Piedmont Wine Aficionados
What are your favorite Piedmont wines that you are drinking now for under 100 Euro? What are you buying now to save for later?
I'm not sure what we should be ordering while we visit in October and don't want to be completely ignorant when ordering or buying wine. For example, if there is a year of Barolo that is bad, I'd like to know.
Is there a online resource for this kind of information that you recommend?
Where do you live? Is there a good wine merchant in your town that has a reasonable selection of wines from Piemonte?
Perhaps if you could stop in, find a friendly face among the staff, tell them about your trip and ask for some suggestions, you could come away with some names and vintages to look for.
Be aware the Barbera and Dolcetto are two wines that are widely drunk in Piemonte. They do not need the aging that Barolo and Barbaresco wines can need.
You could also pick up a copy of the Slow Food Guide to the wines of Italy, which has been published in English for over a decade.
Michele Chiarolo is one of the larger and most reliable wine producers in Piemonte. I would feel confident buying just about any of their wines in terms of getting both quality and good value.
Finally,when you get to Peimonte I would recommend a visit to the Regional Enoteca in the castle outside the village of Grinzane Cavour. You will be able to taste wines there from 30-40 Piemonte wineries.
I live in Louisville and have a very hard time finding Barolos and Barbera's - let alone any other Piedmont reds. The one Barbera I do find is the Michele Chiarolo Barbera d'Asti Superiore. It has become our everyday drinking wine at home. I did find Pico Maccario Lavignone Barbera d'Asti the other day but don't have a good or bad opinion on it since I drank it when I had a bad cold and couldn't taste anything. (What a waste!)
We already have plans to visit several enotecas - including Grinzane Cavour - I remember going to the enoteca in Greve and having so many options and being overwhelmed! :)
Thanks for the info and recommendations, DavidT!
Yes, the Michele Chiarolo Barbera d'Asti that is available in the U.S. is a very nice wine and a good value.
As BN1mentions, the comprehensive Italian wine guide is produced by Gambero Rosso, not Slow Food. My mistake.
K&L Wines in the San Francisco area does a good job with Italian wines. You could spend a few minutes on their website to see what wines and wine producers from Piemonte they favor.
Wine Spectator magazine regularly does tastings/ratings of wines from Italy. You can check their website or perhaps your public library or wine shop has an archive of back issues.
Also note that wines simply labeled Nebbiolo d'Langhe can be quite good and a good value.
To expand on DavidT’s good information, Roero and Gatinera both produce excellent Nebbiolo wines in the Piemonte. These are good value selections like the Langhe Nebbiolo mentioned. There has been a mini war between the producers in the Piemonte over the use of small barriques (barrels), which impart more oak into the wine as championed by the tastes of the American wine magazines. The traditionalists are making a comeback, continuing to make wines that work with the local food. This is my reason for finding the Gambero Rosso more reliable.
I also like Arneis from the Roero district. It's a delicious white wine. Agree, as well, on Gattinara, as BN1 mentioned. but visiting the winery may take you farther north than you will be traveling.
I really like the Produttori del Barbaresco for their values in Barbaresco. Especially fond of Asili. This is actually a co-operative and one of the few that works very well. Find some way to taste through their lineup.
You'll notice there are two styles of Barolo found in the many districts: one takes a very long time to resolve and become drinkable; the another style is made to be a bit friendlier and drinks a lot earlier.
Nebbiolo, the base grape for many wines, is a chameleon grape, and very site-specific -- it changes in expression drastically from place to place. Goes from soft and beguiling to dramatically dark and intense, and sometimes, even off-putting. If you can manage it, taste an old, perfectly aged Barolo to get an idea of what a proper (long) aging does a wine that can have far too much tannin to drink when young.
Piemonte is the land of extensive appetizers, so enjoy those and note how perfectly paired they are to the wines. You will be there during truffle season, and they are so redolent you'll be able to smell them simply by walking by a shop as you pass by. Have them any way they're prepared.
I very much like the Alpeggio cheeses so seek them out. For a lark, try the Italian Nutella -- it differs greatly from the Nutella found in the US -- and the company that makes it, Ferrero, is based in Alba. Since the area is hazelnut-dense, the fresh gelato in that flavor is outstanding.
Make sure that you taste and eat high, high up in the hills. The tiny roads and views and ristoranti high up in the districts are distinct and memorable and may make your visit.
I'd urge you to buy wine while there, and either travel back with a styro shipper, or have it shipped. Many of the best wines are not distributed in the US, or the production is so small as to not warrant distribution.
I assume that you mean ordering wine in restaurants, not shipping wine. The wine shops in Italy are very helpful and speak English. There is a bible for the major wine producers in Italy, “Gambero Rosso Italian Wines” (English), available on Amazon. They award the coveted Tre Bicchieri (Three Glasses) prize to the very best wines. 8 Barberas won that prize in 2011 as an example. Gambero Rosso dropped the vintage charts because they did not apply to all houses in each region, I assume. You are headed to wine heaven in my opinion.
I have some notes from my old wine list.
