It is said that the Sun is the best State to admire a territory. In my three-day trip in the hills of Monferrato Asti and Alessandria have not been very fortunate from the climatic point of view: I was expecting Sun, light and warmth, and instead I got mostly fog, rain and wind. But I made a virtue of necessity and I learned to appreciate the shadows and clouds, Eventually, gave a poignant and romantic air to these unique landscapes, they have become in 2014 Unesco. In these lands, keepers of high quality products, as Brachetto d'acqui Docg or robiola di Roccaverano Dop, the month of March is a period of low tourist season. For me, that i don't like crowded places, I prefer quiet days, a perfect opportunity to build a route between good food, great wine, culture and stunning scenery. The itinerary that I propose part from Acqui Terme and tap Canelli, Roccaverano, the underground cathedrals of the sparkling wine, the wineries that produce Brachetto Acqui Docg and not only so many restaurants to enjoy the excellent cuisine of Piedmont.
ACQUI TERME – My itinerary starts from the heart of the Val Bormida, from Acqui Terme. Ancient city, of Roman origins, with the remains of an aqueduct at the bridge over the river Bormida Carlo Alberto and known for centuries for the inexhaustible thermal resources, Acqui Terme is a medieval village, that in its historical centre preserves a cathedral (dedicated to Santa Maria Assunta) and the Paleologi Castle (known since 1000 a.d.), Today it houses the archaeological museum. Start your day with a stroll through the narrow cobbled streets and cobblestones and admire along the way some of the most beautiful buildings of the city, including Casa Lingeri (Eighteenth century), House (Fifteenth century), Carter House (Fifteenth century) and the former Church and convent of Santa Caterina (Sixteenth century). Obviously, in Acqui si is to soak in the hot springs, both those of Grand Hotel liberty in Central Italy, and in those of the bathing area. Healthy waters (Salt-bromine-iodic) that flow primarily from Boiling fountain, at a temperature of 75 degrees (don't touch her in a boyish enthusiasm or, as I did, there a nasty sunburn). A magical place, I advise you to visit the night, silent.
THE CULINARY TRADITION OF ACQUI: Acqui and the Val Bormida are places of great culinary traditions. The proximity to the border and the influences of this kitchen are noticed in the bakery preparations, they see the chickpea flour; or in the custom of cooking rabbit with olives, but also in the habit of routinely prepare the cod, Despite the Sea being away at least 100 km. Traditional Piedmont more exquisitely Acqui boasts the butchery, dairy products, as the goat formaggette, the use of nuts (such as those used to prepare the traditional hazelnut cake), Obviously the truffles (that here, as at sunrise, in the Langhe, can be found in abundance). In the wine industry, Acqui is world famous for its Brachetto, a wine produced from the autochthonous red grape. The most famous is the Brachetto Acqui Docg, common thread of my trip, protected by the Consortium: a Ruby red wine, with aromas of rose, version sweet and bubbly, that the harvest of 2018 will be produced in the dry version is stopped is bubbly.
WHAT TO BUY – Among the many delights of Acqui Terme, I recommend you bring home at least a pound of ravioli del plin, You can buy in one of the many pasta makers (as El Canton of fresh post, in Piazza San Guido), some robiola di Roccaverano in different ages; amaretti di Acqui, you will find in all the bakeries in the city, the Cardoon of Nizza Monferrato, the PGI Piedmont hazelnuts and hazelnut cake. Lovers of cheeses and meats will have fun with tome of Piedmont, cheeses in Hay or Marc and the excellent local cold cuts. From on-site hot gustara, Instead, the chickpea flour, known here for an ancient past that Genoa had on these territories. Obviously, don't forget to take home a few bottles of good wine, starting from Brachetto d'acqui Docg, but also Dolcetto d'acqui, passing through the Moscato di Asti, La Barbera, the friendly, Freisa.
