I love wine. I love food. I love wine and food together. I love learning about wine. So much in fact, that if I travel to a wine making region, I make a point of stopping, touring and tasting. Especially the tasting. I’ve been fortunate enough to do this in the Okanagan of BC, Napa Valley, the Maipo region of Chile, around Mendoza in Argentina, around the Rhine in Germany, Veneto, Tuscany and most recently Piemonte.
Arguably, some of the best wines produced in Italy are from Piemonte. Barabera D’alba, Barbaresco, Asti Spumante and Barolo are the major varietals from Piemonte. Wine touring and tasting in Europe is quite different than North or even South America. In North or South America, for the most part, you find a winery (usually well marked with signage and directions) show up unannounced, taste wine in their tasting room and learn about the wine from winery owners or makers. In Europe, it can be quite different. For the most part, the wineries aren’t well advertised and/or don’t have staffed tasting rooms. That said, if someone is around, they will usually welcome you and give you something to taste. When a friend and I went to Tuscany a few years back, we were quite surprised at how far apart everything was and the wild goose chase we went on to find wine.
And then, I discovered Piemonte. Since I’ve been back, I can’t go on enough about Piemonte. When I was researching the trip, I didn’t have high hopes. Websites suggested it would be difficult to taste wines at the vineyards and I couldn’t find a lot that was necessarily enticing, so it was safe to say, I was blown away by Piemonte!
Not only is it a lovely and short 2.5 hour drive from Lugano, but the scenery is incredible, the scenery amazing, the wines amazing, the villages adorable and the food spectacular! People go on about Tuscany, but to me, Piemonte beats it hands down.
For starters, they have this amazing concept called an enoteca. Each DOC region (the sort of region control that defines wine coming from that area and following specified processes) has it’s own enoteca so it’s time efficient. For instance, if you want to try all the wines coming from the Langhe terroir, you head to the Enoteca in Neive and they are all there to try and buy. No need to run around to all the individual wineries. What’s amazing is that most of the enotecas are in the most picturesque villages and are in historical buildings. For instance, in old castles, deconsecrated churches and an old jail.
I planned my trip on the weekend where they release all the new Barabaresco releases. The event was a blind Barbaresco tasting of 19 releases paired with a 3 course meal. Can you say h-e-a-v-e-n???
Besides the amazing food, scenery and architecture, the food was incredible. In my research, I came upon several sites and blogs with recommendations. Everything from Micehlin starred restaurants to local osterias. One place kept getting mentioned: Osteria da Gemma Apparently, in a small building, off the beaten path, there was this gem of a place with local food. And it was amazing.
You start by walking into a building that you wouldn’t even know was a restaurant unless you were looking for it. Once you get up the stairs you’re in a lovely and rustic dining room. The only choices you have to make are still or sparkling water. The rest shows up. There is no menu. The menu is a 12 course meal of fresh and locally prepared food and the wine is homemade. Had I not read ahead and prepared, I would have been full at course 5. Knowing there was 12 courses ahead, meant I know enough to pace myself and even at that, it was almost impossible, if only it weren’t so good.
Dishes are served family style, so you just get a platter for the table and help yourself. Also a good way to pace yourself. So, herewith, I present you with the absurdity of what a 12 course meal looks like- Piemonte styles
The first plate to arrive was antipasti- 2 types of house made salami
Part 3- Ensalata Russe- It’s like a delicious egg or potato salad. Peas, carrots, mayo and some secret ingredients.
Round 4. So far so good. 1/3 thru and I’m holding out ok. Next dish: Vitello Tonato. If you told me that Veal and tuna would go well together in a dish. I wouldn’t believe you. And I’d be wrong.
Dish 5- aka the end of the appetizers. A delicious homemade pasta with homemade ragu.
Dish 6. Another amazing pasta
Dish 7, 8 & 9- aka the start of the main courses. Yeah. A main after 6 courses. Some delicious braised pork, some rabbit (which I don’t do :( ) and roasted carrots.
Dish 10, 11 & 12. Dessert. It’s hard to imagine how one could even think of dessert after 9 (or in my case 8 courses) but it had to be tried! Some delicious custard with pineapple, another one with delicious meringue bits and a chocolate-y Piemonte flan.
|Osteria da Gemma|
So, what does a 12 course meal cost you ask? Here’s the shocking part. 27 euros per person. Wine of course is extra and the guy looked at our carafe and decided that we’d drank 1 euro worth of wine.
|Piemonte country side|
|Blind tasting the newest Barbaresco releases|
In short, Piemonte is incredible. If you have any appreciation for wine whatsoever, it should be on your bucket list. ‘nuff said.