The red wines
of Piedmont have long been considered some of the best wines of
Italy and among the best in the world.
Probably the most sought after wine produced in Italy is Barolo,
made from Nebbiolo grapes, in a small area of the Langhe hills south
of Alba, around 30 minutes drive from Asti. This is an intense wine
with complex and deep flavours, taking many years to mature, and
has been described as the "king of wines". Its equally
famous neighbour Barbaresco, close to the Asti-Alba road is marginally
less intense, and not needing as many years to age. Nebbiolo D'Alba
is a lighter, affordable cousin, which can be drunk young, and is
produced in the Roero hills just south of Villa Sampaguita.
If Barolo is the "king" then surely Barbera d'Asti is
the queen of Piedmont wines. Not as well known outside Italy, Barbera
is rapidly gaining international fame and grows best in the Monferatto
hills to the north and south of Asti. This wine is flavourful and
zesty, and a good one can be wondrously smooth. some of the many
other red wines of the region include Grignolino D'Asti, a light
pale and fragrant red; Freisa d'Asti, sometimes fizzy, with a hint
of raspberries; and Brachetto D'Acqui, a unique sparkling sweet
red wine, tastes wonderful, especially with strawberries!
The best-known white wine from the region is Asti Spumante a sweet
sparkling wine made from Moscato grapes and exported in millions
of bottles by the big bottlers. Not as well known is the delicate
and delicious Moscato D'Asti, made from the better grapes grown
high in the Langhe hills, low in alcohol with natural fruit sweetness
and a light fizz - absolutely delicious as an aperitif or light
desert wine, and the late-harvest Moscato Passito, which can hold
its own against German or French late harvest desert wines.
Other whites produced locally include Cortese, a light floral and
elegant wine, sometimes sparkling, grown all over the Monferrato
and at its best from the town of Gavi; Arneis, a refined dry wine
with a light perfume, grown in the Roero formally for blending with
Nebbiolo and now as a delicious wine in its own right; and Chardonnay,
although Piedmont is not a classical zone for this wine, a number
of wineries produced an excellent version.
All year local towns and villages have wine tasting festivals where
visitor can sample the local wines (and the food specialty). The
big granddaddy of them is the weeklong Douja D'Or, held in Asti
each September in conjunction with the Sagre and the Palio. Some
300 wines are being tasted and judged, as well as symposiums, concerts
and other wine related events.
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