What to do in Piedmont? A Q&A with the Marcarini family.

Located in the north-west corner of Italy, Piedmont is one of the most famous regions in Italy. Near the city of Turin lie the famous wine areas of Barolo, Barbaresco, Asti and Alba. Piedmont is a beautiful and charming gem of a region. The landscape is something to marvel, small villages are dotted amongst the rolling hilly vineyards of this delightful wine region. We ask the 6th generation winemaking Marcarini family for their tips – what do they recommend to do in Piedmont?

Nebbiolo is the main grape planted in the area – a black grape with high acidity and tannin but often light in colour. There are, however, many other fascinating local grape varieties worth exploring such as Dolcetto and Barbera for red wines and Cortese, Moscato and Arneis for white wine.

Barolo tasting and lesson from Valeria

Barolo is arguably the most famous DOCG (wine region) in Italy. Hopefully our imagery does this UNESCO World Heritage site justice – it is beautiful! Although Barolo is a region, the term ‘Barolo’ can often refer to the wine itself, which is made from Nebbiolo a small, thin skinned, red grape variety generally high in acidity and tannins but often light in colour.

In the region of Barolo, there are 11 communes. The Marcarini family are a famous Barolo producer based in La Morra, which is one of these communes (the actual village of Barolo is another commune).

We met up Chiara and Valeria from the Marcarini family at their winery in La Morra. Chiara, her brother (married to Valeria) and her sister now run the family business of Marcarini. They are the sixth generation to run this family business and they produce wine according to the most rigorous traditions. Their incredible medieval building in La Morra doubles up a wine shop, cellar, home, winery and everything in between! 

This 13th century building is a great place to visit and learn about Barolo and Piedmont in general. As I mentioned, Marcarini are traditional in their values; you can see their huge 50-year old botti barrels (1,500-10,000 litres) and you can even taste and buy pre-phylloxera wine (phylloxera was a disease that killed virtually all European vines in the 19th Century)!  Marcarini’s pre-phylloxera wine is made from Dolcetto vines which are over 120 years old and still producing great fruit! 

A tasting and tour at their winery in La Morra is a must and if you are looking for accommodation the farmhouse is cosy and Chiara is a great host. Locals, Chiara & Valeria, live and breathe the Langhe area, so we thought we would ask them what they like to do in Piedmont and what they would recommend. Here’s what they said!

Views to marvel at from every village

What are your favourite villages to show people in Piedmont?

“There are many beautiful villages to show people. Neive and La Morra are the most romantic and charming and the other well know wine villages also worth seeing are; Barolo, Monforte d’Alba, Alba and Barbaresco.”

What are your favourite things to do and best kept secrets in the area? 

“There are lots of things to do in the area that are linked to the enogastronomic world.

Truffle hunting is big in the autumn! At this time of year the hills turn orange and scenery is magical. Then there are visits and tasting of the dozens of wineries of Barolo or Barbaresco –  most of them family run businesses, so they are deeply different from each other. Many shops in La Morra or Barolo (Vinoland etc.) now offer the opportunity to participate in vertical tastings, in order to practise your palate with old vintages of Barolo.

We also offer the opportunity to visit the many historical castles (in Barolo, in Grinzane Cavour, in Serralunga etc.) In recent years it has also become more and more popular to hike in our hills, following the trekking routes through the vineyards. Every season shows beautiful but different panoramas. If you are brave (in the summer time or autumn) why not try a balloon ride early in the morning to experience the sunrise in the Langhe?”

The vibrant wine bars of Neive!

We’ve noticed there are so many fantastic wine bars in all of the villages! When it comes to food do you have any favourite restaurants? And what is a classic local dish?

“In the area, it’s actually hard to choose only one restaurant! We have many excellent ones. Here are some of my favourites: Bovio in La Morra, Bercau in Verduno, Boccon divino in Bra, Ugo Alciati in Fontanafredda estate, Tota Virginia in Serralunga, Il Centro in Serralunga too, Uve in La Morra and Locanda in Cannubi in Barolo. 

Classic local dishes are: Carne Cruda di Fassona (think steak tartare), Vitello Tonnato (think Veal served in a creamy, mayonnaise-like sauce with capers & tuna), Tajarin (a golden pasta, often served with ragu), Agnolotti al Plin (tiny pasta parcels, filled with beef and cabbage, served in a cheesey, buttery sauce) Brasato al Barolo (beef & Barolo wine).”

Your winery in La Morra is fascinating – what else do you recommend visitors do in La Morra?

“La Morra is becoming one of the reference points for the area tourism wise, this is mainly thanks to the incredible panoramic views that you can enjoy from our Belvedere Square, in Piazza Castello.

From the tourist office starts all the trekking routes in the vineyards, you can visit many different wineries, including Marcarini of course. In La Morra we have the famous Cappella del Barolo, which became the symbol of this wine (in Brunate single vineyard). It is a very particular chapel, painted by Sol LeWitt and David Tremlett.

You can’t miss the Gelato on the high street and you must try the Barolo Chinato, Dark Chocolate and Granita flavour Moscato d’Asti! The Gelateria is very dangerous as it is next door to the Marcarini wine shop!”

Thank you so much Chiara and Valeria, it has been wonderful spending time with you and learning about Barolo, La Morra and the region of Piedmont in general! I highly recommend visiting!

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