet in front of you.  It was crazy!  Thankfully our second day was so crystal clear, we could even see the snow capped alps behind the rolling hills.

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Watching the sun set over the Alps

If being the home of the world’s most delicious and aromatic wine isn’t enough for you, the region is also home to Hazelnuts (Nutella and Ferrero Rocher have headquarters in Alba, the region’s largest town) and the infamous Alba white truffle.  If you haven’t had white truffle before, you need to run to this region.  It has an intoxicating aroma, unlike anything else I’ve been around.  Most of you reading this have probably at least had truffle fries before, which are made from truffle infused oil.  In this region you can get fresh white truffle shavings over your pasta or dish of choice.

Truffles are famously found in this specific region, Alba to be exact, and are hunted with dogs who dig them up.  Once removed from the ground, they need to be eaten within ten days or they go bad.  You’ll pay a pretty penny for it, as it runs about 10 EUR per gram.  Expect to add 35-50 EUR to your dish depending how abundant the truffles are.  One last stipulation, the truffles can only be obtained in the fall, specifically October to January.  The best season is said to be late November to Janurary.  It’s worth it to try once or a few times!

 

White truffle over tajarin pasta at restaurant Eno Club.

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Besides exploring the area and finding new wineries to try, I recommend booking a wine tour.

Our second day of the trip we had a full day of wine tasting and exploring the area with Robert and Leslie of Travel Langhe.  They are a husband-wife team, both sommeliers, and honestly a wealth of knowledge.  We have actually done a one-day tour with them each year we go because we think they’re just that great!  Robert picked us up from our Agriturismo at 09:30 and off we went!  As I mentioned earlier, it was a crystal clear day and the Alps were showing off for us so we headed to the Barbaresco town tower to take advantage of the great views before the fog came back.

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On top of the Barbaresco tower overlooking the vineyards and Alps
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I miss you out here in Europe! <3

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Seriously contemplating my wine at Pasquale Pelissero

Robert took us to a few different wineries (our favorite in Barbaresco town is Produttori di Barbaresco and we also love Robert’s showing of Pasquale Pelissero) and then back to their home for lunch, where Leslie cooked a fabulous meal for each of us.  She owned a restaurant before they gave tours at Travel Langhe, so it’s safe to say they know their food and wine.  I think this setup is so relaxing and nice, you feel like you’re hanging out with your good friends eating a delicious Italian meal accompanied by plenty of meats, cheeses, and of course local wines to go around.

You may even get taught the art of opening a bottle of prosecco with a samurai sword at lunch ; )

And there is always espresso after a meal.

In the afternoon we headed to the Barolo area to Massolino in Serralunga d’Alba.  Massolino is another favorite of ours and their tours are top notch.  Recommend setting up a tasting in advance if you’re in the area!

But before the tour, Robert gave us the lay of the land in beautiful Barolo!

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Views like this everywhere

 

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View over Serralunga d’Alba, near to winery Massolino

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Sunset from the balcony of Massolino

 

…Hold tight, part 2 of where to stay, eat, and drink coming soon!

Get there: 

The Piemonte is a 7 hour drive from Stuttgart.  This is our method of choice so we can fill our trunk up with delicious wines.  If you prefer to fly, Milan or Turin are the closest airports.  You will definitely need a car to get around.  This is a rural area and everything is a drive away.

Stay:  

In an agriturismo.  Come back later this week to see my recs!

When to go:

We love going in the fall, but a case can be made for every season.  Scroll up to see diferences between October and November (main point: patio closures).  In the fall the vines are full, October is harvest season, and also the season of the truffle.  In the spring/summer, the vineyards are more sparse but Agriturismo pools will be open.  Winter is the height of truffle season.  So it’s up to you and your priorities.

Know:  

If you’re looking for nightlife and clubs, this is not the place for you.  If you’re looking for a relaxing, beautiful holiday to enjoy la dolce vita, you need to come here.

The stars of the show here are Barolo and Barbaresco wines, along with the white truffle.  Barbaresco wines are our favorite wines on Earth.  They are very aromatic, light brick in color, and very tannic.  They age very well if you’re looking to update your cellar.

Find our favorite places to stay and eat well here.  We love our little nook of paradise and will be back again next Fall!  Will we see you there?

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