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How to plan your own wine tour in Piedmont – Barolo

My personal highlights: 48 hours wine trip in the UNESCO heritage Barolo discovering wine rarities & meditative landscapes in Langhe

When you hear the word Italy, the chances of being surrounded by good food & drinks are very high. I am very thankful of my Italian origins, they thaught me to appreciate and recognize a pure taste. There are several facts about True Italian Taste and its provenience that need to be known.

In occasion of a campaign promoted from the Italian Chamber in Zurich I got in touch with the topic “True Italian Taste” and “Italian Sounding”. This is how the Barolo Trip in Piedmont organized by “Strada del Barolo e grandi vini di Langa” came along.

What means Italian Sounding?

Italians sounding is the marketing of food and beverage produced worldwide, often labelled with Italian names and misleading Italian words and pictures. This misleading information is extremely dangerous for our Italian heritage! Reason enough why the Italian Government realized a unique mark against fakes. The project considers a brand to print on the product’s labels to fight forgery, starting from the food industry.

Important quality products have their origins in Piedmont. The world knows Barolo, the white Alba Truffle or Fiat. All of these brands have been created in this region.

Let’s mention Fiat first, since I had the pleasure to travel with a cozy Fiat500 Cabrio, Anniversario edition all the way to Alba. FIAT was founded in Turin in 1888. The Anniversario edition is dedicated to the 60th birthday of the Fiat 500. It comes in a fresh Riviera green! This retro model caught much attention all around the Langhe Piomentesi! We cruised through the valleys feeling safe. What a fun having the wind blowing through the hair listening to legendary Italian songs. The car trunk offers enough space to bring back home exquisite wine bottles! Thanks FCA Switzerland for this great opportunity! Get more information and facts about the Fiat500 Anniversario Model here.

Let’s dive into the culinary part of my travels.

Discovering Barolo & Barbaresco – UNESCO World Heritage since 2014

UNESCO rewards this region of Italy not only for being a land of vineyards, castles and medieval towers, but also for the labor of men and women down the ages. The soil of Langa has always been difficult and demanding to work: the malora, a term used by Beppe Fenoglio to describe a painful condition, reminds that the farmers who used to live in Langhe in the 1950s, had a lot of difficulties working the land.

The UNESCO site comprises the Barolo DOCG communes of Barolo, Castiglione Falletto, Grinzane Cavour, La Morra, Monforte d’Alba, Novello & Serralunga d’Alba, including the Barbaresco DOCG communes of Barbaresco and Neive.

The charm of the landscape and the geographical viticulture add ideal circumstances and incredible value to this travel experience.

During every wine tasting I appreciated much the way all the winemakers presented and shared their precious knowledge. The sparkles in their eyes can not be overseen while they explain the history of their winery. Some of the history goes back hundreds of years.

Standing between the yards, absorbing the smell and colors with all senses allows a whole picture on what wine making means.

On our Barolo trip we visited 5 wine yards in 48 hours!
That was a real challenge. Thanks to the perfect organization of  “Strada del Barolo” we managed to absorb all the facets offered by this region.

Piedmont red wine: appreciated and popular in the whole world –
What means DOC and DOCG?

It lays down the rules for its production and for admission to the market, that it has this fame. Barolo and Barolo Riserva wines have obtained the DOC with DPR 04.23.1966 and subsequently the DOCG with the DPR 07/01/1980 (Italian law). These laws and the subsequent amendments define the Production Regulation of Barolo wine.

Important characteristics of Barolo DOCG wine:

  • It’s made exclusively from Nebbiolo grapes, grown in the territory of 11 municipalities  designated by the mentioned Production Regulations.
  • It must be bottled and can age only in the defined municipalities.
  • The minimum aging of the Barolo wine is 38 months and 62 months for Barolo Riserva wine. 18 month must follow in a wooden barrel.
  • The release for consumption is permitted from 1 January of the fourth year following the harvest for Barolo wine and from 1 January of the sixth year following the harvest for the Barolo Riserva wine.
  • The grape yield must not exceed 8 tonnes per hectare.
  • The yield of wine per hectare must not exceed 5,600 liters.

