Let’s start our journey in picturesque Italy; a country so diverse that there is something for everyone. Not only from a wine point of view but also gastronomy, culture, adventure and of course history. While Italy currently is the epicentre of the Covid-19 virus in Europe, its people’s spirit remains high and this was clear in our correspondence with our producers.
First, we visit Piedmont, in the North-western part of the country; “a wine-lover’s dream” as described by our colleague Harry who had the opportunity a few months ago to visit our producers. “Aside from some of the greatest wines produced anywhere in the world, the region is picture-perfect, boasts some of the greatest restaurants in Europe (both with and without Michelin stars), and is far enough off the tourist trail for you to enjoy these things in relative peace”, he added. In 2019, the travel guide giant, the Lonely Planet, named Piedmont the world’s top region to visit.
“Piemonte” in Italian, Piedmont gets its name from its location at the foot (“piede”) of the majestic Alps (“monte” for mountains). Torino, the capital of the region has a very defined skyline. The Mole Antonelliana, is as recognisable to Italians as the leaning tower of Pisa or the Colosseum. The 550-foot towering structure with its dome shape and tall spire was initially conceived as an idea for a synagogue before being bought by the city of Torino. Today, it is home to the rich National Museum of Cinema.
Outside of the city, visitors can explore the Sacri Monti, or Sacred Mountains, of Piedmont and Lombardy. The seven mountains located in Piedmont (Belmonte, Crea, Domodossola, Ghiffa, Oropa, Orta and Varallo) are listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The breath-taking natural beauty of the region is dotted with chapels, frescoes, art and statues. The Christian artworks are about half a century old and are open for exploration.
Piedmont is a true foodie’s paradise: among the culinary specialities of the region there is “bagna càuda” which is an olive oil, butter, anchovy and garlic fondue for dipping bread and veggies in. Another classic from the city of Torino is “vitel tonnè” which is a cold dish of sliced veal served with a mayonnaise-like sauce, tuna, black pepper and capers. The region is also home to the famous truffles of Alba where festivals are held every October to honour this culinary treasure.
Our first wine from Piedmont is a Dolcetto d’Alba from Elio Grasso – one of the greatest modern names in the region. Dolcetto means “the little sweet one” in Italian (this refers to the attractive fruit as the wine is still dry), the wine is light-bodied, fresh and full of dark cherry fruit. Low tannins mean you can slightly chill this wine on a warm summer’s day, but it’s also a delight to enjoy with food. Pair this wine with aged cheese, mushrooms and truffles and the umami will bring out hidden complexities in a wine that ages far more gracefully than you’d expect.
The Elio Grasso estate is located in the municipality of Monforte d’Alba. They have 42 hectares of land of which 24 consist of forest and meadows that surround the 18 hectares of vineyards, all within the World Heritage site.