I Love Piedmont in the Autumn
Author: Chris Pollington
The descent into Autumn has never been my favourite time of the year, there is however a region in north-western Italy that seems to have been created just to celebrate this season.
Piedmont nestles in a horseshoe shape of Alps. This protective boundary keeps the worst of the weather at bay and provides a warm cocoon for the Indian summers and mild, wet Autumns needed to prepare the best produce of the region, and what produce they have!
At its best, Autumn in Piedmont brings misty mornings that lead into sunny, crisp afternoons, Famous for its mist and fog, Piedmont’s greatest grape variety, Nebbiolo, is even named after fog (nebbia in Italian). These weather conditions are perfect for the growth of one of the world’s most highly prized funghi, the Albese white truffle. Every year a fair in the town of Alba celebrates this famous tuba in October and early November.
People flock from all over the world for the Alba white truffle fair, The fair itself celebrates this great fungus with videos, written explanations and photographs, but the main event is the hall where white truffle hunters themselves display and sell their precious gems to the public, giving one a rare chance to talk to the people who know them best. This is perfect for getting tips on the best ways to serve them. Some of the locals’ favourites ways include shaving them over tajarin (thin noodles made from fresh pasta) mixed with butter and Parmesan cheese, shaved over scrambled eggs and shaved onto carpaccio of veal.
Among the other local treats also available at the fair are porcini, local cheeses and hezelnuts.
It’s never long before my attention turns to wine however and it’s impossible to ignore that the white truffle fair is held in Alba, one of the great wine cities of Italy. Alba is situated in the heart of the Langhe, a range of rolling hills that are home to two of Italy’s most famous wines: Barolo and Barbaresco.
Both Barolo and Barbaresco are made entirely from the Nebbiolo grape. These wines are enormously complex with aromas and flavours of roses, tar, mint, coffee, chocolate, meat and undergrowth all vying for attention, and wrapped up in a full-bodied and tannic structure. These are great food wines to partner some of the more robust dishes of the region. For lighter dishes such as pasta or risotto with funghi, a lighter-bodied Nebbiolo d’Alba or Roero made from Nebbiolo grapes grown outside the Barolo and Barbaresco zone is perfect.
Something about these red wines, with their garnet and tawny hues and warm spiciness invoke thoughts of the Piedomtese Autumn and its many treasures, perhaps it’s not such a bad time of year after all!