Italy is known for an array of beautiful and delectable attributes, including quaint seaside villages, masterful art and architecture, savory al dente pasta, and of course, the wine.
Honeymooners and wine enthusiasts alike favor Tuscany for its picturesque vistas blended with remarkable wines (think Chianti and Brunello), while prominent cities like Rome and Florence attract history and art fans and fashionistas flock to Milan. But on your next trip to Italy, we suggest leaving the big cities behind and discovering the glistening Italian countryside.
Just a few hours from powerhouse places like Milan and Venice sits a quiet northern Italian landscape filled with family-owned vineyards and restaurants tucked into mountainsides and overlooking verdant valleys.
About two hours southwest of Milan sits the city of Alba. Best known as the home of Nutella, the heavenly chocolate spread, the town is considered the white truffle capital of the world. It's also where you can find a lovely selection of Barbaresco wines, which need to be aged a minimum of two years (at least nine of those months in oak barrels). Once aged more than four years, the wine can be considered riserva. Made from the Nebbiolo grape, these Barbaresco DOCG wines are refined and friendlier than their Barolo neighbors (read lighter tannins) with red fruit flavors, berry notes, and subtle dryness.
A short 20-minute ride from Alba in the Langhe DOC of Piedmont sits Fratelli Grasso. One of the most unassuming vineyards you'll stumble upon on your journey, this winery should be on your list. Owned by two brothers, this place is as authentic as you'll ever find. Aside from their Barbaresco wines, the brothers also produce Barbera (make sure to try the reserve years), Chardonnay, Dolcetto, and Moscato.
Continuing your southwest travels, you'll encounter the Barolo region and this winery, which is in the highest town of Barolo, Vergne. Family-owned, this winery was founded in the 70s using vineyards that had been in the family since the 20s. Here you'll be able to taste a variety of wines, including Barolo (also made from Nebbiolo grapes) Barbera, Dolcetto, and Moscato d'Asti. GD Vajra is one of the few in the area that produces a Riesling, but it's renowned for producing high-quality Barolo. Make sure to try their Barolo or Barbera with any pasta dish.
The Barolo region, within the Langhe DOC, includes the town of Barolo along with several others like Serralunga, Monforte, and La Morra. The soil here, with a high concentration of limestone, produces more aromatic and fruity wines. For a wine to be considered a Barolo, it needs to be aged for a minimum of three years. In that time, it's in a wood barrel for at least 18 months before it can be bottled. Once it has aged for five years, it can be considered a reserve wine.
This family-owned winery farms about 13 acres of vineyards to produce its wines that include Barolo, Barbera, Nebbiolo, and Dolcetto. The winery also produces a rare white variety, Nascetta, that exudes a crisp flavor and pairs nicely with cheese, pasta, or white meats.
A short 20-minute drive from Stroppiana, this family-owned winery has been farming the land for decades. Although family ties go back to the 19th century, patriarch Luigi started growing grapes and selling wine in the 50s. Now his sons head the winery, which produces elegantly rich Barolo wines along with Dolcetto and Barbera. Their wines are aged in either French oak or Slavonian oak barrels; the wood is used to boost the wine's characteristics. Another famous wine that many wineries make, including PIRA, is the Langhe Nebbiolo. It's made from the same Nebbiolo grapes of the area but not aged with the same restrictions as Barolo or Barbaresco. PIRA produces four distinct Barolo wines that originate from different locations within the region, which gives them a variety of depth and richness.
Whether you make it to Italy and pick up some wine from the source, or you find these amazing wines are your local wine shop, make sure you've signed up for Grand Reserve Rewards—you'll earn rewards points on every purchase.