The Barolo and Barolo Riserva wines must also have the following characteristics:

  • minimum alcohol content 12.5% by volume
  • They must have a ruby red color
  • The taste must be dry taste and full, elegant and harmonious.

This regulation may explain, why so much hand work is put into the production of these wines.

Piedmont Food delicacies

Everyone know, the famous White Truffle of Alba or hazelnuts, (one of the best quality hazelnuts in the world and main ingredient of many handmade sweets of the local tradition). What about Dop cheeses, hand made pasta or any kind of salumi? Gastronomy in Langa is robust and tasty. The dishes are simple and genuine.

How to plan your Piedmont tour in Barolo – Langhe – Roero and Monferrato

This blog article shall inspire to offer a good mix in term of size and region of the wineries. It can be used as a help to book a wine trip on your own. Find all the coordinates below.

Important: Absolutely schedule tasting appointments in advance, you will be grateful to all the attention and precious knowledge the winemakers can share with you. If they know about a visit, they can plan and organize this accordingly.

The partner that organized our tour was “Strada del Barolo e grandi vini di Langa“. Mario put together a tailored wine tasting experience that led through Langhe, Roero & Monferrato. You can check for a driver that makes all of the transfers.

How many wineries to visit during your weekend trip?

I recommend 2 wineries per day, if possible focus on a one area per day. With this agenda you have time to enjoy the cultural offer around the region, too. Explore some hiking or biking. Go for a shopping afternoon in picturesque Alba.

The season to travel if you’re in love with truffles is October. Spring is recommended, too. This time is less touristy and gives you the chance to see blooming wine yards!

How to find wineries for your Barolo wine tour

In this section you get introduced to a selection of wineries I have visited personally and absolutely recommend.

The grapes cultivated at Malvirà are: Nebbiolo, Arneis, Favorita, Chardonnay and a small part of Barbera.
Malvirà cultivates 42 hectares and exports all over the world, (Switzerland included). Today the estate is run by two brothers, Massimo and Roberto Damonte and their sons.
Plenty of the wines produced are 100% organic. All of them follow the defined strict regulation of Barolo. When you walk into a cellar of such a size you understand how much work is behind that business.

My personal highlight: Enjoying a dinner with one of the founder, Roberto Damante. Exploring the pairing of precious drops with delicate ingredients as the white Alba Truffle or local beef tartar. This combination makes evolve the palate with completely new flavors!

Contact:

Azienda Agricola Malvirà dei F.lli Damonte
Via Case Sparse, 144, Loc. Canov, 12043 Canale d’Alba (CN), Tel. +39.0173.978145, e-mail: malvira@malvira.com

Accommodation:
For your first night I recommend to stay at Villa Tiboldi. It is managed by the same family of the winery. The house is surrounded by a breathtaking view over the hills of Langa and Roero. The boutique hotels offers 10 comfortable rooms around 170 Euro/night. A restaurant and a swimming pool with a view over the Langhe make your stay memorable!  Experience the ideal pairing of exquisite traditional Piemontese Food with premium wines!

  •  Josetta Saffirio, Loc. Castelletto 39, 12065 Monforte d’Alba – Langhe
    This winery is located at Monforte d’Alba on Castelletto hill, facing south east, for a total of 5 hectares of vineyards mostly planted as Nebbiolo. In the early twentieth century, Josetta’s father, Ernesto, began cultivating the vineyards inherited from his father. 1952 she creates a unique Barolo, which in the nineties amazes the Italian wine scene. Josetta is the first woman giving a label to the Barolo wine. The gnomes decorating the bottles are inspired by childhood stories she was told by her father!


    My personal highlight: Putting on boots to walk inside the wine yards gives makes you smell the earth! Marco, one of the managers, guided us through his favorite hill called “Persiera”. From here you admire the complete Langa valley. Lange means tongue (IT: Lingua).  This is the shape of the wine yards! I am taught, that the color of the leafs explain the sort of a grape.

Check their project called: adopt a row! You can buy your own row and experience onsite the huge work that lies behind winemaking. Learn all the steps of wine making as the harvesting, the aging and finally the bottling. More details here.

