In last week's email, I began to tell a story of sorts. I had originally intended to write a brief email outlining my best bets for making a stay in the Langhe as enjoyable as possible. As I started to think of the accommodations and meals that needed to be included in my recommendations, it quickly became apparent that I would need to break the email up into more digestible pieces.
As it turns out I was unable to cram even the most abridged list of wineries worth visiting into a single email, so I will present these wineries in two parts. Today’s list covers wineries in the north of the Langhe, give or take. Some may argue with this list. I do not mean this to be definitive; it is simply a list of great winery visits. I can easily add half a dozen producers to this list who produce spectacular wine, yet will not offer the casual visitor a particularly special visit. The following wineries will make your visit an experience with an unforgettable vista, or the most incredible winery facility, a historical viewpoint, or simply by being an integral part of the history of region
Driving in PiemonteA car is a necessity for getting around the Langhe. Even getting to the Langhe can be a challenge without a car but it can be done. It's a good idea to rent a car before arriving in the region, though there are rental cars available in Alba and Asti. Alba has one small Sixt rental agency in town and the others are a fair bit outside of town. Driving in Italy is challenging but with a good map and some planning you should have no problems in Piemonte.
Wineries to Visit in the North of the LangheYou can visit one or all of these fine properties. I have broken them down into three convenient day trips that you can combine with the dining recommendations from last week's email to create spectacular days you'll remember forever.
Day One: BarbarescoRizzi
The Dellapiana family, owners of Rizzi, is welcoming and eager to educate people on the wines of their small part of Barbaresco. From their ideally sited property in Treiso one can look over the vineyards of west Treiso and north to those of Barbaresco proper. The wines here are accessible and while not modern certainly highlight the elegant, softer style of Barbaresco. Three compelling single vineyards highlight the potential of Treiso.
Luca Roagna, the young winemaker of Roagna, is carrying on a family tradition. The style of the wine here has remained much the same over the last century. What once seemed archaic, that style of viticulture now called organic, has always been the path pursued here and it shows. The vines are verdant and exceptionally healthy with lush cover crops growing between the rows. The wines are made in a very traditional style and express a remarkable depth of fruit as well as the terroir of each vineyard.
Produttori del Barbaresco
“The best Co-op in the world.” It’s a common accolade for the Produttori and the truth is that the virtually unbroken string of exceptional wines produced here since inception in 1958. Drawing from a litany of superb Barbaresco vineyards, including arguably the two finest: Asili and Rabaja, the Produttori have set the benchmark for many vineyards. There is no finer place to learn the vagaries of Barbaresco’s terroir than with a set of wines made in a consistent style across this range of vineyard sites.
Day Two: Exploring the North of the ZoneBra – Ascheri
The Ascheri family has been intimately involved in the promotion of Barolo for over 100 years. Their location in Bra, well to the north of their vineyard holdings may seem surprising, until one realize that the railroad historically ended here. By establishing themselves in Bra, the Ascheri family gained access to the route that supplied Turin. The wines today reflect current thinking; they remain traditionally styled wines but are made in a clean style that captures the essence of the fruit from each vineyard. Also of note is the excellent Osteria here, Osteria Murivecchi and the Hotel that shares the premises with the winery.
Verduno – Burlotto
The Burlotto family is another pivotal family in the history of Barolo whose location, outside of the heaviest concentration of producers, puts them at a disadvantage. Nonetheless the quality of the wines, and gracious nature of the family, puts this producer squarely on my must visit list. These are wines that make no concessions to appeal to the modern palate yet have a universal appeal in many ways. They are not the immensely tannic, structured wines one is told represents the traditional style of Barolo. Instead they are elegant, deep wines, which remain light on their feet yet age impeccably well. Another property with a guesthouse, and walking distance to the wonderful, and recommended, restaurant Il Falstaf.
The Oddero family is yet another pivotal family in the history of the Langhe. With beautiful wines and a wonderful site just to the north of La Morra, in the Frazione of Santa Maria, it is not only convenient to visit, but is as great an example of traditionally produced wines as one is likely to find in the Langhe. Having said that one might be surprised to find wine with Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon in them but these wines simply add to the experience.
Day Three: Discovering La MorraRatti
Much of the credit for the implementation of the Cru system in Piemonte can be traced back to efforts of Renato Ratti. Pietro Ratti has taken that level of innovation to the next level. Under his tenure the winery was expanded, into the hillside in a remarkable feat of engineering, and the style, always approachable was tweaked. Ratti remains a great innovator in Barolo and the combination of winery, wines and vista, not to mention lovely people, puts this squarely on any great visit list.
Rocche dei Costamagna
Rocche del Costamagna is not only the location of a lovely Inn, but also the site of the eponymous winery. The range of wines here is complete with everything from Arneis to superb Barolo but beyond that Rocche Del Costamagna offers visitors access to a virtual museum of food and wine information in their library. The history of the region is laid out in print, antique bottles, and ephemera that makes a visit here unique and especially intriguing.
If you want consistency and value in Barolo Marcarini is it. Their two Barolo, Brunate and La Serra have slowly and steadily climbed the ladder of acclaim. While these both remain very fairly priced, as dose Marcarini’s entire line-up, they routinely come out at or near the top in comparative blind tastings. These are wines of terroir, and in the case of the Dolcetto Boschi di Berri, wines of ancient vines, that all are unique and distinctive examples fulfilling the regions highest potential.
Stay tuned for next weeks installment that will feature wineries from Castiglione Falletto, Monforte, Barolo and Serralunga.
For information about accomodations and Dining in the Langhe please see: Wine Touring in Piemonte: Where to stay and eat
Barolo and Barbaresco, Make Sure to Leave Time for BothExplore Barolo
Barolo, as a region as opposed to the village itself, is fairly large and varied. By venturing out to places like Bra and Verduno you not only can find great producers, but get to see a part of the Langhe that is frequently missed by tourists. In La Morra you can experience village life as you walk from appointment to appointment.
The three villages that make up Barbaresco; Barbaresco, Neive and Treiso, remain frozen in time. A visit here not only gives you access to great wines, it gives you a glimpse of a slower era. A day spent visiting three wineries, three villages, and fine restaurants will be very rewarding.