Wine and truffles in Alba
Italy is one of the most desired travel destinations, but there are few places that have remained an undiscovered secret for the tourist crowds. One of the hidden gems is Piedmont, gourmet paradise and home to the Slow Food Movement, famed for white truffles, hazelnuts, Ferrero chocolate and award-winning Barolo and Barbaresco wines. Escape the tourist crowds and come to sample wine and truffles in Alba.
Alba, the capital of white truffles, during the months of October and mid November hosts the White Truffle Market. Even if you don’t plan to buy them, you can get to know the truffle, sniff and touch, meet the truffle hunters and feel the unique atmosphere. Every truffle on scale is checked by a Commission before the Market is opened to the public. Chefs and gourmands compete for the best truffles, ranging in price from a few dollars for a small, black one to over $700 for a prized white truffle.
Alba serves as an entranceway to the Langhe hills. Radiating from the town, hazelnut groves and vineyards stretch across the surrounding rolling hills of Langhe – home to some of the Piedmont’s (and Italy’s) biggest flavored and most famous red wines and some of its best white wines. This is where the legendary Barolo and Barbaresco and other noteworthy wines like Barbera, Dolcetto, Arneis and Nebbiolo are produced. Within a relatively short distance of one another lie some of Italy’s most famous wine towns such as Barolo, La Morra, Dogliani, Serralunga d’Alba and Barbaresco.
The vineyards are beautiful and visiting local wineries can be not just interesting and informative but fun as well. Be aware that touring and sampling wines at local wineries is not the same as in the U.S. where wineries typically have posted hours and professionally staffed tasting rooms. Big wine estates are rare in the Piedmont. The majority are medium to small-scale producers that are typically family owned and the hosts usually are exceptionally hospitable and pleased to show you their products. Wine tastings may be free or there may be a small fee. Regardless, it would be impolite to not purchase at least a few bottles of the estate’s wines.
Where to taste wine:
Fontanafredda is one of the biggest and most impressive wineries in the region with 155 year experience and has recently taken on new life after being purchased by gourmet food giant Eataly. The cellars, the village and the Royal Villa were once home to Emmanuele Vittorio ll, the King of Italy. About 20 families of cellarmen, vine dressers and office staff live in the village, all employees of the Estate who are part of the village’s daily life, just like in the 19th century. The beautiful estate even has its own church, park, and a lake. Fontanafredda owns the largest number of acreage of Nebbiolo reserved for production of Barolo. 7 million bottles a year are produced here and 15% of the total Barolo wine production comes from here.
Fontanafredda, Via Alba 15, 12050 Serralunga d’Alba
Borgogno tasting room in the middle of Barolo village is one of the oldest wine producing houses in Langhe and Piedmont. It all began in 1761 when Bartolomeo Borgogno established the cellar. Today Borgogno is following a code of absolute environmental friendliness, treats its grapes in the very best methods; no chemical fertilizers used but only sustainable treatments. Enjoy the free tasting of some great Barolos tour the cellars and take home the “No Name” wine that has born as a quiet protest against the bureaucracy that afflicts Italian agriculture and the wine world.
Giacomo Borgogno e Figli, Via Gioberti 1, 12060 Barolo
Marchisio or Tenuta Ca’ Du Russ Di Marchisio Sergio was a highlight of our wine tasting tour. Hard to find if you don’t know where to go but once you arrive, the hospitality will surprise you. We started at 11am, kind of early for a wine tasting but with all the wine and cheese and ham and bread they served, the early tasting become a lunch and we ended up leaving the winery at 3pm. Where did the time fly! They are producing my favorite white wine Roero Arneis and my friends in U.S. – you won’t believe the pricing. For €6 you can get a good white wine but an excellent red like Dolcetto or Barbera from €8 to €12.
Tenuta Ca’ Du Russ, Via della Vittoria 9, 12050 Castellinaldo (CN)
Where to eat:
While driving from one winery to other in Langhe hills stop at “Trattoria da Lele” in Murazzano. Experience the real Italian lunch and choose the fixed menu, 5 antipasti, 2 primi, 2 secondi and 3 desserts and house wine for 30€. To get a great overview of authentic Piedmonts cooking just sit back and let them bring it to you. Be prepared for a long lunch, no need to rush, just relax and enjoy!
Trattoria Da Lele, 12060 Murazzano (CN)
Casa Scaparone Osteria located at the Agriturismo Casa Scaparone just outside of Alba serves typical local, hearty dishes made of biological ingredients are served in a beautifully restored previous stable.
Where to stay:
Agriturismo Casa Scaparone, working farm and vineyard located 5 kilometers from the town of Alba, is a great base to explore the regions of Langhe and Roero. The renovated farmhouse will bring you back in time; every room is charming and decorated with country style restored antiques. Ask the owner Batista for his hand drawn maps of the region and suggestion of restaurants and wineries to visit.
Strada Scaparoni 45, ex localita Scaparone, Scaparone 12051 Alba (CN)
Nobody visits Piedmont unless they are obsessed with wine and food. Are you? So if you’re thinking of an autumn trip to Italy, be sure to plan a stop in Piedmont for a weekend in Alba.