The hills of the Langhe, Roero and Monferrato; Canavese; Coste della Sesia; and the hill country around Novara. These are known as the “distretti del vino”, the wine growing areas, par excellence, the hills and mountains where the land is given over to grape growing.
In Piedmont, the strength of tradition of wine making can be clearly seen from the extent of the vineyards and the range and number of wines produced, but above all at the village fairs celebrating the grape and the new wines of the season.
Wine is not simply a product to be marketed, but an essential part of life, a fundamental influence on the philosophy and culture of the people as a whole.
For the country communities in Piedmont the grape harvest is an important event in the year. It is a time when memories of the past and deep rooted traditions are reinforced, as the art of wine making is practiced yet again. Yet this does not mean that this art is closed to modern techniques and innovative technology.
There are a whole host of events that allow a visitor to experience the excitement of the grape harvest, to savor the tastes and the fragrance, to be part of the fascinating rituals enacted annually, from the grape picking in the vineyard to the arcane mysteries of the cellars where the final product is carefully stored to continue in silence the magical process that will give us next year’s wine.
The most interesting opportunities are offered by the Vinum fair, held in Alba, and Cantine Aperte (Open Cellars) in the Langhe and Roero.
The secrets of Piedmont’s winemaking culture and skills have been jealously protected over the centuries, through an exclusively oral tradition passed on from generation to generation, and consisting of stories, anecdotes, maxims, and peasant lore.
In Piedmont today, wine museums have been set up to record and illustrate the history of winemaking and its role in the life of the people. Thus wine lovers from all over the world can understand and enter into the spirit of this traditional world through degustation, history, music and theatre performances.
To promote the DOC and DOCG wines of the region, a new agency has been set up: the Enoteca del Piedmont, a Consortium uniting together ten enoteche (groups already dedicated to presenting Piedmont wine to the public).
Every year the cantine sociali, (communal cellar and commercial facilities shared by a number of producers in the same growing area), attract 400,000 visitors for tastings and presentations. Often located in castles or historic stately homes, they have become excellent showcases for the products and wine culture of Piedmont.
Another yearly event, Turin’s international wine fair, the Salone del vino, always immensely successful and packed out by local and international visitors, promotes Piedmont food and wine very effectively. Here wine buffs can participate in degustation of the prize winning wines (even those that have been awarded Italy’s most prestigious title, the Tre Bicchieri – three glasses) and buy bottles of the wine of their choice directly from the producer.