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Value wines in Piemonte

So let's just say that our wine budget for eating out in Piemonte is 20 Euro per bottle per meal. Is this absolutely ridiculous? Allende has mentioned in a previous post that this is doable. I have looked over the wine list from Ristorante Bovio in La Morra (we don't plan on eating there, but their list is online and is supposedly excellent) and it seems possible. But I still find it a challenge to know what to order. I am assuming Barbera, Dolcetto, and Nebbiolo are wines that would be closer to our price range. I have read that some Dolcetto worth looking for on wine lists are by Einaudi, Marcarini, and Chionetti. For a Nebbiolo, the 2009 Vietti Nebbiolo “Perbacco” Langhe was mentioned as being fuller bodied and tasty. But I would love to have a better idea of what specifically to look for on some these huge wine lists.

We would prefer to be able to splurge on Barolos and Barbaresos, but it's just not possible for us to spend 100+ euro on a bottle of wine. It could be possible to spend 30-40 euro on one or two occasions, if anyone has any suggestions. Maybe on a 2006? We plan to visit an enoteca or two, where hopefully we can try some Barolos for a tasting fee. I did read that Bovio may make some decent Barolos at a lower price point.

We're in our mid 30s and are servers in upscale restaurants in a small city in upstate New York, neither of which have many Italian wines on their lists. So we have a decent knowledge of wine, but are newbies when it come to Italian wines. We may be able to return in the future with a bigger wine budget, but for now our budget is relatively modest.
Many of our food destinations have great wine lists. I would love to take advantage of them to the best of my ability. While food may be a slightly higher priority on this trip, we still plan on taking this opportunity to get better acquainted with Italian wines.

Our list includes:

In ER: Da Ivan, La Buca, Locanda Mariella, Amerigo dal 1934 (possibly), and Antica Osteria ai Ranari in Montova. I could use a suggestion for Verona. I have a couple places in mind, but nothing that stands out as special.

In Piemonte: Da Bardon, Veglio, La Torre, and either Il Centro or Renzo for a ristorante one night. Renzo is very close to our hotel.

This is our first time visiting Italy. When I tell friends our itinerary, I get strange looks. No Venice? No Rome? I am so thankful to Chowhound and to its loyal Italy posters, because of you we will have a trip of a lifetime, one which few people would ever plan for their first visit to Italy. Thank you!

But it seems I still need a little help :)

Jasmine

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  1. If you do visit Alba, be sure to visit the regional enoteca in the castle just outside the village of Grinzane Cavour, which is just a few miles south of Alba.

    It is a pretty spot and you will be able to taste a wide variety wines from many of the smaller producers in Piemonte.

    http://castellogrinzane.com/

    http://www.castellogrinzane.com/ing/e...

    1 Reply
    1. re: DavidT

      That was one of the enoteca I was planning to visit! We will also try to visit the ones in Barolo and Barbaresco.

    2. I completely agree about your itinerary not including Venice and Rome. Though I have been to both several times, I really enjoy the less touristed areas, and have a particular fondness for Piemonte.

      As to the wine question, we rarely spend more than 20 euros a bottle, and have had some memorable wines It's not like in the US, where you need to know what's good and bad because a lot of what is exported to here is not that good, and restaurants mark up the price a lot. In Italy, the restaurant price is not much more than normal retail. You don't need to be all that knowledgeable to get a good bottle.

      These threads may help:

      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6551...

      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/810190

      2 Replies
      1. re: rrems

        I had already read both of your trip reports and just reread them. Thank you so much for reporting back! I am curious about the Barolo Bricco Cerretta 2003 that you mentioned in your 2011 report. Maybe that is one that I will look for on lists, unless it is only sold by Trattoria Cascina Schiavenza.

        1. re: JazzyK

          I searched it on Google, and it comes up in Italy and the US at retail stores, though not the 2003. Since it is widely available I would expect other restaurants to serve it, just not sure if the price would be the same as at their own restaurant. It was by far the lowest price Barolo we saw anywhere.

      2. The best advice I would give you is to trust the sommelier. Sorry I do not know the Italian equivalent. Whomever is in charge of the wine will know their list better than you ever can and their job, in which they take great pride, is to make you happy. Tell him/her what you like and what you do not like and your budget.

        From personal experience:

        Vietti's Perbaco is one of the great values in Nebbiolo. It is essentially declassified Barolo. The fruit all comes from their highly regarded vineyards and spends two years is wood before release (just as Barolo). Their barberas are also very good and very reasonably priced. If you want white Vietti's Arneis pretty much sets the standard. Arneis is wonderfully complex and quite different. Among my very most favorite white grapes from anywhere. The 2011 is better than the 2012.

