Source: Valerie Quintanilla, Italy Magazine
Ah, Piedmont. A magical land that I now call home. I love wine, but I didn't know that much about it. So, when I moved to Italy I thought Tuscany and Veneto were the places to go to learn more. But the locals and wine connoisseurs I spoke with quickly corrected me saying, “No, no. If you want Italian wine, you go to Piemonte.”
Information online was scarce on how to navigate the region with details lacking on how to get around. It took a lot of work to finally get here and to find a way to explore the wines of the area. But, it was well worth it. The region is slowly getting better at communicating with visitors, but it is still not easy.
As a region, Piedmont is second in size only to Sicily, and as a wine region it is home to the most DOCGs and DOCs in Italy. Despite its rich pedigree, it remains elusive to many would-be explorers. The main tourist draw is isolated to the small area, the Langhe - home to Italy’s famous Barolo and Barbaresco wines. The difficulty is that this majestic section is still quite antiquated in terms of tourism and technology. To get you started, here is a primer on how to discover Piedmont vineyards in Barolo and Barbaresco, things I wish I’d have known back when I first wanted to experience the wines and the region.
Visitors to Barolo and Barbaresco are privy to a wine region unlike any that westerners have experienced. Producers remain primarily small, family run-operations, so most wineries require appointments for visits. Don’t plan to just wing it if you hope to visit wine producers as very few walk-in tasting rooms exist. Family members welcome visitors with a full tour of the cantina (often the family home), then a tasting of their wines. Each producer visit is just a little different with appointments running long (think 1.5 to 3 hours) as the host shares a passion that has been passed down for generations and generations.
When to visit Barolo and Barbaresco
The vineyard landscape of Barolo and Barbaresco is breathtaking at any time of year. Selecting the right time to come really depends on what you want to experience.
- Very High Season: July, September, October, November
- High Season: May, June, August, December
- Off Season: January to April (note La Casa Celeste is closed from early January to end of March)
Fall marks the height of tourist season. Harvest kicks off in late August / early September, keeping producers busy until October. Right after harvest the city of Alba takes center stage with International White Truffle Festival, the world’s biggest truffle market. And, Alba is a quick 20 minute drive from La Casa Celeste.
Try to limit your appointments to two winery visits in a day and work in about a 30-minute buffer between as visits often run long. If you are running late, call the producer or restaurant to let them know your expected arrival time. The area still very much practices the two-hour lunch break, so be considerate of that for every place you book an appointment or make a reservation.
Barolo and Barbaresco wines have gotten a lot of fanfare in recent years. As such, visitors come to the area excited to taste the wines, only to find them very difficult on the palate. The Nebbiolo grape is famously quite tannic and needs time to mellow, which is why Barolo and Barbaresco wines are so ageable. But, of course the wines the producers are pouring are the most recent release, so to the uninitiated it can be a struggle. For that reason, start your exploration in Barbaresco. The wines of Barbaresco tend to be softer and more approachable given the region’s maritime climate. Then, move on to Barolo once your palate has acclimated to the intensity of Nebbiolo.
Barolo producers to visit
Barbaresco producers to visit
Ca' del Baio
Cascina della Rose