Contact:
Josetta Saffirio Farm, Località Castelletto, 39, 12065 Monforte d’Alba (CN), info@josettasaffirio.com,
Tel. + 39 0173 787278

  • Agricola Gian Piero Marrone, Langhe
    The Company “Agricola Gian Piero Marrone” is a Family for four generations dedicated with passion to the works in the vineyards. The business is in hand of three sisters in the 4th generation. Here you experience a friendly and honest hospitality with genuine and home made dishes at reasonable prices. This place is very authentic. Find excellent products as wine olive oil, truffles and local sweets at reasonable prices.The winery is beautifully located in the middle of the Langhe hills and has a admirable terrace facing the wine yards. The restaurant invites to take a seat at tables “between” the wine barrels.
    For those who love cooking: Attend a cooking class in the winery and learn the secrets of this typical cuisine! Get more information here.

My personal highlight: Tasting an excellent Langhe doc Chardonnay “Memundis” and learning from Marco Bertone one of the managers that sulfates (mostly in white whine) are often cause of headaches. They remove oxygen from the stomach, which in turn takes it from the brain. The lack of oxygen causes headaches! Now I know where my headaches come from: no wines with sulfates, please!

Contact:
Agricola Gian Piero Marrone, Frazione Annunziata 13, 12064 La Morra (CN) Italia, tel +39 0173 509288, e-mail: marrone@agricolamarrone.com

  • Cantina Cascina Castlèt – Between Alba and Asti
    Costigliole d’Asti is one of the most enchanting centers in Alto Monferrato. From the valley of Tanora the landscape rises to gentle hills up to the 300 m above sea level. M. Frazione San Michele, from where you can enjoy a magnificent view to the Alps. The soil conditions are ideal for viticulture.
    Local grape varieties are: Barbera, Moscato, Uvalino and NebbioloCabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. This variety has been grown in Costigliole since the late 18th century. Cascina Castlèt used to belong to the Borio family for generations. Mariuccia inherited it from her father in 1970.

    My personal highlight:
    Exploring a wine cellar with a mystic touch. It reminds me of a place where the magic happens. The wine is refined until it gets to the result to be a rubin red Barbera.

    Contact:
    Cascina Castlet
    Str. Castelletto, 6, 1405 Costigliole d’Asti, Tel.: +39 0141 966651, Email: info@cascinacastlet.com

    Accommodation:
    Villa Loreto, Strada del Loreto, 33, 14055 Castigliole D’Asti – www.villa-loreto.com
    A little paradise for your relax with an amazing view managed by a Swiss couple that fell in love with this region. The stylishly furnished homes with private pools are located in a private estate of 35’000 m2. Maria introduces me into the exploration of Asti Spumante in food recipes! I love to share my favorite Piedmont Dessert with you, it’s prepared super fast and easy!

Zabaione al Moscato d’Asti

Ingredients: 1 egg, 4 egg yolk, 1dl Moscato d’Asti, 50 grams of sugar

Preparation:
In a saucepan placed in a bain-marie, add the Moscato d’Asti and the sugar to the egg yolks and the whole egg. Use a wire whip to mix slowly until it gets warm, stir until the mixture is soft and creamy. Remove from heat and immediately strain with biscuits or a hazelnut cake.

  • La Casaccia – Monferrato
    This area is somewhat overshadowed a bit by Barolo and Barbaresco. Be prepared of very exclusive and delicate wines made with the Grignolino or the Freisa grapes. At La Casaccia they produce elegant traditional drops interpreted in a modern way. Giovanni loves to experiment with the grapes and offers very intellectually wines that reflect the positive elements of the character of Giovanni and his family.
    The winery La Casaccia is located in a house from the 17th century. Today it is renovated to a jewel including a cozy B&B. Walking in the base where the wine cellar is feels like visiting an ancient museum. Some bottles are hundreds of years old. The cellar excavated in the underground is a rarity. It made this region become a World Heritage Site of UNESCO, too.

Do you know the Grignolino grape?
I did not. It’s a famous grape from the region of Monferrato. It is a wine of character and full of discoveries. With its natural spiciness it’s perfect for those who love the intriguing flavors. Grignolino is very delicate wine and difficult to cultivate. The grape is sensitive to diseases and requires a lot of care and attention.