        Another producer that makes excellent wines at way better than average prices is Damilano. The 2008 Barolo LCV is excellent, especially with an hour or two in a decanter.

        In your stated price range you will likely be limited to Dolcetto and perhaps some Barberas. My advice. Step up and have the best Barolo stretch without totally blowing your budget. Barolo at its best may be the greatest red wine in the universe. IMO it is.

        1 Reply
        1. re: jock

          Thank you so much! This is exactly what I am looking for, some specific producers and vintages. I will certainly look for Vietti Nebbiolo "Perbacco". We just might be in the mood for white at some point, so I will keep Vietti's Arneis in mind. I prefer a light white wine with a good amount of mineral. Would this wine fall into that category? I haven't done much reading on whites, except for Gavi.

          Is it the Damilano Barolo Lecinquevigne that you are recommending? I did a search and that's what came up. We will keep our eyes open for a 2008. Do you have any other recommendations for a well priced Barolo if we do want to splurge one meal? We really wouldn't be able to spend more that 40 Euro.

        2. Your overall assumption about getting what you want with the various Barberas (Asti, alba and monferrato), Dolcetto (dogliani and alba) and Nebbiolo di Langhe is exactly right. I do not know the listed restaurants well enough (i.e. their wine lists) to suggest specific bottles, but sticking with these will get you good wines. Try also Freisa d'asti (the dry and still versions); and Timorasso for white. In ER try the Sangiovese di romagna but also Lambrusco, especially brut versions made with metodo classico. In Verona look out for Ripasso, which will be an "alternative" to Amarone in your budget. At the moment my fave Vero ese producer is Antolini (also for valpolicella). And yes, do talk to your sommelier (same in Italy).
          One note - as you are servers in the usa, you might have calculated differently about the following: no tipping in Italy. That does increase the wine budget :)

          2 Replies
          1. re: vinoroma

            Thanks for the heads up on Veneto wines. I enjoy Amarones, but hadn't considered one because of the price, but the Valpolicella Ripasso seems right up our alley. I know that the Ripasso method is somewhat controversial, but I enjoy the more concentrated flavors. There is a couple wineries in our area (Finger Lakes, NY and Ontario, Canada) that have been using the double fermentation method with a lot of success.

            1. re: vinoroma

              This whole discussion is really valuable. We will be tasting in Piedmont this November. Does anyone have any specific recommendations for wineries to be sure to visit and enotecas that cannot be missed? We have 5 days and nights...

            2. There is absolutely no reason to spend more then 20 euro a bottle for a good bottle of wine in a Piedmont restaurant, I would suggest go with the Barbera's which are most complimentary to Piedmontese cusine, I prefer Barbera d'Asti to Barbera d'Alba's and you will find a huge number of names which you won't have heard of in USA, ask your server for a recommendation. Nebbiolo d'Alba (which I prefer to Langhe Nebbiolo) are also very good, and there are many other varieties of wine not common outside of Piedmont, Freisa d'Asti has been mentioned, also try Ruche di Castagnole Monferrato, Bonarda and Grignolino or for a good white look for Roero Arneis. As for Barolo or Barbaresco the restaurants on your list will carry several pages, and you can find some around 25 euro, although they will be young. Some restaurants have their own cantina and have house labels, such as Cascina Schiavenza in Serralunga and Rabaja in Barbaresco - Barbaresco's will be less expensive unless you go for a Gaja or Bruno Giacosa.

              But do yourself a favour and try some of the smaller osterie in the towns and villages for a local treat at very reasonable prices, La Gemma in Rodino is very good.

              9 Replies
              1. re: Villasampaguita

                Good to hear that we won't have to spend more than 20 Euro! I am wondering about your taste preferences, since you did mention specific areas. I prefer a fuller bodied, rich, spicy red. Yes, I know that is classic American (California) taste, but I am still having so much trouble warming up to the earthier, old world style reds. I am working on it! I just don't know when and if I am going to get there. So when you suggest Barbera d'Asti over d'Alba, and Langhe Nebbiolo over d'Alba, may I ask why? Would this be where my preferences might lie also? Or can you suggest a type of wine better suited to my taste? We will try everything, I promise! Just curious.

