The first thing to note is that it is very easy to get lost in Piedmont.
This is true when trying to follow, say, Google directions between wineries. This is surprising when most wineries have existed here for a long, long time, but the fact that they are so established does not translate to their roadside signage. In other cases, roads do not exist where they should (or in our case have fallen down a hillside or over a bridge) or the wineries changed names/ownership but the signs remained the same (not helpful). Somehow, we managed to stay on schedule.
“Go back that way.” (Note: suspicious fire in background, yes we are again lost here).
But who can really complain about being in Piedmont? Because more importantly, it is also really easy to lose yourself in the sensory richness of this region, not just among producers, grape varieties and cuisine but also among a vertical tasting of the different vintages from the same producer, or even this same vineyard. It is not only incredibly terroir-driven, but vintage-driven as well. No matter how lost you may become, a visit to Piedmont is a rich experience for the oenophile.
We actually visited four wineries in Piedmont, all very different. One could certainly spill a lot of ink on this topic, as many already have, but my highlights include:
The Scagliola estate is located in southern Piemonte in the hills of Monferrato in a small (and hard to find) village of Calosso. What impressed me most about this family run winery was that they were consistent across the board among the numerous offerings from Camilo Metodo Classico (Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in Champagne method) to their Azord blend of Nebbiolo, Barbera and Cabernet Sauvignon.
This is a special producer from the Barolo commune of Verduno. Winemaker/owner Silvio Busco is considered somewhat of an ‘upstart’ because he has only been making wine for twenty years in the Barolo appellation, but it should also be noted that he is only 39! A bright future ahead, Silvio makes a straight Barolo and single vineyard (Monvigliero), as well as tasty reds made from Dolcetto and Pelaverga, grown at lower elevations and ready to drink now.
However beautiful the vineyards, I was always on the lookout for wolves (volpe) and wild boars (cinghiale). Thankfully, I saw neither.
After tasting through the line-up of Poderi Roset we were treated to lots and lots of carne crudo, followed by the best lasagne I will ever have in my life, prepared by Silvio’s mom.
Like the Barolo appellation, Barbaresco is exclusively devoted to red wines from Nebbiolo, but is said to be the more elegant, accessible of the two. Rapalino winemaker, Marco Rapalino, worked under the guidance of the legendary Bruno Giacosa for more than ten years, and it shows. Across the board, these wines are deep, dark and brooding–even the Vughima Freisa, a grape otherwise known for light, strawberry-scented wines.
Mechanical engineer Annalisa Battuello switched careers from automobile design to Piedmontese winemaking after she turned forty… so the name I Quaranta not only refers to the village where her Barbera vineyards are located, but also to the fact that she found her ‘true’ direction at age forty. Indeed. Her wines are amazing across the board, and she certainly breathes new life into the Barbera variety…with dry, sweet and sparkling styles.