01 Oct The Food and Wine of Piemonte (Piedmont)
One only needs to book a single trip to Piedmont to fully understand its magic and fall in love with this area of Italy which is the birthplace to the slow food movement. Many people travel to Italy and forget that this region is only two hours from Milan and one hour from Turin. The most visited places in Italy are Rome, Venice, Lago di Garda and Tuscany but everyone is missing out on the true jewel of food and wine which is Piemonte.
Piemonte is the birthplace of the Martini, home to Fiat and also Ferrero Rocher which is famous for Nutella and their chocolates. The best truffles in the world are the white truffles of Alba. Turin, Piemonte was also the original capital of Italy when it was first unified in 1861 under Giuseppe Garibaldi. Piemonte is rich in culture, history and cuisine and I hope to take you on a journey to this magical place.
Barolo, known as the wine for kings and the king of wines, also hails from Piemonte.
Some of the towns in the area of Barolo/Barbaresco are:
- Diano D’ Alba
- Serralunga D’ Alba
- La Morra
- Grinzane Cavour
- Castiglione Falleto
I should also mention that there are many other villages across the Tanaro River in Roero as well that are worth visiting for foodie/wine tours such as Canale, Vezza D Alba, Monteiu, Monta and more.
This area is rich in history and was formerly of the French kingdom of Savoie. In 1861 Italy was unified under Giuseppe Garibaldi and Turin was the first capital of Italy before being moved to Florence. Italy operated under a feudal land system where many kings and noble people owned the majority of the lands.
This is clearly evident in the landscape of the Langhe. Upon your visit, you will notice many castles and UNESCO world heritage sites. These are magnificent structures which contain museums, Michelin restaurants, enotecas (wine shops) and hotels.
The unique landscape consists of Swiss Alps and dramatic rolling hills or (bricco) in Piemontese which make for amazing photos and an unforgettable or romantic getaway. The Alba area, famous for white truffles, Nutella, hazelnuts and some of the finest red wines in the world, set the tone for a foodie adventure like no other. The region has over 25 Michelin restaurants, more than anywhere in Europe per capita.
Below, you will find examples of classic Piemontese dishes. It should be noted that the region is famous for the best veal in Italy, great cheeses such as castelmagno, robiola, polentas, hazelnuts and more.
A sous vide veal loin that is served with a pureed sauce of anchovies, tuna, mayonnaise and capers.
Melted cheese and egg with truffle shaved on top of bruschetta.
- Insalate Russa
Russian Salad which is a blend of mayonnaise and tuna mixed with boiled peas, carrots and potatoes.
- Bagna Cauda
A cold mixture of anchovies, garlic and olive oil served with raw vegetables.
A tiny purse-shaped pasta that is served all year long; usually stuffed with various ingredients such as braised meats or ricotta and herbs. My favorite is sage and brown butter.
A tiny pasta that is pinched shut with a blend of three meats that include veal, pork and rabbit.
An egg noodle pasta that is made with over 30 eggs and usually served with shaved truffles or a meat ragu.
A special rice that is cooked with wine, vegetable, beef or chicken stock. It can be served with truffles and/or mushrooms. One example of risotto is one that is braised in Barolo wine. Another risotto is just with vegetables like asparagus, usually with loads of butter and parmigiano. A true treat!
- Carne Cruda all’Albese
A raw meat that is hand chopped similar to steak tar tar, with olive oil, salt and sometimes graded nutmeg. Best served with balsamic vinegar.
Roasted Veal with different accompaniments depending upon season.
A veal roast that is braised with Barolo wine.
A wild boar ragu typically served over polenta.
Rabbit that is typically roasted or braised with wine and other seasonal ingredients.
Roasted Quail is a staple here in the Langhe; normally roasted but either way makes a great pairing partner with many of the red wines.
The area is known for its amazing red wines, but also produces some white wines as well. Piemonte is home to more DOCG wines than anywhere else in Italy. Here are some of the commonly found wines within the area.
Pale yellow straw in color with low acidity and high tannins with peach and pear and sometimes nuances of white flowers or almonds.
Intense herbal, mineral notes along with high piercing acidity. White flowers, stone fruit and lemon nuances.
It can resemble a French Rhone white variety. The main place and birthplace for it is the commune of Novello, but is now being grown in other parts of the Langhe. Aromatic wines with ginger or citrus notes, star fruit, sometimes sage and rosemary with notes of almond, honey and white flowers. They appear to age well.
Cortese grape has neutral aromas with high acidity and mineral aromas. It can be lemony and have white flowers.
Pale lemon with green tinges. High acidity and minerality with notes of lemon, grass, white flowers or apricot. This tends to be one of my favorite. It comes from Caluso, Canavese or Carema.
Everyday red from the area which has been decreasing in popularity due to higher number of Nebbiolo plantings as a result of the skyrocketing land costs in Barolo communes. Low in acidity but high tannins red fruits, raspberries and cherries. Sometimes orange peel or black tea. It is usually low or medium bodied but very fresh and “grapey”. The name means the “little sweet one”.
It is a low bodied wine that is served fresh with notes of strawberry, cranberry with high tannins and low acidity. Served very fresh and usually from Verduno.
Two different styles of Freisa either young fresh wines or others made to age. The name means strawberry as it has those qualities along with tobacco or violet. High cleansing acidity creates ageability, but also this wine can seem very rustic.
Deep ruby purple color, moderate tannins and high acidity make it a very supple pairing partner. Usually red or black cherry and other fruits and hints of underbrush.
Langhe Nebbiolo/Nebbiolo D Alba
These are areas that fall outside of the production zone of Barolo, Barbaresco, Roero. Or they are within the production zone, but declassified fruit because of not meeting aging requirements.
Nebbiolo from this area that is north of the Tannaro river with the soil type being mostly river bottom and sandy with some fossils. Perfumed with notes of red roses or violets, sour red cherry and sweet spices. With lighter color intensity.
Nebbiolo from these four areas that are within the production zone are Treiso, Neive, Barbaresco and San Rocco Seno D’Elvio.
The most intense and ageworthy nebbiolos which come from one of the 11 communes. These are the wines for kings or king of wines. Considered the finest red wine in all of Italy.
Other examples in Piemonte of Nebbiolo are from the areas of Spanna, Gattinara, Ghemme and also known as Chiavennasca.
Wines from Piemonte are obviously serious and noble in origin and should be treated as such. Taking a vacation or traveling to the Alba Piemonte area is a foodie and/or wine lovers dream. Typically, meals at dinner time take several hours due to the region’s relaxed nature and the multiple courses and wine served. I have been knighted here and spent many years of my life here, being originally from Italy.
I would love to take you on the ultimate foodie and wine tour with me in Piemonte, with stops in Barolo, Barbaresco and more.