                1. re: Villasampaguita

                  @ Villasampaguita I will continue to do some research to figure out which wines will fit my taste. From what I have read, the Nebbiolo grape can vary drastically from vineyard to vineyard. So while I may like one Nebbiolo (or Barolo or Barbaresco), I may not like another. Is this true? It's interesting to me that a varietal can be so versatile.

                  1. re: JazzyK

                    JazzyK, that is the whole idea behind Italian winemaking, true not only for Nebbiolo but for almost all. Take the lowly (ehem) Chardonnay - grown all over Italy, it delivers completely different types of wines in the north, central and south italy. Sometimes i make a little game of it in my tastings and serve a northern and southern Ch together with a central italian non-ch white, blind. 99% of my guests think the non-ch is the ch because that is closest to what ch is known to be in the USA and most other parts of the world.
                    Coming back to the nebbiolo, the terroir of Piedmont is one with very small and distinctly varying puzzle pieces, making big differences from vinyard to vinyard. Just like in Burgundy, where it is all Pinot Noir, but there are huge differences just 10feet away.

                    1. re: vinoroma

                      I'm mixed up. Are you saying your guests think a non chard is a chard? If that is so, are you saying that they can't tell a chard from another grape because the other grape tastes like a USA chard? BTW, what is that other grape?

                      1. re: allende

                        yep Allende, that is what I am saying, except it is not because of the "other grape" but rather the regional style - works with almost all Umbria/Tuscany/Lazio whites.

                        1. re: vinoroma

                          Interesting that a regional style of another grape would remind Americans of a chard at home.

                          I don't know the wines of Umbria or Lazio very well, but do know the Tuscans. Could you give me a few specific (producer and grape) examples of the Tuscan "sleepers" you put in the blind tastings. Thanks.

                          1. re: allende

                            oh, almost any viognier, trebbiano, pinot bianco or even vermentino will do - i have used Guado al tasso's and La spinetta's vermentinos for example, Angelini's viognier, burchino's trebbiano/viognier blend, villa antinoris blend which i think has everything but ch, grattamaccho's vermentino....

                      2. re: vinoroma

                        So it seems that I will have to explain to the sommelier what I prefer in a wine. How would I describe in Italian that I enjoy a full-bodied wine with dark red and black fruit that is bold with a bit of spice? Or will I usually be able to use English?

                        What I probably should do is drink wines in Italy that I wouldn't normally drink, and begin gaining an appreciation for an older world style.

                        1. re: JazzyK

                          Id be more inclined to keep it simple - after you scan the wine list, ask the waiter to recommend say, a good barbera, dolcetto or nebbiolo from the locality at your price point. After you have drunk some wines, you will start having some points of reference. This approach is possible with little Italian vocabulary, will show you have some interest in the local wines and wont bog you down in incomprehesibe wine talk.

                  2. We went to an Altare tasting here in Portland last night and the 2011 Dolcetto d'Alba and Barbera d'Alba were both showing great. Since they were selling for $20 and $22 respectively, I would imagine they would be in your budget in the "homeland".

                    12 Replies
                    1. re: ekc

                      Here is where Italian wine coming into the US gets tricky.

                      In La Morra, just up the hill from Altare, the 2010 Dolcetto sells for 20 Euros or 26 bucks. The 2011 will sell for a euro or two more, but let's forget about that for a second.

                      How is it possible to sell the same wine in Portland for much less than it sells for in La Morra. It's not possible as I've explained to many people recently.

                      You may have liked the wine and it may be good, but it is not the same wine (in the bottle) as the one in La Morra.

                      Comments Vinoroma?

                      1. re: allende

                        That is puzzling. I simply dont believe the same wine would normally sell for less in the US than at home in Italy. If it is different wine (different vineyard, age of vines or whatever) is it fair to assume that a higher quality product would be on offer in Italy under that label, or that they are making different wines for the tastes of different markets.?

                        1. re: allende

                          hmm, i dunno why the prices are so high over there in la morra - in rome trimani has them (the 11s) for 13 and 16 respectively, and they are notoriously a euro or two more expensive than other enotecas, i am sure i can find it for a bit less. and looking at 13 and 16, 20 and 22 usd look pretty ok to me.

                          1. re: vinoroma

                            I cannot speak to wine pricing in Europe vs. the U.S., but I know for a fact that many (if not most) single-malt Scotch whiskies sell for anywhere from 1/4 to 1/2 more in Scotland than they do in the U.S. This may result in some wine merchants being able to sell various wines at very attractive price at given times.