My personal highlight: Try their wines at dinner, spend a night at their cozy B&B and get spoiled by the traditional and genuine cooking skills of Elena. I absolutely loved their La Casaccia metodo classico sparkling wine made of Chardonnay grapes.

If you are planning a longer time off from home and are interested in helping in the wine yards, this is a place to do such a project. Get in contact with them!A specialty we tried was a flan made of broccoli, a veal involtino stuffed with artichokes and some fresh cheese and salumi. Feel like eating at a family table. We shared lovely stories of life zipping on our glass. The breakfast in the morning is the cherry on the top. A lukewarm hazelnut cake made only with egg white and local hazelnuts! No butter and practically no sugar. Thank you Giovanni, Elena, Margherita and Marcello for this very hearty evening spent with you sharing our stories of life.

Contact:
Azienda Vitivinicola La Casaccia, Via Barbano Dante 10, Cella Monte, 53010, Tel. 0039 (0)142 489 986, E-Mail: vini@lacasaccia.biz

Accommodation:
Simple but very cozy and authentic rooms. It’s a very typical historical building in Cella Monte from the 17th century renovated with much love. Get more here.

Interested in other travel stories? Visit my travel section here.

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STORIES

Culinary trip to Parma – Where to go and what to experience in 3 days

My personal highlight: Discovering an enchanting pearl full of culture & extraordinary delicacies only a few hours by train from Zurich!

How much do you know about this Italian Culture & Gastronomy City located 5h by train from Zurich?

Parma has been shaped along the centuries by great painters as Correggio & Antelami. In the national gallery of Pilotta you can find some works by Da Vinci, Barbieri, Allegri, van Dyck, and many others from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. The unique piece from Leonardo da Vinci called ‘La Scapigliata’ from 1508 all made in oil on a wood panel captured my heart immediately.
For Opera lovers it’s absolutely recommended to visit Teatro Regio. It’s one of the most renowned and high-quality opera houses in Italy. It has been associated with many great composers, such as Giuseppe Verdi and Gioachino Rossini. This venue continues to serve the great Italian musical tradition, staging four operas every season and hosting a yearly Verdi Festival in October!
Another landmark of Parma is their Teatro Farnese. The theatre is one of the most renowned example of a wooden theatre that stands today. Created in the 1600’s, at the time it was also the largest theatre in the world and could hold a crowd of 3’000 people. It’s absolutely recommended to go there fro a throwback in time!

During the Middle Ages, Parma was ruled by the Franks and was part of the Holy Roman Empire. During the 1800’s, the city was annexed by France under the rule of Napoleon, and then finally became a part of the Kingdom of Italy in 1860.

Guess why Parma has been nominated a City of Gastronomy?

On December 11th, 2015 Parma was officially invited to take part in the UNESCO Creative Cities Network, becoming the first Italian Creative City of Gastronomy (The network includes more than 70 cities in 32 countries). Parma is a true Foodvalley, A. because of their king of Cheese called Parmigiano Reggiano that has its origins here and B. because of the world famous Parma ham. More than that, Parma is home to the top school of Italian cooking called Alma!

Foodie hint: You recognize the original Parma by it’s 5 pointed crown branded onto it’s skin.

Emilia-Romagna is the European region with the highest number of PDO and PGI products, and it is described by Forbes “Italy’s greatest gastronomic treasure.

Ever heard about the delicacy Culatello di Zibello?

It is the precious piece made from the large muscle mass in the rear leg of the pig. Creating it means destroying the possibility of making a prosciutto!
Its tremendous aging time, the fact that it’s the best part of the leg, and the expertise required to make it one of the most expensive salumi in Italy, particularly if it adheres to the DOP regulations to be a Zibello culatello.
The best way to experience the history & an exclusive tasting of the Culatello is to visit the Culatello Museum. The Museum is located in the court where the historical & gastronomic hideaway Antica Corte Pallavicina Relais has its domicile. The old fortified castle built by the Pallavicino family in 1320, is a place where love for good food and local products has always been a distinctive mark.
I suggest booking a night at their fantastic hotel for ca. 220 Euro/night.

