Wine It Up

From Asti Spumante to Barolo, the wines of Piedmont are among Italy’s most prolific and best rated

In the far north-west of Italy lies Piedmont, one of the most famous wine producing areas not just in Italy but all over the world. Surrounded by Valle d’Aosta, Lombardy, Bologna, Liguria, Switzerland and France, Piedmont is home to great wines like Barolo and Barbaresco, and is also well-known for its sparkling wines and, in fact, is the second largest producer of certified quality wines in Italy.

Piedmont is a wine lovers’ mecca. Here wine is not a business but part of the culture and lifestyle. Most of the residents in the area live from wine and winemaking – there are over 800 small producers in Barolo and Barbaresco who bottle the stuff from their modest five acre vineyards.

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Within Piedmont the DOCG of Asti has gained an international reputation for the sparkling wines it produces, using Muscat grapes (or Moscato as it’s locally known).

Although sparkling and red is what most people know when referring to Piedmont, the region also produces some fabulous white wines, and my definite favorite is Roero Arneis. The Roero grape is autochthone to Italy, floral and fruity.

For red wine, Nebbiolo grape is the protagonist, delivering high acidic, high tannic, very complex wines, made to rest for a long time before they can be enjoyed at their best. One of the drawback/beauties of Barolo is the length of wait time needed to fully taste its plenitude. I say drawback because we want to drink it now, and now would be nice, but not as nice as if we wait a few more years so the magic and beauty of the grape, terroir and winemaking helps it develop all the flavors and scents over time while it waits in the cellar to be opened.

Barbera and Dolcetto are two other popular grapes in Piedmont. Barbera is the most widely planted grape in the region, also high acidic, but low in tannins producing silky wines with a cherry flavor. Dolcetto is low in acidity and delivers sweet tannins, making it ideal to blend with Barbera and Nebbiolo.

It is easy to find Piedmont wines in Vietnam (RubyRed, 206 Nguyen Van Huong, D2). And some of my favorites are Barolo Prunotto, of which a 2005 magnum is waiting in my cellar for the right time. Pio Cesare, Michele Chiarlo are equally fantastic.

But if you want to discover Piedmont, start with the entry level wines, enjoy what they have to offer, and slowly move upward, but remember, in this paradise for wine and truffles called Piedmont, making wine is an art, so not even the entry level wines are bad.

BIO: Alfredo de la Casa has been organizing wine tastings for over 20 years and published three wine books, including the Gourmand award winner for best wine education book. You can reach him at www.wineinvietnam.com.

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