Piedmont wine tasting is primary draw for visitors coming to Northern Italy. That’s not really a surprise – the area boasts the most DOCGs and DOCs in the whole of Italy. However, it might surprise some would-be travelers that the famous Barbaresco and Barolo wines of the Piedmont wine region make up only about three percent of the region’s total wine production.

italy cartDespite the popularity of these wines, this small section remains antiquated in terms of tourism and technology, so a Piedmont wine tasting experience isn’t as easy to plan as you might think.

The Langhe (comprised of the Barolo and Barbaresco winemaking areas) sits in the southwestern corner of Piedmont. And, while you are tasting some of the world’s best red wines in Barolo and Barbaresco, neighboring regions like the Monferrato and the Roero are also not to be missed.

piedmont barolo
Scarpa Villas is owned by the historic Scarpa winery (Cantina Scarpa) located in Nizza Monferrato. In the fall of 2018, we will be opening a new tasting room. Book your tasting today.

What To Expect Of Your Piedmont Wine Tasting Experience

Here are some tips to get the most out of your time in this part of the Piedmont wine region.

Most wine travelers have a set idea of what will greet them when they visit a new region. In New World wine regions, tasting rooms are accessible with dedicated staff and set open hours. In Piedmont, that is the exception. While producers are adapting to significant increases in tourism, wine tasting in Piedmont remains unique for a number of reasons. Let’s start by talking about the tasting room experience.

When you stay with us at Scarpa Villas, we can help you plan every aspect of your Piedmont wine tasting experiences –  from driver services to guide or a self-guided program to the types of producers you want to visit as well as specialty tastings. After booking your villa, you will be connected with a personal Experience Specialist to assist you, based on your needs and interests.

 Tasting Room Fees

A modest tasting room fee is becoming more standard in the Piedmont wine region. If you’ve done a lot of travel in more well-trafficked wine regions, this isn’t anything new. When booking your appointments on your own, we recommend asking about tasting room fees so there aren’t any surprises on the day of the visit. You can expect to pay anywhere from 10€ to 25€ a person with many producers waiving with a minimum purchase amount.

At Cantina Scarpa, we offer a variety of tasting programs for different prices. Inquire about options, and if you have specific requests, we are happy to try to customize a program for you. For villa guests, we can even arrange a tasting right at the villas. Be sure to check out our holiday villas in Italy with a private pool.

When it comes to booking a Barolo wine tour, payment method options are worth mentioning. By now, most producers are equipped to accept credit cards for purchases, however, some smaller producers may not have the capabilities yet. Inquire when booking to be prepared if they only accept cash. And, note that most do not take American Express.

 Tasting Room Appointments

More walk-in tasting rooms are opening in the area’s villages, but for the most part, a proper winery visit requires an appointment. As tourism increases, we recommend booking these appointments well in advance if you have specific producers you want to visit

We caution against just dropping in to ask for a visit as most producers here are still very small with limited staff. While they love to meet visitors and share their wines, the winemaking and winery operations remain first priority. You see, visits here are generally hosted by a family member or one of the few employees who likely has multiple responsibilities to keep operations running. Consider that a visit can run from 1.5 to three hours with a tour of the cellar and a tasting of recent vintages. That in mind, an unexpected tour takes away from time in the cellar, the vineyards, and / or the office. So, please plan ahead to schedule winery visits

Cantina Scarpa is open on weekends, but make sure to reserve your wine tasting experience in advance. 

 

Tasting Older Vintages

Today, many area visitors are interested in a Barolo wine tour, tasting experiences and purchasing vintage bottles. Barbaresco and Barolo wines are particularly popular given the long-term aging potential. It’s important to note that older vintages are not always easy to find at the winery itself for different reasons:

  1. The global excitement for Barbaresco and Barolo wines began in the late 1980s. So, until recently, it was often necessary for producers to sell all their wines to maintain consistent cash flow.
  2. Some producers simply did not have the storage space to maintain a library of older wines.

If part of your plans for your Piedmont wine tasting experience is to taste and / or buy older bottles, inquire about that when developing your Barolo wine tour program. If the producers you wish to visit do not have older bottles, there may be other ways to find them, including:

  • You can find older vintages at area wine bars and enotecas. Many of these places will arrange specialty tastings and they will often be able to help you with shipping.
  • Ask if the producer’s importer in your home country has a stock of older bottles. If they do, the producer can share their contact info to coordinate purchases with them directly.