                            I think you need to do a large sampling of pricing across a good number of retail merchants to make an accurate comparison. At any point in time, a given wine distributor in the U.S. may be anxious to sell a portion of their inventory at their cost (or less) for a variety of reasons.

                            I seriously doubt Italian wineries are blending, bottling and shipping different versions of their wines at different price points to their foreign & domestic customers.

                            1. re: DavidT

                              @ David T,

                              Sorry to disagree a bit. There are some barolos, very recent vintages, being sold by one well known wine merchant in New York, which compared to the price in the Alba area leaves me to think that...

                              We also know that the French have done this for a long long time.

                              By the way, mea culpa. Those prices that I mentioned in an earlier post were from a wine store in Alba, not La Morra.

                              1. re: allende

                                Even if it was in Alba, that is a huge markup. 12-13 in rome (i did see the dolcetto for 12 at costantini lastnight) 20 in alba is inexplicable. Or rather, that the alba enoteca has inflated prices.

                                1. re: vinoroma

                                  Yup. It is inexplicable. But we know there are many inexplicable things about selling, buying and drinking wine.

                                  Grey market bottles being sold; huge (unconscionable) wine markups at restaurants. Restaurants selling old wines that have been improperly stored (in the restaurants) and pawning off those wines as "great" and having their customers, who have only bought the wine for its "label" and to impress people, not have the knowledge or nerve to protest. Restaurants which open up with deep lists where neither they nor their customers know the provenance of the wines... and neither cares. Restaurants which switch wines on customers (see Joe Bastianich's book) and the customers are none the wiser.

                                  The main thing for many Americans of a certain socio- economic class, particularly in New York, is that they buy labels to impress. They've never learned, what many (some?) Italians know... bevi il vino, non l'etichetta.

                                  It takes wine education to understand that wine is not about labels, and that is something most do not want to spend the time on. Much easier to go into a restaurant or wine store and buy a label.

                                  1. re: vinoroma

                                    inflated prices indeed! I cannot speak for every winery, but I know Altare only makes one Dolcetto, so it is the same juice whether it is sold in Portland, Alba or Rome!

                                    1. re: ekc

                                      soaking the tourists in Alba???

                                    2. re: vinoroma

                                      "20 in alba is inexplicable."

                                      All over Italy I find inflated prices in locales that have cultivated a reputation as being THE place for a tourist to buy or consume this or that.

                                      Part of the pricing of anything is what someone is willing to pay for it, and if you are able to convince people that the only "authentic" version is what your are selling, not what is being sold miles elsewhere, somebody is likely to fall for it.

                                      Another part of the pricing is set by the true costs to the seller. The small boutique wine shop owner in Alba with few customers other than tourists might need to charge more to net a profit that keeps him in business than the Portland or Roman seller whose entire commercial operation is on a different footing.

                                      When prices are challenged in Piemonte ("I can buy that same wine for 10 euros less at home!") wouldn't surprise me totally if Piemonte sellers dropped subtle suggestions that it might not be the same wine, ahem, can't prove anything...

                                      And if people have routintely been paying Piemonte prices for wine that people in Portland and Rome routinte pay less for, might be tempting to nurse the idea that it must be purple colored water in those other bottles and that Piemonte wine producers have no integrity, and only those few in the know with deep pockets sip the true elixir...

                                      If people think wine labels aren't important, they should feel free to skip identifying for us the labels on what they drank in Piemonte.

                                      1. re: barberinibee

                                        No one said wine labels weren't important. Where did you come up with that absurd notion?

                                        You have a bad habit of telling people what they said, when they haven't said it. You have been personal about it, particularly with me. I've complained to the moderators and, as you know, the posts have been taken down.

                                        Stop with the personal stuff. If you want to say that a person said this or that, and then criticize it, put the quote in quotes. Then state your view. But please don't tell me or anyone else what we said unless it is factual. Thank you.

                                        1. re: allende

                                          "It takes wine education to understand that wine is not about labels".

                                          "No one said wine labels weren't important. Where did you come up with that absurd notion?"

                                          I have a lot of respect for your knowledge and discerning taste, Allende, but these are your statements, and they seem contradictory.

                                          Maybe you could clarify?

                          2. Here is a link to 17 Barbera wines currently selling at K&L Wines, a large wine shop in San Francisco, California. The majority of them are selling for between $15 & $25.

                            http://www.klwines.com/content.asp?N=...

