First things first! You must realize that there is so much to see and do in Piedmont that it could literally take a lifetime to see, eat, drink, and do it all. From the history, to the food, and the wine (I’m talking like hundreds if not thousands of wineries to visit and the amount of great restaurants is endless. I mean I have been here for 5 years and still have a list a mile long.) It can be daunting and if you are in a rush to see and do as much as humanly possible I would consider looking into hiring a private guide.
This is good, why?
If you are a wine lover and coming to explore the Nebbiolo grape I would consider spending at least one day to visit the region Barbaresco and at least one if not two days in Barolo. Make sure to do some homework and chose a few wineries beforehand to visit from a couple of the different towns. Keep in mind not to pack tight you schedule and to leave plenty of time in-between to take pictures, getting lost, and if you are really jiving with the winemaker that the tasting might take longer than anticipated. Like they might invite you to have lunch at their house. With that said normally a winery visit is about 1.5 hours or longer and no one is open during the sacred hours of lunch (noon till 2pm). One thing that is very important is to make sure that you make a reservation for your visit ahead of time. In Piedmont almost all of the wineries are small family run, and more often than not are located in their home. They want to have visitors and love when you come from all over the world to visit but respect and etiquette is important. Some do’s and don’t: Do taste all the wines they would like to show you. Don’t say no I only want to taste this. You never know you might like more the wine you were going to pass on. Do ask if there is a tasting fee. A lot of wineries are starting to ask a fee to help with the costs of the bottles being opened. However a lot of places will wave that fee if wine is purchased, it’s a good excuse to bring home some bottles. If you like a wine and would like to retest a wine: Do ask for another taste. Don’t pick up the bottle and pour yourself.
Some recommendations of places I have visited and have found to be very accommodating and interesting. In the village of Barbaresco a visit at the historical Produttori del Barbaresco. This winery is important because it is one of the oldest running cooperatives in this area.
In Neive the neighboring town to Barbaresco and the largest producing area in the DOC I would recommend to take a visit a Pier Busso located in the heart of the Albesani vineyard. Great people and even better wines!
If you have time for a visit to Treiso where in my opinion the views from this village on a clear day are the most spectacular, have a visit a Ca’ del Baio another slam-dunk with the wines.
Now when we start to talk about Barolo a whole lot of things have just got that much more complicated. I know right. Barolo the king of wines, the wine for kings this phrase originated from the king of Savoia Vittorio Emmanuele II who just loved his glass of Barolo. Now I recommend in order to get the most out of Barolo you need at least 2 days to explore the 11 villages that make up this magical place.
If you just have time for the greatest hits, the must visit villages are Serralunga d’Alba, this range of hills makes up an era of soil structure dating back over 10 million years. What this means, it is the oldest soil structure that makes up the Barolo area. This soil structure makes the wines from this area very complex, more tannic, and better for aging. A winery I recommend to visit Pira Luigi typically how they start their tour is on their balcony overlooking their 3 main vineyards Vigna Marenca, Vign Arionda, and Vigna Margheria. This is good to be able to see the different exposures talk about the minor differences in the soil and the microclimates.
Monforte d’Alba a majority of the more famous wineries come from this little hill top village. Monforte is not the highest area in Barolo but it is the steepest incline. A must visit winery is Conterno Fantino located in the Ginestra vineyard, right on the top. The view from the tasting room is breath taking; also the winery is really something to see.
In Barolo you are in the heart of the Barolo area and some of the wineries here are the oldest. Barolo is where you really want to visit one of the traditionalists and one that still today remains the last of the Mohicans is Bartolo Mascarello Maria Teresa is an absolutely passionate and respectful of her family traditions and the great wines that make Barolo what it is today. Here you will be able to really see the original side to Barolo.
Then there is La Morra the highest area in Barolo I highly recommend to visit this town last because if you go to the top of the village there is a view point and a map that shows all the towns you have visited in both Barolo, Barbaresco and some of Roero. The winery to visit would be Elio Altare. This visit with his daughter Silvia will be completely different to the traditional style Baroloistas. Elio is the mind behind the modernist movement here in the Langhe, and the story that his daughter Silvia tells is just captivating. Silvia has some pretty big shoes to fill but I think she is doing a great job, her energy and enthusiasm for what she is doing you can really see in the wines they are outstanding and the whole visit is just a great experience.
If you need any other pointers or help planning your trip please feel free to contact me. Buon viaggio!