CELLAR VIOTTI – Guido Viotti is unstoppable. Former teacher and winemaker at seventh generation, with a passion for cooking, loves to talk of his wines around a table spread with food, or walking through the rows of vineyards to 300 meters high in the town of Castel Rocchero. At his side in the Viotti Wines There's White daughter, young and prepared. Descendant of Giovanni Battista Viotti, Vercelli musician of the 19th century to which it attaches the anthem La Marseillaise, Guido has a great eye for the ancient plants, who loves to retrieve one by one in the garden around the House: rose apples, Apple pomace, horse chestnut, Cherry cherry image. Everything becomes raw material for its preparations. With apples, the plums, dried fruit and wine, Guido does mustard, that is very jealous. Lover of Piedmontese traditions, at times nostalgic of bygone days, often tells of local traditions that are losing over the generations. But in her drawer there is always the idea of creating a Museum of old techniques of cultivation of vines.
The Viotti wines is a small company, of 16 hectares (35 thousand bottles) where in addition to Brachetto d'acqui produced Muscat, Barbera and Albarossa, but also Pinots, Cortese and Dolcetto. The vineyards benefit from these heights of wind that comes from the nearby Liguria. You don't do the biological, but 20 years don't use herbicides and 12 years no artificial fertilizer, only the manure. Since 1978, the Viotti Wines grow Brachetto. The first bottles date back to 1982. “Autignan” is one of the labels that takes more: a brachetto latch (dry) that, After changing the specification of March 2017, will go out of scope of table wines and by 2018 boast the Docg. The labels of the bottles, very nice, were conducted by friend and designer friulano, Walter Pozzebon. Guido greets us not before showing us one of his highlights: a Duja (container for wine) by family, in pure chestnut, of over two hundred years, completely restored.
WHERE TO EAT – In Acqui Terme is almost compulsory to try the restaurant's kitchen The Caffi: is a Michelin-starred restaurant, find a kitchen very faithful to the local gastronomic tradition. However, if you do not want to face a busy dinner, You can stop to eat in the brasserie or just grab a tasty drink at the cocktail bar. Holders, In fact, they know at the same time seize the fads and remain firmly anchored to the fundamentals of the Piedmont cooking. If you want, Click here to read the full review of local.
CANELLI – Canelli, for wine, is the silicon valley of the Piedmont. This town has been the history of the industry and it still represents a significant portion, given the presence of historic wineries and dozens of companies working on technologies applied to wine. The city lies between the Langhe and Monferrato and is divided between the lower city, the ' Burgh’ and city high, ' Villanuova ': in the village, more modern, There are major wineries and the famous underground cathedrals Unesco. Climbing up a hill is the oldest part of Canelli, dominated by the Castello Gancia. I suggest you walk the Sternia, ancient medieval road, built with river stones (careful not to slip), that from the village leads to the Hill: joints in square, You can admire the Piazza San Leonardo with its Baroque church and, especially, the view of the town below, with its many red tile roofs. Asti preserved Baroque in Canelli other fine examples, including the Church of San Rocco.
The town of Canelli already in the 15th century was known as wine production area. Over the centuries became a customs area, the border between the Kingdom of Savoy and the powerful Duchy of Mantua. And in the rock that makes up much of the underground tunnels and caves were excavated used as warehouses for goods passing from the Savoy to the Duchy. These structures survived to historical events, becoming wine stores and thus arriving intact up to the present day. Today there are 20 km of tunnels in Canelli. Three of them belong to Cellar Gancia.
GANCIA – Just in Canelli Camillo Gancia, After a trip to France and after the first trials in his Chivasso (Turin), decided to transfer the production and, in 1865, It was the first that saw the light in Canelli spumante metodo classico Italian. It was done with the varietal key to these areas the Muscat, and Gancia called Muscat Champagne. Camillo Gancia was the pioneer of Italian sparkling wine and the winery went through the history of Italy: millions of people partied toasting with champagne Gancia, symbol of Italian style, until, in 2012, the cellar is passed into the hands of Russian entrepreneur Roustam Tariko. Today Gancia is a giant of the production of moscato and not only, with cooperative members and more than 20 220 million bottles per year. And just from these amazing galleries, where produce sparkling wines, Thanks to the idea of Enzo Gancia was born the idea of presenting the candidature of this territory to Unesco as a world heritage site. In the early 2000s, the dossier on underground cathedrals – born from the idea of Enzo Gancia – Finally took shape, extending to the whole territory and encompassing the vineyard landscape: in 2014 it's valuable recognition.