Cantina Scarpa has an extensive collection of older bottles of Barolo, Barbaresco, Barbera, Ruché, etc. dating back to 1962. Arrange a specialty tasting to explore older bottles as well as recent vintages.

Wine Bars and Enotecas with older vintages:

  • Grandi Vini enoteca, Via Vittorio Emanuele, 1, 12051 Alba, 10 km / 6.2 miles from Scarpa Villas.
  • Enoteca Fracchia Via Vernazza, 9, 12051 Alba, 10 km / 6.2 miles from Scarpa Villas.
  • La Vite Turchese wine bar, Via Alba, 5, 12060 Barolo, 12 km / 7.5 miles from Scarpa Villas.
  • Enoteca Vini & Vinacce, Via Roma, 68, 12060 Barolo, 12 km / 7.5 miles from Scarpa Villas.
  • Gallo Wine Gallery enoteca (La Morra; Barolo village), 5.5 km / 3.4 miles from Scarpa Villas.

Piedmont Wine Tour Programs: Guided or Self-driving

An important consideration when planning your Piedmont wine tasting experience is how you want to get around – will you drive yourself, use a tour provider, or hire a driver service? If you are staying at Scarpa Villas, your personal Experience Specialist can help you plan accordingly. Here are some factors in deciding how you want to plan your Barolo wine tour program:

  • The region is quite rural and spread-out, so a guide or driver service will ensure you don’t get lost and can relax and enjoy the scenery.
  • A guide or tour leader can offer insight into the region, winemaking practices, and more.
  • Custom tour providers will also arrange for your full program, including appointments, lunch, specialty activities (cooking classes, truffle hunt, etc).
  • Expect to be picked up at your location and returned there at the end of the day.

 

Explore the Langhe, Roero, and Monferrato

As mentioned above, most people coming to the Piedmont wine region are interested in a Barolo wine tour. But, we encourage you to also explore the vast and intriguing areas of the Monferrato, Asti, and the Roero. Here, you will be introduced to indigenous varieties that are hard to find outside the area, different styles and variations of the area’s most well-known wines, like Barolo, Barbaresco, and Barbera. To really get to know the Piedmont wine region, don’t limit yourself to just the Langhe.

wine tasting barolo

PIEDMONT WINE TASTING IN THE MONFERRATO:

The Monferrato sits in the southeast corner of Piedmont, bordered by Turin and Alessandria. The primary wine town of Nizza Monferrato is located about 36 km / 22 miles by car from Alba (Barbaresco and Barolo’s primary wine town). The region is revered for its majestic hillside landscape, quaint villages and towns, and of course the local wines. The wines of the Monferrato include lesser known indigenous varieties, like Freisa, and Ruché as well as Italy’s third most widely planted grape of Barbera — also indigenous to the Monferrato.

BARBERA D’ASTI AND BARBERA D’ALBA: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?

We’ll get into a more detailed review of the area’s variations of Barbera, but for now, here are a few things to know. On the whole, Barbera is a fruity red with good acidity and little tannin.

Barbera d’Asti tends to be a more elegant wine, showing more mineral complexity. It’s often soft, round, and well-balanced. You can taste three variations of Barbera d’Asti at Scarpa: Casa Scarpa is only vinified in steel, I Bricchi is aged 4 years before release (30 months in large oak cask), and the top wine La Bogliona is aged 5 years (36 months in large oak cask) before release.

Barbera d’Alba often shows more body with emphasis on the acidity. The wine is extremely food-friendly.

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PIEDMONT WINE TASTING IN THE ROERO:

The Roero is situated across from Barbaresco, divided by the River Tanaro. Once covered by ocean, the Roero’s soil remains rich in sand and even fossils giving the Nebbiolo-based wines of Roero Rosso and Roero Riserva elegance and finesse, making them more approachable early. The area is high quality, cost effective alternative to pricier Barbaresco and Barolo wines. And, the area is also home the Piedmont white of Arneis; indigenous to the Roero.

 

Enjoy your Piedmont wine tasting experience.

We hope these tips help you think about your adventures in this part of the Piedmont wine region. Please drop us a note with questions or with other tips for exploring the region.

Keep up on regional news as well as area travel tips, and resources by following us by subscribing to the blog. Over the coming weeks, expect an area dining guide, updates on the 2018 growing season, Piedmont food experiences, and more.

And, don’t forget to take advantage of our special offer and guest activities.