Enjoy a typical dinner at their 1 Michelin Star Restaurant and go for a walk around the castle admiring the Po river and an impressive nature.

The ambience at the restaurant is special. The glass front gives a super special light and atmosphere and embraces the natural beauty of the Po river. The restaurant received the Michelin Guide Star since 2011 and represents the best of the refined Bassa Parmense. Chef Massimo and Luciano Spigaroli use most of the raw materials produced directly in the ancient court of Pallavicina according to traditions of the surrounded lands.

My personal highlight was the walk in their cellar looking at hundreds of Culatello di Zibello beautifully hanging down the ceiling. At the restaurant I enjoyed the podium of Culatello from the “White Pig” aged over 18, 27  and over 37 months. The truffled Guinea Fowl cooked with Culatello in the Po river’s clay served with vegetables from the garden was of an outstanding tender and aromatic taste!

Book a tasty bus tour to experience the traditional production of Parmigiano Reggiano DOP and Parma ham or get a customized tour!

The best way to dive into the heritage of Parma’s artisan food is to book a tasty tour. Our press trip organized by Comune di Parma and OMNIA Relations took place with the company Maestro Travel Experience. The tour takes 4 hours and brings you by bus to all production sites. The Cheese factory we visited is a small family business consisting of exactly 3 employees! It’s a unique experience to see with how much care and ability the 50 kilo heavy loafs of Parmigiano are processed all by hand! Learn how this cheese, devoid of any chemical additive, can be aged for years to improve its quality. You will recognize the various aging stages thanks to the tasting led by an expert.
On our second stop we visited a parma ham producer. The family-run factory presented all the steps from the meat processing to the flavors of the curing rooms. I am very happy to have learnt all facts to recognize an original Parma ham. Every tour is of course accompanied by a delicious tasting! The tours are the best stops to buy your souvenir for home. A big thank you to Elisa that explained to us so many details and included plenty of tasting occasion on the trip!

Another must do on your program: Visit ALMA the International School of Italian Cuisine where best Italian Chefs graduate from and book one of their Masterclasses!

Welcome to the world’s leading international training centre for Italian Cuisine, founded by the Italian Master Chef Gualtiero Marchesi. Walking around in the beautiful Palazzo Ducale of Colorno makes you feel in heaven. Surrounded by an intense variety of smells that constantly stimulate my senses I feel that here is where the magic happens! We had the chance to visit a class in the first year of education learning cutting techniques, an other class was creating beautiful chocolate sculptures made all by hand!

ALMA covers an area of 5’000 square metres. The classrooms are fully equipped for training professionals.

ALMA educates chefs and pastry chefs, bakery chefs, assistants for restaurant, bar managers and food & beverage managers coming from all around the world. Annually 1100 students graduate at ALMA. This is probably the best investment ever for a future as well as an extraordinary training experience.

Their events and some of the classes are open to everyone. I absolutely recommend to book one and experience this unique surrounding live! Get more about the available events here.

How to get to Parma

From Zurich it’s easy to take the train to Milan. SBB offers a good time table with attractive prices. From Milan you can choose the Frecciabianca Train that takes you to Parma in only 1 hour. For the future new direct connections to Bologna are planned. I like to express a big thank you to SBB & Trenitalia for the excellent and smooth ride to Parma.

Where to sleep in Parma

I spent a night at a very authentic and charming B&B located in the middle of the city close to the “duomo” called Al Battistero D’oro. Patrizia is the host and a charismatic and very hearty person taking care of every wish you have. The B&B is her private home and decorated carefully with class and style reflecting the charisma and warm personality she has. The place is peaceful and quit and located in the historical city centre.
Get in contact to ask your quote. Price vary from ca. 100 Euro/night. Find more accommodation suggestions here.

Events to mark in your agenda this September:
Settembre Gastronomico Traiettorie
Cena dei Mille
Giardini Gourmet

A special thank you goes to the city of Parma and our press trip organisator OMNIA Relations/Ilaria Tortora as well as all involved person that made our trip the perfect gastronomic holiday.

In the mood of other travel stories and food trips ? What about a wine tour in Piedmont? Find all you need to organize it here in my Piedmont blog story.

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