Out of all the wine regions I’ve visited in my life, Piedmont is hands down my favorite. This Italian wine region checks all the boxes. Stunning views of verdant rolling hills draped in vineyards everywhere you look. Mouthwatering cuisine made with the freshest local ingredients. Hospitality that makes you feel right at home. And most importantly, spectacular wines emphasizing terroir, tradition, innovation, and purity of expression all at once. So, I though I’d put together this Piedmont travel guide to help you explore this sensational place. Really, you must go.
Lovers of Barolo and Barbaresco could spend an entire summer here and still not be satiated. Yet the region is so much more than the formidable Nebbiolo. There is a whole array of countless other varieties indigenous to the region to discover. We spent five days exploring Piemonte and managed to visit around twenty wineries. Notably, we didn’t taste a bad wine the entire time. Not a single one! The quality to price ratio is absolutely insane in Piedmont. We stocked up perhaps a little too excessively. But I don’t regret a thing.
An Overview of Piedmont, Italy
Piemonte is tucked away in the northwestern corner of Italy. With around 45,000 hectares of vineyards, it’s the 3rd largest Italian wine region. Between the Alps and the Ligurian Apennines, the region is almost entirely enclosed by mountains. Piedmont boasts 42 DOCs and 17 DOCGs, the most for one region in all of bella Italia. The wide range of soils coupled with a plethora of elevations and expositions yields incredibly complex site-specific wines with impressive diversity. Soil types include clay, calcareous limestone, sand, marl, volcanic, sedimentary, and more. While elevations ranged from 150 – 1000 meters above sea level. Consequently, there’s an emphasis on cru vineyards throughout Barolo and Barbaresco.
The focus on site specificity is evident while wine tasting in the region. Many producers will guide you through 3D maps explaining how different soils, expositions, and elevations influenced the drastically different wines in front of you made from the same grape variety. I very much enjoyed this aspect of each of our tasting experiences and want to get my hands on those maps. People often accentuate the importance of terroir in Burgundy. However, going wine tasting in Piemonte brought a whole new meaning to the concept of terroir for me. Go there, taste the wines, stand in the vineyards, and you’ll see what I mean.
Additionally, what struck me the most about wine tasting in Piedmont was the theme of family. Many of the wineries are family owned. They’re still mostly managed by the same families who founded them generations ago. Multiple family members are there to host you and pour you the wines which have served as their family’s livelihood for decades, sometimes centuries. The passion is palpable and that’s what I love so much about the world of wine.
Good to Know Before You Go
No Piedmont travel guide would be complete without some tips to help your trip to wine country run smoothly. First, book your appointments ahead of time. While this might not be absolutely necessary, it will allow you to map out tastings with wineries that are closer together. Secondly, give yourself enough travel time between your tasting appointments. Piedmont is somewhat spread out and even if you’re staying within one zone like Barolo or Barbaresco, pad your driving time. The roads are super windy because the region is so mountainous and hilly. Driving from point A to point B will likely take you longer than you expect, especially if you’ve been sipping on Barolo.
Plan to spend the whole day in one area of Piedmont to make your life easier. I wanted to taste Ruché and a few other rare varieties at wineries that weren’t in Barolo and Barbaresco. We decided to stay in Asti for two nights so we could explore nearby Monferrato and some of Asti. Then we moved to an AirBnB in Alba for the remainder of our trip to explore Barolo and Barbaresco from there. Technically, the drive from the center of Asti to Alba only takes 30 minutes. But it was a lot easier to be close to home after hitting around four wineries per day.
If you only have a couple days, I’d recommend staying in one area and diving deep. Though you could do Barolo and Barbaresco as they’re super close.
The Food in Piemonte
Lastly, learn a bit about Piedmontese cuisine before you go. Piemonte has such a unique cuisine with respect to the rest of Italy. Check out this article I wrote for Cellar Tours on Piedmontese cuisine. You’ll learn all about the best dishes to order in this Italian wine region, such as vitello tonnato, carne cruda all’Albese, agnolotti del plin, tajarin pasta, brasato al Barolo, and more.
Monferrato is a territory in Piedmont which spans between the provinces of Asti and Alessandria. Consequently, the area is divided into the Asti and Monferrato Casalese denominations, each brimming with different terroirs and microclimates. Alto Monferrato is closer to the Apennines with relatively higher elevations. Whereas Basso Monferrato exhibits softer hills. Monferrato Casalese has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2014. The area’s infernot grottos are worth a visit. These caves were excavated from the Pietra da Cantone soil and historically used to store wine, cheese, salami, etc.
