The Asti province is known above all for its wines: the vineyards cover a large part of the hill of Monferrato. The range of DOC and DOCG comprise all types of wine: white, red, dry, bubbly and sparkling, suitable to accompany the most varied menus for the most refined palates.
There are great red wines such as Barbera, produced all over the province, or small and precious typical local production of single communes, such as Albugnano or Loazzolo.
In all cases, though, there is still a family run production, following tradition and seeking quality rather than quantity. This quality can be seen at first hand in the many private wineries such as the community wine-cellars, historical and modern cellars, and in the vineyards themselves which are so difficult to tend as they are on hilly territory with rows so tight that it is impossible to gain access with mechanical means.
Together with the wine we have the Piedmont traditional dishes enriched with local produce. There is “bagna cauda” (simple but very flavorful sauce made from oil, garlic and anchovies, which since medieval times come from nearby Liguria). The sauce accompanies the square shaped peppers from Motta di Costigilole, cardoons from Nizza Monferrrato and vegetables from the Tanaro valley.
We have “agnolotti”, the famous filled pasta which change their ingredients every few kilometers: at Calliano they are filled with donkey meat; at Viarigi with rabbit; at Costigliole they make “plin” and at Cessole the pasta is served without condiment in serviettes. Ancient dishes, such “finanziera”, “fritto misto” (once created to use up offal), “tartra'”, “fricando'”, are served in the province’s restaurants.
On the winter menus we find the richest dishes in the cuisine, enhanced with melted cheese, flavored with mushrooms and precious white truffles, and mixed boiled meats. The spring menus consist mainly of garden vegetables, such as asparagus from Vinchio, peppers, mixed vegetables served with rabbit, chicken, etc.
Wines are accompanied favorably with slices of cheese and salami. We point out “robiola” of Roccaverano, a cheese of very ancient production made from goats’ milk, of rich flavor which changes with the seasons according to the grass of the pastures on the high hills of Langa between Piedmont and Liguria.
It often accompanies local honey and the perfumed “mostarda” (sweet mustard sauce with grapes, nuts and fruit). Among the types of salami, certainly the most original is the production with donkey meat in the north east, and salami flavored with wine and with truffle, produced in small workshops. In the Asti province we find also raw ham, produced only at Cocconato.
Naturally in Piedmont we cannot ignore the sweets, especially here in the Asti province, land of Moscato and Brachetto, irreplaceable dessert wines. The list here would be very long, from “zabajone” made with Moscato, “bunet” and stuffed peaches to specifically local products: at Asti the “polentine”, “palio” cakes, “astigiani”, handmade nougat.
There are numerous stopovers throughout the province for those with a sweet tooth. At Mombaruzzo in the 1700’s the soft “amaretti” originated, still produced today in factories with a flavor of the past.
In Langa the main flavor is that of hazelnut, the “Tonda Gentile” hazelnut of the Langa area, the best in Italy for the production of sweetmeats. Thus we find hazelnut cake, “amaretti” made from hazelnuts and “nisulin”. Not only cake shops conserve these treasures: also in the many bakeries in the smallest villages it is possible to discover products and biscuits, such as “ubia’ di Grana”, “canestrelli di Cinaglio”, “caritin”, each with its history, legend or religious tradition to recount, because in this area food represents culture and history.
Where to stay in Asti
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