Discovering Italian wine in an Enoteca Regionale – Piedmont

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My other half is now a sommelier through the AIS (Associazione Italiana Sommelier) and that means that wine has now, more than ever, been a big part of our culinary experience. Since we only got a car 3 years ago, it’s been a great excuse to get out and discover the countryside where few buses and trains will go.

Tasting #Barolo in Barolo. Borgogno 1998. Heavy mushroom & meat/stall undertones #italy #vino #wine

Tasting Barolo in Barolo, Italy.

This Easter weekend we went back to Piemonte. We spent Easter there three years ago (you can read about the delicious Easter lunch we had) but this time we went to a different part of the region and focused solely on wine and countryside. I did drive by the Ferrero factory (makers of Nutella) but they don’t allow visits, so you can leave that off your itinerary for Piemonte.

Monforte in The #Langhe : vineyards, the #Alps, & #cloudporn #italy

Monforte, Piemonte

The whole driving through the countryside to find wineries to stop in at and taste is not as popular as it is elsewhere, and I’m not sure if it ever will be. Places like agriturismi (bringing tourists to farms, ranches & wineries) cater to tourists, and some wine producers don’t want you showing up at their place of business without an invitation, so it’s best to do your research before setting out. If it’s a nice day, you might still get a great drive out of it, but if you’re looking to taste wine, it’s best you have a plan.

Piemonte wine countryside, Italy

Barbaresco wine country, Italy

My biggest tip is to look for the local “Enoteca Regionale” – the regional wine “repository” or shop – which features local wines; many which are not found elsewhere!  Another name to look out for is the “Cantina Comunale” – the city cantina- this will be much smaller in focus and may feature only uber-local wines and whatever else the people running the shop decide is worth their shelf space.

When in Barbaresco, drink…a wall of #Barbaresco. #vino #italy #wine

Enoteca regionale in Barbaresco, Italy

In my experience at the several ones I’ve been to, here’s what you can expect from an Enoteca Regionale or a Cantina Comunale:

  • Taste the wine. They will have around 4-6 bottles of wine you can have a taste or glass of directly there.
  • Local experts. They will know their wine, very, very well. They probably know the producers personally, too.
  • There will be wine there you won’t find elsewhere. Not every wine producer in Italy is in the bigger supermarkets or even the bars. It’s a great way to discover brands and vintages which you might not find anywhere else!
  • Tourist information: maybe. They may or may not have information about visiting local wineries or itineraries, or this may fall to the local Tourist information office. It doesn’t hurt to ask!
  • No frills & no food. They definitely want to sell some wine, but this isn’t an “experience” where you can park it there all day and have them entertain you. Most will offer the standard grissini, breadsticks, to help you cleanse your palate and put something in your stomach, but most do not have kitchens nor a menu for you to sit and drink. Buy a few bottles, stop by a forno or macellaio (baker or butcher) to pick up some eats, and head to the nearest park for your own tasting session.
Cantina Comunale in La Morra, Piemonte, Italy

Cantina Comunale in La Morra, Piemonte, Italy

If you’re set on planning a wine tasting & touring trip, here are my suggestions:

  • Map it out. Roughly map out your trip and take a look at which areas you’d like to focus on. Pick 2-3 towns or spots per day you’d like to stop at, and leave room for that 2-3 hour lunch you *know* is going to happen. Don’t try to rush it all, and especially if there’s sun out, you’re going to want to sit somewhere and enjoy the scenery instead of being in the car all day.
  • Call ahead for updated info. Sure, it takes some of the spontaneity out of it, but finding out if someone will actually be there when a guide book (or even their own website!) says they will is a good thing to verify.
  • Reserve. Make reservations at a tasting room or lunch spot. During high season, you’ll want to make sure you’re not left eating panini and drinking Cokes on a sidewalk somewhere.
  • Go early. If you’re flying by the seat of your pants, go early. That means no later than 12:30 for lunch, or 19:00 or 19:30 to catch the restaurant right when it opens so you can grab that last 2-top table that’s open. And, if you’re early and they still don’t have room, that leaves more time for you to find an alternative.
Barbaresco's Enoteca Regionale, Italy

Barbaresco’s Enoteca Regionale, Italy

Here are a few enoteche regionali to check out – your best bet is to Google first for the area or type of wine you’re interested in and see if an Enoteca Regionale or Cantina Comunale show up!

Have you been to an Enoteca Regionale? Do you have any tips to share?

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  1. says

    I have a trip to Italy planned for the Summer and am really looking forward to sampling some home grown Italian wines “in sitieu”.

    Mind you Italy is lovely anyway, but the wine probably will make it better!

    You can bet that I will most definitely be “making room for 2 to 3 hour lunches”!

  2. Thomas says

    Most of the wineries are family run establishments, and coming in unannounced, uninvited is no different than a stranger knocking at your door and asking to have dinner at your place… Nonetheless it’s still quite an experienced. Your best chances are to call in advance, tell them you were interested in buying a few cases of their wines and would like to come for a visit. Chances are they will be happy to have you over. If you do go they will give a quick tour of the facility, will take you to the tasting room where they will offer local cheese, salame, bread or bruschetta with a selection of wines to try. It is expcted that you are going to buy some (the good new is that wine in Italy is cheap, usually).

    • Ms. Adventures in Italy says

      @Thomas – great addition. You’re right, and I think the concept of “wine tasting for tourism” for the sake of just tasting isn’t super-interesting for most wine makers in Italy. If you’re going to buy wine…that’s another story :)

  3. says

    Very good article, me and my husband love Barola and piedmont wines, we often do wine tasting so i found your article a very good guide to the finest italian wines! Once BAROLO has been nominated “the king of all wines”…i think is so true!
    I have a blog as well about italian gastronomy , receipes and wines but in romanian language as i am romanian and my husband italian (i write his receipes for my romanian friends).
    Thank you for such a lovely blog

  4. Chris Grilli says

    Great article! How was the wine from Piemonte? Every year my family and I stay in the Villas in Tuscany Italy and the wine from that region is fantastic!

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