Where Nebbiolo reigns supreme in Barolo and Barbaresco, Barbera is the dominant grape in the vineyards of Monferrato.
Vignale Monferrato has a warm continental climate with mainly clay and calcareous limestone soils. Due to varying levels of calcareous limestone in the soils, vineyards around Vignale Monferrato grow in white, yellow, and light brown earth.
Beyond Barbera, Grignolino is a must try variety indigenous to Vignale Monferrato. For whites, you can enjoy Cortese and Malvasia here, too.
Additionally, Monferace is a regional alliance dedicated to elevating and promoting the native Grignolino grape. You’ll find an association of producers to choose from if you’re interested in exploring this variety further.
Vignale Monferrato Wineries to Visit:
- Very affordable prices for fantastic quality
- Superb Grignolino and a brisk, savory Spumante di Grignolino that’s so unique; perfect for aperitivo with stronger cheeses and spicy charcuterie
- One of the first to experiment with oak on Grignolino
- 2006 was their 1st oaked vintage
- They also make a delicious Freisa and outstanding Barbera
- One of the first to experiment with oak on Grignolino
- Tenuta Tenaglia
- Really lovely staff (cute dog, too) and great views to take in with your tasting experience
These wineries were recommended to me for their Grignolino, but we didn’t get a chance to visit…
Where to Eat in Vignale Monferrato
- Trattoria Serenella – Le 3 Lasagne
- We had a fantastic aperitivo here, the food was delicious!
- You can sit outside to enjoy your meal or a glass of wine
- Exceptional wine list and they were booked out for lunch when we visited, so the food must be great
- Agriturismo Bispeder
- Go for lunch and make sure you’re hungry!
- Breathtaking view of Vignale Monferrato
- Brilliant menu highlighting local cuisine
- Outstanding friendly service with their kind and gracious owner waiting to welcome you
Next, we headed to Castagnole Monferrato to get a taste of Ruché. Located in the province of Asti, Castagnole Monferrato is a short 14km from the city of Asti. The town rests at 230 meters above sea level, offering spectacular views of the surrounding amphitheater of lush hills covered in vineyards. The area was once a zone of cultivation for chestnuts, or castagne, hence the name. The town is also home to the largest antique wine press in Europe.
In addition to Ruché, Barbera and Moscato D’Asti are also prominent in the region. Learn more about Ruché on the Association of Ruché di Castagnole Monferrato.
Wineries to Visit in Castagnole Monferrato
- Cannot recommend this winery enough
- All of their wines are fantastic, but the Ruché is truly phenomenal
- Learn more about Ruché and Ferraris Agricola in this blog post
- They have two locations. The original location within the town of Castagnole Monferrato has an old Infernot you can visit.
Other wineries recommended to me for Ruché:
Where to eat in Castagnole Monferrato:
Where to Eat in Castagnole Monferrato
- Locanda Antico Ricetto
- Located on the hilltop in Castagnole Monferrato, enjoy your meal with a stunning view of the verdant rolling vineyards if you can snag a table on their small patio.
- Agnolotti del Plin: 10/10
- Get the primi trio with carne cruda, vitello tonato, and insalata russa
We didn’t explore many wineries in Asti other than to visit Michele Chiarlo. Though this is a larger producer, I have always loved Michele Chiarlo wines. The visit did not disappoint! We had a meditative side-by-side tasting of mainly their Barolo and Barbaresco crus.
- 2017 La Court Nizza Riserva
- Faset Barbaresco2017
- Asili Barbaresco 2015
- Cerequio Barbaresco 2015
- Barolo Cannubi 2015
- Barolo Cerequio Riserva 2013
If you love Moscato D’Asti or Asti Spumante, this is an area of Piedmont you’ll likely want to explore more of. Although, many wineries we visited in Monferrato also make and serve a Moscato D’Asti.
Roero rests on the north bank of the Tanaro River opposite the town of Alba. Vineyards covered in undulating hills fill the landscape. In large part, these hills were the result of Cattura del Tanaro, or the Tanaro River Capture. Around 100,000 years ago, the river changed its course unveiling an ancient seabed several million years old and formerly known as the Golfo Padano. Consequently, layers of mainly limestone, clay, and sand form a patchwork of soil types in Roero.
Arneis is the star in this area of Piemonte. Learn more about this rare white variety here.