Ricci Bonarda El Matt 2007
origin: Piemonte, Italy
grapes: 100% Bonarda
http://aziendaagricolaricci.com (Italian only)
The vast majority of Italian wines labeled “Bonarda” are made from Croatina or Uva Rara grapes, and Argentine “Bonarda” is actually Charbono. This is the first wine I’ve tasted made from the true Bonarda (aka Bonarda Piemontese). This nicely structured wine is unfiltered, unfined, and saw no oak. It’s a great accompaniment for salumi or any meat or cheesy dish.
Ferraris Grignolino D'Asti DOC Vigna del Casot 2008
origin: Piemonte, Italy
grapes: 100% Grignolino
When I lived in Italy, Grignolino was one of my favorite wines, particularly in the summer—this light, aromatic red might be the best picnic wine in the world. Since I moved back to California, I’ve rarely found it, and when I have, I’ve often been disappointed. That’s not the case with the Vigna del Casot: this is what Grignolino should taste like. The winemaker’s charming English description is worth repeating in full:
The Grignolino of Asti is considered one of the best Italian wines. Many years ago its production was very intense; in the last years it has been reduced, near through the vanishing. Fortunately this wine has been discovered against by the experts and the young people who have avoided the extinction of this characteristic vine both of Piemonte and the people of this land. They tell that Grignolino has been set up, for the first time, in the Migliandolo hamlet of Portacomaro town; on the contrary, we are sure that the most suitable grounds to cultivate this vine are the ones already mentioned and the ones of Castagnole Monferrato, where we can find the “Casot vineyard”. A good Grignolino must be of medium structure and tannic at the right point; the colour is soft ruby that, with the time, becomes orange, delicated, deep and heavenly bouquet with clear traces of marasca-cherry and underwood, moderately hot in the mouth, dry with a refinedly bitterish and persistent aftertaste. It is a very personal wine that can fascinate the most exigent palate. Served young and room temperature it matches with every kind of hors d’oeuvre and specially with light and not fat cuisine; it goes with the whole meal. Excellent with fish!
Monchiero Carbone Birbèt NV
origin: Roero, Piemonte, Italy
grapes: 100% Brachetto
5.5% alcohol, 11% residual sugar
This pale red sparkling wine is reminiscent of Moscato d’Asti, but has a strawberryish aroma, darker fruit flavors, and a hint of bitter almonds in the finish. The winery recommends it with strawberries or plum tart, but for me a glass makes a lovely dessert in itself.
Arneis has been used as a blending grape in
Piemonte for centuries, but has been bottled as a
varietal wine for just a few decades, and was granted
DOC status only in 1989. Due to the cool climate and
other factors, these wines are typically terroir-driven,
light-bodied, and austere, making them perhaps
something of an acquired taste. This Marco Porello is
a surprising and delicious exception: it’s rich, fruity,
and concentrated, with a lovely nose and nice finish.
Pico Maccario Lavignone Barbera d'Asti DOC
origin: Piemonte, Italy
grapes: 100% Barbera
To me, Barberas fall into three general categories. At
one end of the spectrum, there are a few made for
aging that develop into complex and lovely wines
after a few years in the cellar (for example, the
Prunotto Costamiole 2004). In the middle, there are a
lot of dark and brooding ones with often too much
acid or not enough fruit, or maybe just not enough
time in the bottle to have opened up. And at the other
end of the spectrum, we have young and fruity
Barberas like this one. The Lavignone has a delicate
nose, bright, clean flavors, and a nice balance of acid
and tannins: a perfect pizza wine.
Bera Moscato d’Asti DOCG 2008
origin: Sierra Masio, Canelli, Asti, Piemonte
grapes: 100% Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains (Moscato Bianco)
5% alcohol, 13% residual sugar, 5.5% total acidity
I’ve tasted Moscato d’Asti from many producers and
many vintages. This is simply the best, even
compared with its successor the 2009. The fruit is
extraordinary, the delicate sweetness is balanced by
firm acidity, and the wine has a long, lingering finish.
Having been assured by Alesandra Bera that it can
age for 50 years, I bought out the distributor’s
remaining supply. Enjoy it while it lasts.
Vergano Nebbiolo Chinato NV
origin: Piemonte, Italy
grapes: 100% Nebbiolo
Producer Mauro Vergano doesn’t give out much
information about this refined and delicate digestif,
which is similar to an amaro such as Averna or
Ramazzotti but lighter. Nebbiolo wine from
Barbaresco producer Luca Roagna is fortified with a
little alcohol, perhaps sweetened, and infused with a
secret combination of herbs and spices including
chinchona bark (china in Italian, hence chinato), which
contributes the quinine that gives the drink its
To answer what is really your most important question: "is there a year of barolo..."
There absolutely are a few years of barolo that you SHOULD be trying to find... For DRINKING NOW (not laying down for years)... look at 1996 and 2001, two block-buster vintages which have had time to really develop the nuances of these wines... for more recent vintages, also look at the 2004 to being "trying" now.
If you can't find any of these, then look for the 2006's.
Also, what do you plan to drink these with, you didn't say...nebbiolo is a sharply-focused red varietal that matches some foods wonderfully and just doesn't pair with others... save it for what it really works best with... rich red meat entrees of all sorts....