From the get go wine-tasting and children sounds a bit irresponsible, but wherever I visit I want to try the local cuisine and specialities, and if they just so happen to be chocolate, wine and truffles, well heck, that’s a tough gig. So this is how we (kinda) did wine tasting with Mr Toddler and Mr Baby in tow.
Piedmont, in northern Italy, is renowned for its cuisine. As the birthplace of the slow food movement drinking and dining play a huge part in the culture. The capital Turin has a rich menu to offer but drive into the hills and you’ll discover, not only beautiful countryside, but some of the most globally renowned vineyards in Europe.
Where to Drink Red Wine – BAROLO – The small town of Barolo is the namesake of a world renowned wine of the nebbiolo grape. Its production is so particular and cherished that the wine falls under the Denomination of Controlled and Guaranteed Origin (DOCG) and strict criteria have to be met before a bottle can proudly carry the label Barolo; from the area of the vineyard, to the alcohol level and the ageing process.
It’s possible to organise numerous wine tasting tours, just google it to find one that suits your needs, but we felt this wouldn’t have been fair or fun for our children, so we arrived at Barolo for lunch (having visited Alba in the morning). We found a lovely restaurant called La Cantinetta Ristorante on Via Roma. It wasn’t hugely child friendly but they warmed to us in the end. It was on a terrace, with excellent food and I ordered a glass of Barolo with my lunch and savoured it. After dining we wandered around the picturesque town in the sunshine – there’s a stunning castle, Castello Falletti, to visit if you like your history and architecture, it also houses a wine museum and wine tasting experience. There are also various enotecas (wine tasting shops) to drop into to sample and purchase Barolo – ideal to enjoy over dinner back at your accommodation or once the tots are asleep.
Where to Drink More Red Wine – BARBARESCO – The skyline of this small town is pierced by the Tower of Barbaresco where it’s possible to be served a glass of vino on the rooftop terrace. We arrived first thing in the morning and took in the views from the tower but saved our limited wine tasting for the Azienda Vitivinicola Boffa Carlo on Via Torino 17. We had one glass each, I went for a Barbaresco Paje (red) and Mr Husband had a Roero Arneis (white). This winery appealed partly because it has outdoor seating with great views over the hills. The children played with their toys and had a ‘snack’ of grissini (I swear they ate their body weight in bread sticks on that holiday) whilst we had savoured our adult beverage.
The town has a great wine exhibition and promotion centre in a converted 19th century church. It houses products from 130 different wineries, and tourists sit round a large table sampling and discussing them. The tastings are held indoors: great for rainy days or those who prefer getting out of the heat. Again, it’s possible to purchase a wine to consume at a later date if you’re driving or have small people requiring your attention.
Barbaresco is a picturesque town to stroll around with winding streets, enotecas and little shops, so we spent a full morning there before heading back to our self-catering accommodation for lunch.
If bubbles are more your thing then Asti is renowned for its light, sparkling wine. In my mind the city itself hasn’t capitalised on this for tourists and despite having lots of castles, towers, churches and museums to visit it felt very much like a working city. We did a lot of walking looking for a nice coffee shop/bar/restaurant with outdoor seating and ended up back where we started, at the busy main square, and managed to get a table at a popular cafe there. So yes, I sipped at my Asti in Asti, Mr Husband had coffee and the boys drank apple juice and milk as the sun shone. The city has a lovely park and play park so that lifted the spirits of the wee ones.
In terms of accommodation we based ourselves at a rural Agriturismo site near Bricco de Neive which grew its own grapes and produced its own red, white and sparkling wine. This meant that every night could be wine-tasting night, we could try their products, try other wines we’d bought through the day and eat like kings. Staying on a vineyard certainly has its advantages.
If this somehow isn’t enough to tempt the tastebuds then remember that the Piedmont area is also home to the Ferrero Rocher and Nutella story, as the hazelnuts here are of such plentitude and quality, Cinzano’s tale starts in Turin and let’s not forget the beautiful cheeses, cured meats, oils, pizzas, pastas and gelatos which are ideal for all the family.
THE LOWDOWN – We flew from Edinburgh to Milan with Easyjet and drove to Turin. Having spent a few nights there we headed into the Piedmont hills spending five nights at Agriturismo Brusalino and visiting local towns such as Saluzzo and Manta from there. It sounds obvious but please adhere to the drink/drive regulations in countries you visit, and drink responsibly. Happy travels.
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