- Angelo Negro
- Family-owned winery that’s been making wines in the Langhe and Roero since 1670
- Tasted my first aged Roero Arneis here and discovered how wonderfully this rare grape ages
- Outstanding hospitality and remarkable wines
- They have a full range from Roero Arneis to Barbaresco, Barolo, spumante, etc.
- Can’t recommend enough! Big fan.
We didn’t do too much exploring in Barbaresco this time around. Though the one winery we made it to in Treiso was phenomenal and a tasting I’ll never forget.
Cantina Rizzi is situated amongst its namesake Cru Rizzi vineyard. Founded in 1974 by Ernesto Dellapiana & his wife Lia, Rizzi has grown into a family affair along with their children Enrico & Jole. Today, with the utmost respect to the Lagnhe, Rizzi cultivates over 40 hectares of vineyards planted to Nebbiolo, Barbera, Dolcetto, Moscato, Freisa, Chardonnay & Pinot Nero.
Amongst their many vineyard sites are some of Barbaresco’s finestcrus: 3 ha in Cru Pajoré, 1.5ha in Cru Giacone, 3ha in the Cru Bricco di Neive, and the 10ha Cru Rizzi.
Rizzi wines are super expressive and made in such a clear, clean, polished, elegant style.
If you head to Cantina Rizzi for a tasting, book a dinner reservation at nearby Osteria dell’Unione. They serve typical Piedmontese cuisine and have an impressive wine selection. This was one of the best meals we had while in Piemonte.
Castiglione Falletto is a hilltop commune with awe-inspiring views in the province of Cuneo. Vietti, one of my all-time favorite producers from Piemonte, is based here. The once family-owned and operated winery has since been purchased by an American holding company. Although we were told the family is still very much involved. Vietti has a huge selection of wines to choose from and it’s worth the visit to walk through their mind-bending cellar. Situated high up on the hilltop village, the cellar is built down into the earth. It’s narrow, multi-level structure really makes you respect the winemaking behind the bottles
While in Castiglione Falletto, pop into the Cantina Communale. The staff is super friendly and ready to pour you a taste of something that catches your eye. I purchased a bottle of their Pelaverga and it did not disappoint
If you take just one thing from this Piedmont travel guide, know that G.D. Vajra can’t be missed when you go to Barolo. At the young age of 15, Aldo Vajra embraced his dream of reviving the family legacy. He took over the estate in 1968 and, with the help of his beloved family, succeeded in transforming Vajra into an internationally renowned winery from Italy’s most revered region.
Vajra obtained the first organic certification of the region in 1971. Next, they created their own biotype selections of Nebbiolo and Dolcetto, pioneered the revival of Freisa and prominence of Riesling in Piemonte.
What I loved the most about our visit was meeting the Vajra family. Giuseppe Vajra took time out of his busy day to meet & chat with us. Milena Vajra, his mother, graciously hosted us for our tasting, recounting stories of the early Vajra days. The inviting hospitality was just as memorable as their wines of unmatched quality.
Other Barolo Producers I love:
- Oddero (La Morra)
- Learn more about my Oddero experience in this blog post: Barolo Legend Sets the Bar High
- Burzi (La Morra)
- Brother/sister duo dishing up distinctive signature wines from their family’s vineyards
- Overall, Burzi’s wines are lifted on the palate with elegant acidity, fine tannins + impressive concentration. They are all quite alive, which for me is always a good sign of quality wine.
- Ettore Germano (Serralunga D’Alba)
- Mamma mia I love these wines!
- The whole time we were in Piemonte, we kept hearing the Nebbiolo in Serralunga D’Alba is much more concentrated, intense, deep, rich, etc. and you really get a sense for that here.
- Huge diverse range of wines owned by a super friendly and knowledge family. I especially enjoyed their sparkling Nebbiolo and Langhe sparkling.
- Learn about Nascetta and a beautiful example from Ettore Germano here.
- Conterno Fantino (Monferto D’Alba)
- For a lesson in aged Barolo, book a visit here.
- We tasted younger vintages followed up aged examples and WOW to say the least.
- They go big on the oak, but it works for their style.
Producers I love, but didn’t visit this time around:
Must Visit Restaurant in La Morra
Ristorante Bovio is a divine restaurant with enchanting views of Barolo. They serve a refined, classy take on traditional Piedmontese cuisine and have a wine list the size of an encyclopedia. If you have some extra money to spend on a nice meal, I highly recommend you book a reservation at Bovio.
I hope this Piedmont travel guide helps you plan a memorable trip to this world class wine region. Don’t hesitate to email me if you have questions or need further recommendations.