Get to know Barolo & Barbaresco like a pro
- Enjoy private, sit-down tastings at at Elio Altare, Aldo Contero, Domenico Clerico,
- Marchesi di Gresy, La Spinetta and more
- Explore both sides of the Tanaro river: the Roero and the Langhe hills
- Feast on artisan cheese and salumi during a buffet lunch at a cheese farm in the Alte Langhe
- Dine in the Marchesi di Barolo's private dining room
DAY 1 – WELCOME TO PIEDMONT
Welcome to our springtime Piedmont wine tour! After a pickup in Tortona, we’ll start our exploration on the left bank of the Tanaro River in the area called Roero (an hour’s drive). Younger than the Langhe both geologically and as a wine region, it also excels in nebbiolo-based wines. We’ll visit the estate of Matteo Correggia, the pioneer who put Roero on the map. Here you’ll taste benchmark Roeros, plus some intriguingly unique wines, like Brachetto.
After lunch, the focus shifts to the other side of the river, called the Langhe, where Barolo and Barbaresco reign. Barolo is dubbed “the king of wines and wine of kings,” and today we see why. We'll begin with one of the most important figures in the 1970s' rebirth of Barolo: Elio Altare. His game-changing innovations, such as green harvest and French barrique, led Altares's father to disown him. But his methods have since taken hold, and Altare has been an influential mentor to the next generation.
Then we leap back a century at the Castle of Grinzane Cavour. Now a museum, this was the home of Italy’s first Prime Minister, Camillo Benso, Count of Cavour. Like an Italian Thomas Jefferson, this politician was equally adept at wine and became a seminal figure in the creation of Barolo in the 1800s. At the museum, a film will provide an excellent historic overview. A welcome dinner follows in the medieval city of Alba, which introduces the elegant cuisine of Piedmont. Here menus are loaded with plin (tiny meat-filled ravioli), countless renditions of risotto, beef braised in Barolo, and delectable hazelnut-and-chocolate desserts.
L, D • Hotel I Castelli
DAY 2 – BAROLO CRU
Brunate, Cannubi, Liste…. These are historic vineyard names that resonate with Barolo connoisseurs. Today we’ll taste cru Barolos from these and other star vineyards. We start at Domenico Clerico, another leader in the 1970s renaissance of Barolo and considered a modernist winemaker. Here you'll experience the more tannic side of Barolo coming from the Monforte area. But these wines are as polished and forward-looking at the sleek architecture in his new eco-friendly cellar.
After lunch, we have to opportunity to taste several Barolo cru side-by-side at Damilano. This winery controls over half of the historic Cannubi vineyard and has parcels in other prized sites, such as Liste. Yet while aiming for quality, Paolo Damilano and enologist Beppe Caviola have also prioritized value. As a result, theirs are among the best price-value Barolos around.
Next, we head to the small family-run estate of G.D. Vajra. Founded in 1972, Vajra hews to tradition in its Barolo, but also isn’t afraid to experiment with unorthodox varietals, such as Riesling and indigenous Nascetta and Freisa. We finish up the day with dinner at a Slow Food restaurant in Alba.
B, D • Hotel I Castelli
DAY 3 – MOUNTAIN CHEESE
Founded in 1870, Aldo Conterno was the first to export Barolo to the U.S. Today, the fifth generation runs the show, adhering to a traditionalist approach to Barolo while prizing fruit and freshness. Our eloquent host Giacomo Conterno will entertain and enlighten as he walks us through the family’s Monforte estate and pours both classics (Barolo) and novelties (Super Piedmont blends).
Then we head south into the Alte Langhe, the higher elevation zone of the Langhe, where hazelnut groves and pastures replace vineyards. Our destination is a cheese farm in Murazzano, a DOP area known for rounds of fresh cows’, sheep’s, and goat’s milk cheese. We’ll tour the family-run farm, then enjoy a buffet lunch.
Afternoon takes us to another Barolo tasting: Elvio Cogno. Located near la Morra, this estate was run by a lawyer from Turin before being bought by the Cogno family and completely renovated. Here they resurrected the nearly extinct nascetta grape, which you'll taste, as well as their stellar Barolos. We then return to Alba for dinner on your own.
B, L • Hotel I Castelli
DAY 4 – BARBARESCO
Today we head to the village of Barbaresco, on the alluvial banks of the Tanaro River. Here nebbiolo makes a more silky, elegant, perfumed wine, representing the “queen” to Barolo’s “king.” We’ll start with Marchesi di Gresy. Barbaresco’s oldest and largest winery in private hands, this modernist winery owns Martinenga, the only cru belonging to just one owner. Here Barbaresco sees some time in barrique.
That stands in contrast to our second winery, the Produttori del Barbaresco, one of Italy’s most highly respected cooperatives, which makes benchmark Barbaresco in a traditionalist style. We’ll hear how its 55 growers decide when to pick, how to pay, and what to bottle as a cru.
Our third visit is Albino Rocca. Now run by the founder’s granddaughters, it represents a typical Barbaresco winery: small production (around 50K bottles) and family-run, with the winery and household sharing one property. Dinner is at an osteria is one of the tiny Barolo villages.