THE CANELLI AREA – The Piedmont is not only wine. Family history Sconfienza has more than a century. Were Francis, the great-grandfather of the current owners, and his wife Rosa Bertello, to lay the foundations for what has become today The Canelli Area, Calamadrana-based company that represents an important reference point for the production of Italian vermouth. In 1890, Francis Sconfienza founds the Canelli area as cooperage, but his wife Rosa, passionate about herbs and aromatics, begins a few years after experimenting with wine-based infusions and medicinal and aromatic herbs. Homemade recipes, which in 1920 started a first small production. It was in 1947 that his three children revealed himself to Alfredo Pink Bailie, Edward and Mario the secret recipe of your vermouth. And from that moment the Canelli area starts to stand out in the market. Today in these labs, managed by Alfredo, Brunette and Lucia Sconfienza, We produce some of the best Piedmont Vermouth. And from here and around the world, especially for the United States. Lucia Sconfienza is in love with her work: has that enthusiasm, passion and dedication that you can't pretend, who are true and engaging. The eyes shine when he talks of almost nine hundred formulas of aromatic spirits stored in company. Underlying everything is the certainty of being on the right track, to continue with the work started by the family: It starts with a careful selection of medicinal plants and the use of wine, often obtained from grapes of Piedmont to tie the product to the territory. All stages of production are looking for maximum product naturalness, from the extraction of the essences of medicinal plants: Absinthe, Sage, Green Walnut, Myrtle, rhubarb and gentian, main ingredient for a quality vermouth. The essences are extracted at room temperature, or cold, using alcohol to 35 degrees which is dripped on torn aromatics and, subsequently, rest for two weeks. Operation that is repeated several times to find the right balance of taste. Then, is the experience to find the right formula to apply. The Canelli area produces about one million bottles, of which 30% and the remaining brand for third parties, and traveling around the world.
WHERE TO EAT– Between a cellar, a visit to the historic town of Canelli and some depiction in heritage hills, you could spend a lunch or dinner in the restaurant By Violetta. Here awaits you a Cook of ninety years, Violetta, demonstrating far less by its age is in the kitchen and in the spirit. From his hands out the traditional dishes of Piedmont that became a symbol of Italian cuisine: Bonet, Vitello tonnato, Tajarin 40 out, raviolini del plin and financier, that Violetta prepares jealously alone. In the Hall there is his son Charles, He has the rare gift of knowing receive the customer as if it were one of the family, with elegance, guiding the choice never impose it, valuing the dishes coming from the kitchen and knowing perfectly capture the tastes of the guest.
Among the starters, There is also a veal with tuna sauce, raw meat fassona bred with a knife, the artichoke with poached egg and parsley sauce (everyone at 9 euros), But even the Cardoon of Nizza Monferrato, with the classic cheese fondue (10 euro). Among the first, I tasted the agnolotti Malhotra (12 euros), that Violetta prepares by hand, as well as tajarin with ragu (10 euro) and the gnocchi with sausage gravy (10 euro). Among the second, the very rare and unobtainable finanziera (17 euro) made with the innards and poor parts of beef, poultry or pork; then the Guinea Hen stuffed with vegetables (14 euros) and the braised veal in Barbera wine (14 euros). Of course I could not resist the call of Piedmontese cheese cart and I gave up for a taste of Arabia, robiola cheeses and blue cheeses (12 euros). But the sweet I tasted my companion's plate anyway and I assure you that the bonet of violet (7 euros) is the best I've ever tried.
ROBIOLA DI ROCCAVERANO DOP – The hills of Monferrato Asti and Alessandria have one of PDO Italian agrifood: the Robiola di Roccaverano, the first goat cheese to obtain Dop. Matthew Marconi took me on his farm in Damas, where I could have a close look at this extraordinary product. I made a video on production phases starting from the most important thing: the goats. If you want to see it and learn more, you can click here to read my article on the robiola di Roccaverano Dop.
