Winefriend by David Way

Writing about the wines of Piemonte, Italy and France


Piemonte – truffles, mists and fine wines

Human beings can be quite perverse.  I have tried in the past to resist the lure of the great Piemontese wines.  This was perhaps because everyone else makes such a fuss about them or because some of them are quite expensive.  But if you are interested in Italian wine, sooner or later you have to go to Piemonte and especially the Langhe.  And then it becomes quite simple.  The reason why Barolo and Barbaresco are part of the world’s wine aristocracy is that great (and highly addictive) wine is made here.  And when you do visit, you discover there is far more to Piemonte than just the most famous areas:

  • other great wines, white, red and sparkling
  • other important regions in Piemonte
  • outstanding cuisine even by the standards of the general excellence of Italian food
  • wonderful landscapes
  • and, perhaps most surprising, a sense of being in a normal farming region, even if some of the produce is treasured around the world.

These pages are dedicated to this great region.  The earlier ones draw on a visit Janet and I made in the spring of 2010 and on a number of other recent tastings.  I also visited in 2014 and 2019 but those will form a small part of the background for my forthcoming book on The Wines of Piemonte. If you haven’t got the Piemonte bug already, be warned, it is highly contagious! If you want to follow the story of the research and writing for my book, click here.  

  • Nebbiolo Day 2017.  The world’s first tasting devoted to all 19 DOCs in NW Italy which grow the grape!
  • Borgogno – a spectacular Barolo vertical.  I had my Sangiovese epiphany moment when, as an inexperienced blogger, I ordered a glass of wine in a restaurant in Chianti Classico.  I had no idea that Montevertine produced some of the world’s greatest wines.  My Nebbiolo moment – or at least confirmatory moment – was a tasting in London where we were presented with wines from Borgogno from the last six decades. Read more!
  • Single vineyard wines – Vigna Rionda, Barolo, and Vigna Santo Stefano, Barbaresco.  Sometimes the best place to taste great wines is close to home. Here are my tasting notes on a Vigna Rionda tasting in London and a Giacosa tasting I organised for Andover Wine Friends. Vinous heaven! And another post on Barolo Vigna La Rosa
  • A birthday treat – Nebbiolo vintages (and what summer looks like in England).
  • Sorì Tildin among the Italian icons.  A Gaja great and Homage to Gaja 
  • The landscape of wine.   Above all it is the landscape that is to be celebrated. The town of Barolo has the sleepy air of a small place which has inadvertently given its name to a world-famous product.  But what really stands out is the view from the town.  Every available square metre of land seems to be covered with vines.
  • ‘Highlights of Piedmont – in praise of Nebbiolo’.  Stephen Brook MW has an enviable task. He must pick some of his favourite newly-released Barolo and Barbaresco and introduce them to the trade at a recent Decanter event. He has to get his selection down to ten wines and so he can only nod at Dolcetto and Barbera as grape varieties and indeed to the Roero district. 
  • Landing in Piemonte.  Arriving in a famous wine area for the first time is wonderfully exciting.  You drive from the airport (in this case Turin) and pass through the neighbouring countryside which is flat as a pancake, if lying between the snow-covered Alps and the ‘ridges’ which give the Langhe its name.   
  • Artisan wines of Piemonte. One importer’s selection.
Barolo – world-famous region south-west of Alba
  • Elvio Cogno: a family winery in good health.  This estate was created in 1990 when Elvio Cogno decided to set up in his own name.  He had previously been part of an important partnership.  It is now run by Walter Fissore and his wife Nadia (Elvio’s daughter) who showed us around this beautiful farmhouse (cascina) which serves as winery and home.
  • Multifaceted Vajra.  Planning a week’s tasting in a region is a mixture of thorough preparation, chance meetings and recommendations, and sheer persistence. And there is the question of whether to visit wineries which you already know and whose wines are available in the UK as opposed to those you can only taste in situ.
  • Elio Grasso.  Elio Grasso has 16 hectares in the Barolo area with spectacular views of Serralunga d’Alba.  You almost give up the ghost before you arrive because, although it is just outside of Monforte d’Alba, to get to the estate you have to go three quarters the way around a hill to be facing nearly back from whence you came.   
  • Renato Ratti. The winery of the historic family firm of Renato Ratti sits overlooking a magnificent sweep of vines, just on the edge of the town of La Morra.  Sig. Ratti made a significant contribution to winemaking here.  He was first off the mark with the classification of the important single vineyards, the ‘cru’. Read more
Barbaresco – great wines east of Alba
  • Albino Rocca.  Here is a very assured feel about the entire operation at Albino Rocca in the village of Barbaresco itself.  The vineyards have been build up to an impressive 23 hectares.  The usual excellent job has been done in hiding the winery under the house.   There is also the obligatory beautiful view of the hills of Barbaresco and the town of Neive. 
  • Fiorenzo Nada.  This smallish family firm produces six wines, all red, with a total production from six hectares of 40,000 bottles a year.  There are just three of them in the firm as Danilo explained.  The upside is that you get to do a bit of everything.  He had worked previously as a sommelier in the Gordon Ramsey restaurant in Claridges. 
  • Bruno Rocca – above all the land.  The message at Bruno Rocca’s family winery in Barbaresco is clear.  The heart of the matter is the land, however much they are completing an impressive new winery under the current house.  It is only now after three decades that the new winery has become a priority.  Until then it was buying the best possible sites. 
  • Ca’ del Baio.  This winery is appropriately enough near ‘three stars’ (Trestelle), itself a sort of midpoint between the three Barbaresco communes.  These are Treiso, Neive and, of course, Barbaresco itself.  But the three stars could also refer to the three daughters of the family. 
  • Giacosa Fratelli.  Rather different from most of the wineries we visited in our recent week in Piemonte.  The winery is much bigger than most of the places we visited, a large, functional building coincidentally right next door to Bruno Giacosa, who, after Gaja, is probably the biggest name in Barbaresco. 
Roero – home of Arneis and peaches, north of Alba
  • Malvirà.  There are some days when everything is just perfect.  The spring sunshine, the countryside emerging from a long hard winter, the place, the people.  Our visit to Malvirà was one of those days.  As with quite a few wineries in Piemonte, the building could be just a rather larger house from the outside. 
  • Monchiero Carbone.  Just down the road from Malvirà in Canale itself is Monchiero Carbone.  This is the product of the two named families joining forces in the present husband and wife team.  Again, the winery is hidden from view, here underground, below the courtyard of a traditional dwelling.   
  • Hillsberg-Pasquero.  Annette Hilberg arrived in the Roero area from Germany 26 years ago and now seems very settled.  She and her husband were about to set off for a tasting of old vintages of Barbera at the end of a long day. She was clearly excited about this, which is great to see in those in the trade. 
Gavi – a famous name and some great, ageable, whites
  • La Scolca.  Generally Gavi has a reputation a bit like Soave.  It is seen as rather a basic, mass-produced white wine, popular in the past in Italian restaurants.  Albeit with a few good exceptions which only wine buffs know about.  La Scolca, or Soldati La Scolca to give it its full name, have always held out for quality and especially for the steep rise in interest which bottle ageing brings to good Gavi.  
  • Monferrato’s famous five.  A deep dive into Monferrato’s local red grape varieties, especially Grignolino, Ruchè and Albarossa
  • Piemonte 2-3 Toscana.  A short, football-inspired piece with comments on the Barolo of Damilano and the wines of Michele Chiarlo, mainly from Monferrato.
  • A Barbera weekend – Piemonte’s most planted variety in three styles.   


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