                            It would be interesting to know what these same wines are selling for at retail wine shops in Italy.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: DavidT

                              www.wine-searcher.com can be asked to show prices for any wine any where in the world. they don't list *every* enoteca, but quite a few to get an idea

                            2. Don't forget to seek out nebbiolos from Gattinara; the popular Travaglini Gattinaras sell for about $20-$30 in the US, and there are likely other producers at more value prices. I hesitate to recommend another northern Piemonte nebbiolo, Carema, which, although extraordinarily delicious, has gotten pricey. Gattinaras, even older ones, can be a bargain: they are typically lighter, more fragrant than nebbiolos from the Langhe.

                              6 Replies
                              1. re: bob96

                                this is a wonderful grape, the only other really comparable to a fine burgundy IMO. I have great memories of a wonderful barbaresco haul we had many years ago that Sherry Lehman couldnt sell because it had wax sealing the corks, funny bottle shape and sort of a dusty surface feel. The wine lasted and lasted. The shippers have wised up long since on their packaging and we really cant afford to explore the current versions. what a shame. I will keep a look out for the Carema for sure.

                                1. re: jen kalb

                                  Jen, I failed to mentioned the Spanna (Colli Novaresi) of Vallana. Spanna is the local word for nebbiolo, and these can be interesting, and price-worthy, values. http://www.skurnikwines.com/wines.cgi...

                                  1. re: bob96

                                    thanks for the reminder, Bob. I will keep my eyes out!

                                    1. re: jen kalb

                                      @ rrems

                                      Sure, will try to clarify.

                                      I said wine is not about labels, meaning as I explained, if you read all of my remarks, that too many people only care about wine labels and not what's in the bottle (bevi il vino, non l'etichetta). That was my point and my only point. I did not say, as the poster said I said "wine labels are not important." I have no idea what that phrase means; it seems meaningless.

                                      I like wine and food and post here to let people know what we ate and drank at various places so that they may be better informed if they go to one of the restaurants mentioned. The poster said "they (i.e. me) should feel free to skip identifying for us the labels on what they drank in Piemonte." Why should I; why would I, particularly in Piemonte where food and wine are inextricably linked. If someone writes a review of a restaurant, I'd really like to know what they drank (and what the wine list was like) as well as what they ate and what the menu was like. Ninety-nine percent of the time, people posting do not comment about wine, or they say we had "a nice Chianti", whatever that means. I always thought that if you cared about good food on your plate, why wouldn't you care about good wine in your glass, particularly in Italy. Italy has so many great wines, most at moderate prices, so that it is not necessary to drink house wine (most often the dregs of other people's bottles) or "nice Chiantis". It takes just a tiny bit of time to understand what to order.

                                      To explain my first point a bit more, here is a practical example. Although you and I agree on many restaurants, we happen to disagree on the Trattoria Schiavenza. You like it very much; we thought our meal there was mediocre (but we're going back a second time to see if we made a mistake). You like their wine; we think it is just "okay" ("the wine we drank, a 2010 Barbera, was good, if a bit thin and a bit too acidic"). Schiavenza is thought of as making very good wines in Serralunga. More than very good. Based on its reputation, we were prepared to like both the place (meal) and the wine. We could have been snowed by the reputation of the place and the wine ("the label" which is highly regarded). We drank what was in the bottle; we didn't drink "the label." We thought it was just okay, no matter what the reputation ("the label") of the wine.

                                      Hope that explains my comments somewhat more.

                                      Best,

                                      allende

                                      1. re: allende

                                        Thanks for taking the time to explain. What you say makes sense. I too appreciate when others report on specific wines they drank, and try to do so myself when I have one that is worth mentioning.

                                        I will look forward to your next report on Schiavenza, and hope your experience will be better than the first one. It may be quite some time before I am able to get back to give it another try.

                                        1. re: rrems

                                          Adding to this late in the game...

                                          I'm staying just outside La Morra (walking distance).

                                          Our first night there we visited a Wine store situated perfectly on a corner, and clearly catering to tourists. Being from Jersey, having lived in NYC, and now living within shouting distance of outstanding Wine shops in California Bay Area, my ears were perked.

                                          We went to OSTERIA More e Macine for dinner. It was simple, very good, and not too pricey. We had Silvio Grasso Barbera d'alba for €3-4. We also took home a nebbiolo for about $16-17 which was a smaller local producer, recommended by our server. The prices were better the restaurant, and to go bottles discounted.

                                          End of day it's about recognizing traps, and forging trust. If you have those skills you'll be fine.