TO SEE – On the roads of Robiola, you will meet two very pretty medieval villages. Rocchetta Palafea on top of the hills, and to Damas, in the Valley, with a castle built on the ruins of a monastery dating back to the year 1000 and a long stone bridge, really impressive at sunset. Both are worth a short stop for some photo shoot.
BASEMENT THREE CENTURIES – Helium Pandey, modern Director, sympathetic and forward-looking, greeted me in his basement in Mombaruzzo. The Three Centuries is a cooperative that brings together 400 Vintners who grow 1,200 acres, Brachetto grapes of which 145. Very important point of reference for the territory, La cantina, born in 1887, produces Barbera, Muscat, Brachetto and other varieties of territory as the friendly, Grignolino, the Albarossa, The Gavi, a total of 30 labels. Here the wine Brachetto is an institution, as well as the Moscato. Along with Helium, He is also vice President of the consortium of Brachetto d'acqui Docg, I was lucky enough to open a bottle of Moscato D'Asti dated 1973: you read that right, 1973. Covered with dust, with a CAP that could fail to properly store your wine, This bottle not betrayed us. Well, even in more than forty years away, This white wine has given us great surprises: with its crisp yet scents of apricot, honey, Pera, a lively yet acidic thrust. Concrete evidence of how the wine knows evolve and give emotions.
WHERE TO EAT – Before you visit the Bersano Wine, don't forget to stop in the historic centre of Nizza Monferrato to laze on the premises of the regional wine cellar, at the restaurant Lady in red“, a name referring to the Barbera d'Asti that here in Nice is declined for women. There are territorial specialties served in a rustic-chic, with vaulted ceilings and red brick on the walls all wines of the local wineries. Not to be missed, among the starters, the vegetable flan with fondue of Raschera cheese (7 euros); veal with tuna sauce (8 euro), raw meat to the monferrina (9 euro). Among the first, ever the ravioli del plin monferrina and the noodles with meat sauce with sausage: both dishes at 8 euro. The second point on meats: Roast rabbit with potatoes (10 euro), the fassona cut (15 euros). Among the desserts, I suggest you try the typical pecan pie, without flour, served with a warm eggnog Moscato D'Asti, matched by a glass of Brachetto d'acqui Docg.
BAILEY WINES – For wine Brachetto, the Bailey Wines is synonymous with nautical history, because this wine, as we know it today, you have an intuition of its founder Arturo Bersano. The company was founded in 1935 but was in the 1950s that Arturo created for the first time a sweet sparkling version, and low-alcohol, from this aromatic vine. Nizza Monferrato based company today is one of the most important representatives of these types. Owned by households Magdoza and Soave, the Bersano wine has eleven farms around the country, that help diversify production: from Barolo Serralunga d'Alba Moscato D'Asti Docg and the Nice.
Beyond wine production, edited by Philip Mobrici and responsible agronomic oenologist Roberto Mallon, Bersano is also a synonym of local culture and food. Arturo Bersano, eclectic, read, passionate collector, He bequeathed to the winery a wealth of objects that today give rise to two museums. The first devoted to agricultural implements and all those objects that revolve around wine and agriculture: tini, mortars, carts, massive wood presses, bottles and kegs (Wooden containers used to transport the wine). The other Museum is dedicated to the press of the time, including some official documents, photographs and letters that allow the visitor to retrace backwards the golden years of Italian wine and food, but also to learn more about the extraordinary cultural eclecticism and the human value of Arturo Bersano. La cantina di Nizza Monferrato, on the banks of the river Belbo, It is also the seat of the confraternity of Bagna Cauda (traditional Piedmontese dish known oil-based, garlic, salted anchovies and butter), founded in 1964 by Arturo Bersano.
WHERE TO EAT – The last restaurant that I recommend in Acqui Terme is run by a young chef, who has had three generations of cooks acquesi. The New Pai It is a historical place, in an antique building of 1700 and offers one of the best traditional Piedmontese and kitchens, in particular, acquesi. By clicking here You can read the full review of this restaurant that has its point of strength in the perfect combination of tradition and elegance.