Wine tasting in Piedmont

Wine Tasting in Piedmont

The northern region of Piedmont is a foodie mecca, home to the worth-its-weight-in-gold Alba white truffle, heirloom Fassona Piemontese beef, a number of prestigious local cheeses, tajarin and agnolotti dal plin fresh egg pastas, and—of course—Barolo and Barbaresco, two of Italy’s flagship wines. 

Wine tasting in Piedmont

Wine lovers should definitely have this gorgeous region on their radar, especially in the fall when the rolling vineyards take on brilliant color and the wineries are starting to catch their breath after the harvest. The wines here are among the most prestigious in the world, but you’ll rarely find the crowds that you can sometimes get at Tuscan wineries so it’s an ideal option for wine fanatics who want to explore a more off-the-beaten-path area of Italy. Here are a few tips for wine tasting in Piedmont. 

Wine tasting in Piedmont

Touring Wineries in Piedmont by Car

There is nothing like driving along the narrow, winding roads that weave their way through the vineyard-blanketed hills of Piedmont…often shrouded in fog come fall. This is both a good thing and a bad thing: the views are among the most captivating in Italy but this prosperous region has surprisingly little large-scale infrastructure so expect to spend more time than you think getting between the wineries, even the most famous. 

Public transportation is also quite limited in this region. Trains run to the main towns of Alba and Asti and there are local bus lines that delve deeper into the hills, but you’ll need to rent a car or hire a driver to get to most locations in Piedmont. 

Before you decide on a rental car, however, keep in mind that Italy has quite strict alcohol limits for drivers…for an average person, just one full glass of wine can tip you over the legal limit. If you are driving yourself between wineries, you’ll have to be very cautious about how much you imbibe and wait at least an hour to get back in the driver’s seat after a tasting.

A better solution for wine tasting in Piedmont is to hire a driver, either for simple round-trip transportation to and from a single winery or for a full-day or multi-day itinerary that can include stops at two to four different producers in a day, including a tasting lunch. 

Wine tasting in Piedmont

Tasting Wine at an Enoteca Regionale

If you want to sample a variety of wines from different producers but don’t want to spend a day driving from one winery to another, a visit to an Enoteca Regionale is a great alternative. These government-sponsored tasting rooms carry the top labels from producers across the region and are generally located in the center of towns or cities, so you can try different wines without having to travel. They are usually staffed by knowledgeable sommeliers or local wine experts and most also have small shops where you can purchase bottles you’ve sampled.

Unsurprisingly, two of the best are in the towns of Barolo and Barbaresco. Here you can really taste how the different terroirs in micro areas across the region affect the wine, and most samples cost between €2 and €4 a glass. You won’t have contact with the winemakers, of course, so the experience is very different than a winery tasting, but it’s almost always worth a stop for a general overview of the area’s producers and wine types.

Wine tasting in Piedmont

Winery Stays

Another way to enjoy a wine tasting in Piedmont (again, without having to drive) is to book an overnight stay at a winery. Many of the larger wineries are transforming into “winery resorts” with on-site rooms and restaurants in addition to the cellar and tasting rooms. Even some small wineries have opened charming B&B-type accommodations as official “agriturismo” farm holidays.

Not only is this a great way to enjoy a tasting without the worry of having to drive afterwards, it’s also a wonderful opportunity to really immerse yourself in the local landscape and culture. The hills of La Morra and Barolo in Le Langhe are thick with these winery farm holidays and hotels, but even more remote areas of the region like Roero and Monferrato are jumping on the bandwagon with destination wine resorts that offer enough services and experiences (think cooking classes, truffle hunts, and spas as well as tastings) to keep you happy for a few days. Fall is high season for these types of accommodations, so be sure to book well in advance.

Wine tasting in Piedmont

Planning Winery Visits

Though there are a few large commercial “Napa-style” wineries in Piedmont, the lion’s share of the region’s producers are small, family-run affairs that do not have a large staff to handle drop-in visits. You’ll need to book ahead in most cases to let them know you’re coming and even then you may find that they can’t accommodate you because they are either busy in the vineyards, cellars, or bottling rooms that day or have already taken another visit and can’t do more than one in a single day.

Though younger winemakers usually speak a bit of English, there are still many smaller wineries that do not have English speakers on staff. One of the benefits of booking an all-day wine tour (in addition to hassle-free transportation) is having a bilingual guide who can help translate the tasting commentary. That said, you will almost always meet at least part of the family during your visit and it’s a unique experience to hear about the history and production of a winery as told by a 4th- or 5th-generation producer.

Wine tasting in Piedmont

What to Expect at a Wine Tasting in Piedmont

Most visits include both a tour of the estate or farm and a tasting, which typically costs between €15 and €20 for three to five wines paired with nibbles like local cheeses and charcuterie…plus Piedmont’s delicious grissini breadsticks. If you end up purchasing wine, the winery will sometimes waive the tasting fee (almost all wineries, even the smallest, take credit cards and will arrange shipping directly to your home address or refer you to their US importer to order wine).

Though true oenophiles can sit through multiple tastings in a day, a limit of one or two is best for most travelers to the region…especially if you are alternating between winery stops and village visits. A good pace would be a town + a winery lunch, then a town + a late afternoon tasting before heading back to your hotel for a nap followed by dinner. Again, hiring a driver for the day will both save time (you won’t have to hunt for parking or get lost on the rural roads) and avoid the hassle of having to wait after each tasting to drive.

Check out our tips for wine tasting in Piedmont from the archives!

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