Turin, Italy and its surrounding area is known for the three B’s of wine – Barbaresco, Barolo, and Barbera. There are a few other letters that should be added here, like A for Asti which produces a sparkling spumanti and the twin G’s, Gattinaras and Ghemmes.
The Piedmont (the region of Turin) is regarded by many as the finest wine producing region in Italy.
This is apparent when you walk through Turin and see wine shops competing with caffés and chocolatiers for space.
In fact there are two wine museums in the area: The Martini & Rossi Museum at Pessione, Turin and the Bersano Museum at Nizza Monferrato.
Map of Italy Wine Country Regions
Clicking on the Wine Regions of Italy Map image or here will open a large helpful and well designed PDF by Nicks Wine Merchants in Australia. The Wine Regions of Italy Map shows you the type of wine produced per region which should help you determine areas to visit for wine tours when planning your trip to Italy
The Piedmont region has 75,000 hectares of vineyards and produces 7,000,000 quintals of white and black grapes. Just what is a quintal? A quintal is equal to 100 kilograms which is equal to just over 220 pounds. In other words they produce a lot of grapes.
Barolo and Barbaresco as well as Gattinaras and Ghemmes are all produced from the Nebbiolo grape. The Nebbiolo is grown primarily in the Piedmont region. Nebbiolo is thought to derive from the word nebbia which in Italian means fog.
The harvest generally takes place in late October when a fog settles over the vineyards of the region. Or maybe the name comes from nobile which is Italian for noble. Personally I like the first definition better.
Barolo and Barbaresco wines are well known by anyone who pays attention to wines. Gattinaras and Ghemmes wines are less well-known though both are widely available outside of Italy.
Perhaps because they are less popular they are also less expensive, often close to half the cost of the better known “B” wines. Gattinaras and Ghemmes are two of only 21 DOCG wines in Italy. DOCG is Italy’s highest designation.
Barolo is known as the King of Wines and the Wine of Kings. The production of better wines in Italy is highly regulated and Barolo is no exception. By law it must be aged for 3 years, two of those years must be spent in oak casks. Barolo is a full-bodied wine which is all that those of us who like wine but can’t identify the subtle flavors needs to know.
To those with a finer palate it is said to have flavors of strawberry, tobacco, chocolate, vanilla, and white truffles. Barolo is very tannic and rich. To me it just tastes good, really, really good.
It is made from the Nebbiolo grape from Alba which is southwest of Turin. Barolo was often called the “best wine in Italy”, today the mighty Barolo has a lot of competition. Although Italians would be loath to admit it, Borolo was actually created by a Frenchman in the mid-19th century.
Barbaresco must also be aged for 3 years, two of which are in oak casks. Alcohol content is regulated for wines and the Barbaresco wines have slightly less alcohol than the Barolo. Like Barolo, Barbaresco is also made from the Nebbiolo grape.
Both these wines require a great deal of self-discipline as they are best when aged upwards of 10 years.
If you can’t wait 10 years to drink your wine you can always try a Barbera which is light and crisp with lower tannins and most importantly can be drunk young, which is different from being a wine that can be drunk by the young. The sweet bubbly variety of Barbera is Piedmont’s most popular wine.
Here is an interesting video detailing wine making and footage of the Piedmont region:
There are other wines produced in the wine country region around Turin, Italy.
Asti, also called the Italian Toast King is a sweet sparkling wine. Unlike Champagne which is made from black grapes Asti is produced from white grapes. It has a lower alcohol content than many wines.
Vermouth, which in Italy is drunk as an aperitif is served before dinner. Vermouth was invented in Turin, Italy by Antonio Bendetto Carpano. Vermouth is a white wine flavored with herbs, spices and roots. It is best known as the capful of wine that is added to a traditional martini.
A traditional martini recipe consists of 2 ½ ounces of either gin or vodka and 1/2 ounce of dry vermouth, garnished with either a lemon twist or an olive or two. Martini’s are best served ice cold, shaken not stirred and should only be enjoyed by experienced drinkers since they are straight alcohol.
And for those with cast iron stomachs there is always Grappa. Distilleries around Turin, Italy also produce this potent spirit.
But beware – Grappa is between 40% and 50% alcohol by volume (80 to 100 proof). Many producers now add fruit and syrup to make Grappa more palatable.
Grappa is a digestivo or after-dinner drink and has historically been thought to aid in digestion. There are also coffee drinks including Caffé Corretto which is coffee with a shot of grappa, ammazzacaffe, an espresso drink following by a couple of ounces of grappa in its own glass and resentin where you drink your espresso and rinse out the cup with a few ounces of grappa drunk down in one gulp which is really the only way you can drink grappa.
Turin, Italy produces both fine wines and fine chocolates and a delicious cup of coffee is available every few feet. What more can you ask for in a city?