B, D • Hotel I Castelli
DAY 5 – BARBERA’S STANDARD-BEARERS
Today we focus on Barbera, Piedmont’s most widely grown grape. Until the 1980s, it was little more than a rustic table wine. But thanks to key innovators, it’s been transformed from a farmhouse quaffer to a wine of great character and finesse—another prized plum of Piedmont.
We head north to the hills of Asti, where the Icardi winery has a commanding view of the countryside. At this family-run estate, now in its fourth generation, we'll taste their delectable Nuj Suj Barbera d'Asti cru, along with an array of other piemontese classics. All offer grace and affordability — a winning combination.
Then we head to Castagnolo Lanze, headquarters of La Spinetta. The Rivetti brothers have made succulent Barberas since 1985, but have also pioneered single-vineyard Moscato and added Barolo and Barbaresco to their portfolio, which achieved instant cult status. (In 2001, they also expanded to the Tuscan coast, founding Casanova della Spinetta.)
We return to Alba for some time on your own. You can search for older Barolo vintages in well-stocked wine shops, pick up white truffles and yummy chocolate-hazelnut candies in the gourmet shops, or visit the baroque and medieval churches. Dinner is at the historical birthplace of Barolo, the Marchesi di Barolo winery. It was here that the Marchesa Giulietta Colbert Tancredi produced the very first Barolo. And it’s here, in the winery’s private dining room, that we’ll have our farewell dinner.B, D • Hotel I Castelli
DAY 6 – BUON VIAGGIO!
A shuttle to the Asti or Tortona train station and assistance with your travel plans. B
Want another Piedmont tour option? Check out Land of Barolo (October 1–6), which combines the regions of Barolo and Gavi. If you'd like some exercise along with your wine, see our Piedmont & Cinque Terre Trails wine & walking tour (September 10–16). Finally, Slow Food Festa is custom foodie/wine tour in Parma, Modena, and Piedmont, while Trufflemania is a condensed 3-day tour during the height of truffle season.
Milan’s Malpensa or Linate. Both have convenient airport shuttle buses to Milan’s central train station, the Stazione Centrale (50 minutes from Malpensa, 30 minutes from Linate).
Plan to land in Italy a day before the tour begins; that's necessary to be at our starting point on time. Most people spend the preceding night in Milan. For hotel suggestions, email us or consult a good hotel search engine, such as TripAdvisor or Hotels.com. We recommend staying either near the main train station, called the Stazione Centrale (more convenient for catching the train on Day 1), or in the historic center near the Duomo (more convenient for pre-tour sightseeing). From one area to the other, it's about a 45-minute walk, a few stops on the subway, or a 15-minute taxi ride.
Our meeting point is the train station in Tortona, a small town on the rail line from Milan to Genoa. Assuming you spend the previous night in Milan, you'll go to Milan's Stazione Centrale and take the 9 a.m. commuter train to Tortona. (We'll provide precise train details in your information packet.) It takes less than an hour, and we'll meet you at the Tortona station. Please let us know if you're coming from elsewhere or spending the previous night in Tortona. From Tortona, we shuttle to Alba (about 1 hour), where the tour gets underway.
On our final day, we’ll shuttle you to the train station of Asti or Tortona by noon, depending on your travel plans.
Italian train schedule
Here's the English-language version of TrenItalia. Be aware that the schedule is posted only several months in advance, so if you're looking for long-range dates, try something sooner, just to get an idea of departure frequency and trip length.
Three popular destinations that are within easy reach of Piedmont are Turin (Torino), the Lake country, and the Italian Riviera, including the Cinque Terre. Turin was a royal capital of the Kingdom of Piedmont and it still has a regal elegance, as well as excellent museums, cafes, and the Shroud of Turin. Because Malpensa airport is about halfway between the city of Milan and Lake Como, a pre-tour stay in Como and/or along Lake Maggiore is quite do-able. Post-tour, one could continue south to Genoa (about 60 minutes by express train). A working port city, Genoa is the birthplace of Christopher Colombus and offers a world-class aquarium, waterfront promenade (designed by architect Renzo Piano, a local son), wonderful art museums houses in 18th palaces, and a fascinating medieval section. Continue further down the coast, and you’ll reach Portofino and the Cinque Terre. Both offer hiking trails and boat excursions, while the Cinque Terre also has scuba diving and public beaches.
This is recommended to protect you from needless loss caused by last-minute cancellations, lost luggage, and more. Three sources are Travelex Insurance, (800) 228-9792; CSA Travel Protection, (800) 348-9505; and Travel Guard, (800) 826-1300.
When packing, check www.weather.com. Go to "Alba, Italy" to get a general idea of temperatures and forecast.
For cancellation policy & more, see our General Information page.
Single supplement: $350
Tortona train station (1 hr from Milan)
Tortona or Asti train station
- 5 nights accommodations (double room) in a 4-star hotel, with breakfast buffet
- 4 gourmet dinners (three courses with wine)
- 1 buffet lunch at an artisan cheese farm
- All wine tastings mentioned
- Admission to the Castle of Grinzane Cavour
- Shuttle at beginning/end of tour, as described
What's not included
- Air travel
- 1 dinner on your own & most lunches
- After-dinner drinks, or special wines at tastings that are not part of what is provided to the group
- Items of a personal nature
- Anything not specified as included