Wine View: Examining northern Italy’s Piedmont wine region

Columnist Jacqueline Corrigan looks at the wines of Italy's Piedmont region.

By JACQUELINE CORRIGAN

If asked to describe my ideal autumnal landscape, few would compare with the beauty of the Piedmont region in northern Italy.

Nestled in the foothills of the Alps on the French border, within a couple of hours of the Mediterranean Sea, this ancient landscape is dotted with medieval towns and hamlets.

It is surrounded by apple orchards and hazelnut groves, and rolling hills covered with endless vineyards.

Shrouded in a romantic mist, the entire landscape is moody and picturesque.

Most famous for its Barolo wine and white truffles, Piedmont comes alive in the fall.

With festivals celebrating the harvest and vineyards in full production, you come to appreciate what the Slow Food Movement (founded here) is all about. People take their food and wine very seriously.

Located southeast of Turin, you’ll find Alba and the Langhe Hills, home to Barolo wine.

Made from the nebbiolo grape (nebbia means fog in Italian) Barolo is considered one of Italy’s greatest wines. In a blind tasting one is looking for notes of chocolate, coffee, roses, tobacco, leather. The wine is renowned for its ability to age well.

I must give mention to the famous Alba White Truffle Fair, the Grande Dame of Truffle festivals.

Unbelievable fortunes can be made! Like the Klondike days of gold, sacred hunting grounds are guarded fiercely. Stealth MI5 abilities are a prerequisite. Humans and their hounds venture into forests, often times under cover of darkness to unearth these fungal treasures. But I digress.

Just as fantastic, perhaps more affordable, is Barbaresco (Barolo’s kid sister), also made from the nebbiolo grape.

Grapes generally ripen earlier, due to its location (south and closer to the Tanaro River). Barbaresco, like Barolo, ages well.

Both wines are best served with hearty fare and rich sauces.

Rustic game like partridge, braised beef, pasta or polenta topped with wild porcini mushrooms or thinly shaved truffles are great examples.

While the holy grail for collectors is Barolo and Barbaresco, there are other lively and affordable wines from the region.

Dolcetto and Barbera come to mind. I highly recommend you try them. Both are fruity reds with less tannins and meant to be consumed young.

Marcella Hazan has a wonderful recipe for a beef stew with red wine and vegetables. Barbera wine features and it is scrumptious!

For the Dolcetto, casual foods like hamburgers and pizza are perfect.

The famous white grape is the Moscato. It can be a still or sparkling wine, the most infamous of which is the sparkling wine Moscato D’Asti. Moscato pairs well with spicy food, cheese, antipasto plates or simply as an aperitif.

I also recommend the documentary film Barolo Boys. The Story of a Revolution to learn more about this fascinating wine. Well known wine critic Robert Parker is featured in the documentary.

The LCBO carries a good selection and range of wines from Piedmont. Here’s to the spirit of adventure!

My next columnn will be on climate change and the wines we drink.

Jacqueline Corrigan is a Certified Sommelier (graduate George Brown College Sommelier Program); a Member of the International Sommelier Guild; and a graduate WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust – Britain).


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