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The red wines of Piedmont have long been considered some of the best wines of Italy and among the best in the world.

Probably the most sought after wine produced in Italy is Barolo, made from Nebbiolo grapes, in a small area of the Langhe hills south of Alba, around 30 minutes drive from Asti. This is an intense wine with complex and deep flavours, taking many years to mature, and has been described as the "king of wines". Its equally famous neighbour Barbaresco, close to the Asti-Alba road is marginally less intense, and not needing as many years to age. Nebbiolo D'Alba is a lighter, affordable cousin, which can be drunk young, and is produced in the Roero hills just south of Villa Sampaguita.

If Barolo is the "king" then surely Barbera d'Asti is the queen of Piedmont wines. Not as well known outside Italy, Barbera is rapidly gaining international fame and grows best in the Monferatto hills to the north and south of Asti. This wine is flavourful and zesty, and a good one can be wondrously smooth. some of the many other red wines of the region include Grignolino D'Asti, a light pale and fragrant red; Freisa d'Asti, sometimes fizzy, with a hint of raspberries; and Brachetto D'Acqui, a unique sparkling sweet red wine, tastes wonderful, especially with strawberries!

The best-known white wine from the region is Asti Spumante a sweet sparkling wine made from Moscato grapes and exported in millions of bottles by the big bottlers. Not as well known is the delicate and delicious Moscato D'Asti, made from the better grapes grown high in the Langhe hills, low in alcohol with natural fruit sweetness and a light fizz - absolutely delicious as an aperitif or light desert wine, and the late-harvest Moscato Passito, which can hold its own against German or French late harvest desert wines.

Other whites produced locally include Cortese, a light floral and elegant wine, sometimes sparkling, grown all over the Monferrato and at its best from the town of Gavi; Arneis, a refined dry wine with a light perfume, grown in the Roero formally for blending with Nebbiolo and now as a delicious wine in its own right; and Chardonnay, although Piedmont is not a classical zone for this wine, a number of wineries produced an excellent version.

All year local towns and villages have wine tasting festivals where visitor can sample the local wines (and the food specialty). The big granddaddy of them is the weeklong Douja D'Or, held in Asti each September in conjunction with the Sagre and the Palio. Some 300 wines are being tasted and judged, as well as symposiums, concerts and other wine related events.

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(Click to enlarge photos)
Barolo Valley
Barbera Monferatto
Roero Nebbiolo
Moscato Harvest
Asti Douja D'Or