There’s a lot to taste in this part of the world. Apart from te premier grape Nebbiolo, in its various guises (Langhe Nebbiolo and Nebbiolo d’Alba, and the big guns Barbaresco and Barolo) there are a number of other wines, grape varieties and styles from the fascinating, satisfying to superb. You may even come across some producers – and they’re not always big guys – who might offer as many as 10 different wines.
These might include;
- Arneis, Favorita and Timorasso of the native grapes and some have a bit of Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Riesling and of course, Pinot Grigio
- Some excellent Champenoise wines are increasingly being made and even some fascinating bubbly from Nebbiolo
- The favourite grapey Moscato in various, but usually lightly bubbly form. The best are the rich late-harvbest ‘passito’ and the famous Moscato d’Asti.
- Lighter red varieties like Pelaverga, Freisa, Brachetto and Grignolino
- Some of the inteloper French varieties, Merlot, Cabernet, increasiongly Pinot and some Syrah. Some blend really well for worthwhile results, with the locals.
- The acknowledged bigger guns, Dolcetto, Barbera and Nebbiolo.
- There’s an increasing or reawakening too of traditional wines like Amaro and digestivo wines like Vermouth and Barolo’s own captivating speciality Barolo Chinato.
- And then there’s the Grappa. The best of these, often identified from the grape eg Nebbiolo) or regional (eg Barolo) origins, are superb, fine spirits.
So it pays to do your research on what you are likely to find at the cellar door you are visiting.
Tasting in the Langhe is generally not like here. It is unusual to be able just to rock up to an open cellar door, like we take for granted on a day-trip to the Barossa, Yarra, Hunter or Margaret River eg. While there are larger producers with open cellar doors, most production in the Langhe area, or most interest especially, is focused on the smaller either family, or co-op producers. Most of these latter need an introduction for you to visit.
But access is still easy enough, although as the fame of Barolo spreads most of these producers are feeling the pressure. You’d only have to think about a small producer who maybe makes just 20-30,000 bottles – some maybe 2,500 dozens – who has to fork out samples to possibly 3,000 visitors per year? It might mean they pour some 10% of their production gratis. This would work for some, and a be an understandable burden for others. Just to point this out. Having said all that, you don’t need to feel pressure to buy at the cellar door. There isn't that expectation.
We divide recommended tastings between a lists of producers all of high reputation, the first where we would usually need to do the intros for you, or you may be able to resreve a tasting online and other places with more flexibility and general accessibility ie where you can usually walk in.
Barbaresco area (north of Alba)
By Appointment (by comune or location)
Bera (Neviglie)– the wonderful Bera family are gradually developing a great greeting centre. Do a big range and all excellently.
Bruno Giacosa (lower Neive) - Generally trade only or regular buyers of these icons
Castello di Neive (upper Neive) - a superb tasting set up in their ancient castello in Neive village. A must-do. They do charge for some levels of tasting
Cellar door of Castello di Neive
Cascina Luisin – taste with a family member in the kitchen. Beautiful handful of wines.
La Morandina (Castiglione Tinella) – Brilliant Moscato, and some reds from vines well 100 years
More flexible or walk-in
Massimo Rivetti (Neive) – really the Rivetti’s wine bar in the center of gorgeous old Neive, but where you can get a tasting with ease. Small cahrge.
Produttori del Barbaresco (Barbaresco) – this name so well known here, always has at least a couple of Barbaresco (and other wines) open for walk-in tasting.
Barolo area (south of Alba)
Barale (Barolo) – right in Barolo village. There since (at least) late 1500s. Great visit
Brezza (Barolo) – old family combines lovely hotel and top wines. A stop for many Aussies, for unbeatable local food or a walk into the Cannubi vineyard…
Revello (La Morra) – typical producer of the richer, generous La Morra Barolo from a variety of famous cru.
Einaudi (Dogliani) – top producer of Barolo crus and one of the best Dolcetto
Manfredi (Dogliani) – family, with Patrizi label better known here, for economy versions of most Langhe wines
Tenuta Montanello (Castiglione Falletto) – low-key family monopole providing classic wines and hospitality
Paolo Conterno (Monforte d’Alba) – maybe not as well known as G and Aldo Conternos – but should be. Growing in stature for supoerb Nebbiolo and Barbera
Seghesio (Monforte d’Alba) - also like Conterno) a bit out of the way, but worth finding for a tasting of sleek Barolo, Barbera and vibrant, juicy Dolcetto
Luigi Pira (Serralunga) – taste excellent dark Barolo, Barbera and Dolcetto while overlooking the famous crus (Marenca, Marghera, Vigna Rionda) of Serralunga
Looking up at Pira’s tasting room from cru Marenca
More flexible or walk-in tasting rooms
Borgogno (Barolo) – a name hard to miss around Barolo town. Tatsing room is open 7 days.
Ceretto (Castiglione Falletto) – larger family business, with well-established visitor centre, able to show off from a large range of many (most?) regional styles.
Damilano (Barolo & La Morra) – two walk-in locations in one each in Barolo and La Morra villages
The sharp-looking mod wine shop of Damilano in La Morra
Marcarini ( La Morra) – well-known name here, who operate a drop-in tasting centre on the via Umberto
GD Vajra (Barolo) – well known to visitors from Oz and just out of Barolo village, stricftly speaking by appointment, but happy to taste with less notice
WANT TO BE GUIDED?
Finally, there are more operators in the region who specialise in being the contact for aspiring visitors, who look to them for guidance on where to go and what to do and see. Can heartily recommend expat American girl, now settled in the area, Amanda Courtney can fill up you day with wonderous stays, eats, drinks (better wine connections than most, hint, hint) and sights. www.amandaswineadventures.com
All you have to do now is get there!