The Piedmont region of Italy is well known for its wines. Its Barolo and Barbaresco wines are two of Italy’s best while other wines from the Piedmont, such as Barbera, Dolcetto and Nebbiolo, also have their admirers and market respect. And even the white, lightly-sparking Moscato d’Asti has its charms. The Piedmont certainly has its share of wonderful eateries, especially in and around the towns of Asti, Alba and Bra in the province of Cuneo in the west-central part of the region. The area is replete with vineyards, crenellated castles, medieval towers and unpretentious but scenic towns lying in repose on crests of gently rolling hills. The area around Alba is also renowned for its white truffles, chocolates, hazelnuts and artisanal cheeses. On autumn 2016 tastings every weekend in the Alba Truffle Fair, from October 8th to November 27th, and throughout the month of October appointment with the “Food & Wine Experience” in the municipal cellar in Castiglione Falletto, in the hearth of the Langhe: dates will be soon available online. Beyond the scheduled dates, you can also organize your personal tasting experience.
The vineyards are beautiful and visiting local wineries can be interesting and informative as well as a lot of fun. However, touring and sampling wines at local wineries is not the same as in the U.S. where wineries typically have posted hours and professionally staffed tasting rooms. Big wine estates are rare in the Piedmont. The vast majority are medium to small-scale producers that are typically family owned and operated enterprises and which are not staffed to handle casual, drop-in visitors.
Consequently, it’s appropriate to make reservations for a tasting and/or tour at most Piedmont wineries, usually with a minimum 2 -3 days advance notice. It would be risking disappointment to just drop in for a wine tasting and/or tour without an appointment, especially in the fall when wineries are extremely busy with the harvest and cellaring. Making an appointment also has the advantage that the winery may be able to arrange an English-speaking person to host the tasting and tour.
With appointment in hand, you will typically be hosted by someone active in and knowledgeable about the winery’s operations, oftentimes a member of the winemaker’s family. I have without exception found winery hosts in the Piedmont to be exceptionally hospitable and pleased to show you their winery’s products.
Wine tastings may be free or there may be a small fee for tasting wines. Regardless, it would be impolite to not purchase at least a few bottles of the estate’s wines. When I do so, I typically try to purchase wines that are not generally available in the U.S. on the assumption that this gives me bragging rights when I finally serve these wines to guests at home. The Piedmont is a foodies’ paradise and it should be no surprise that people travel to the Piedmont to experience the cuisine as well as visit its world class wineries to sample the wines.