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Famed for its food as well as its wine, Piemonte (‘Piedmont’ in English) occupies the north-west corner of Italy, bordering France and Switzerland. The name means “foot of the mountains” and the mountains in question are the Alps, which surround it on three sides and can be seen as an arc on the horizon from much of the region.
Torino (Turin) is the political capital, but it lies on a flat plain. The vinous capitals are Alba and Asti, situated on rolling, vine-covered hills further southeast.
This is definitely red wine country, reflecting the richness of the local cuisine. The grape Nebbiolo is king here, producing hauntingly perfumed, fearsomely tannic wine that ages for decades. Great Barolos and Barbarescos are some of the longest-lived wines in the world. Other notable reds are made from Barbera and Dolcetto, with Grignolino, Freisa and Brachetto producing lighter reds for mainly local consumption. All of these are indigenous to Piemonte.
While still dry whites are quite rare, sweet sparkling ones are common: this is the home of Asti (formerly Asti Spumante) and its delightful cousin, the sweeter, less frothy, low-alcohol Moscato d'Asti.
Dry whites are represented by Gavi (from the Cortese grape) and the fragrant Roero Arneis. Arneis almost went extinct in the 1970s but has made a remarkable comeback. Also of note is the rarely-exported Favorita, which has recently been shown (to Piemontese horror) not to be local at all: DNA analysis has determined that it’s identical to the Vermentino of Sardinia.
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