Piedmont:
Alps, Valleys & Wines

History and Tradition

Piedmont, in Italian, means at the foot of the mountain. It was originally inhabited by Celtic tribes, which were later absorbed by the Romans. When Hannibal destroyed the Celtic capital, Taurasia, the Romans rebuilt it in the same location giving its streets the grid pattern that that still characterize Turin today

With the fall of the Roman Empire, Piedmont underwent the fate of much of Italy – by a sequence of invading hordes from the east and north. Among them, the French feudal family of Savoy occupied Turin briefly in the 11th century. The Savoy house was back again in the 13th century and ruled for about 500 years, until the French Republican army defeated it. They returned to power after the fall of Napoleon's empire and remained the ruling family until the end WWII and the birth of the Italian Republic.

Piedmont was one of the first Italian regions to embrace the industrial revolution and in 1899 the automotive giant Fiat (Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino or, Automotive Italian Factory [of] Turin) was established here, generating a modernizing trend that involved even the most isolated communities and attracted workers from other Italian regions.

The region's traditional festivals and celebrations have strong military elements reflected in the numerous sword dances performed in many communities. Other festivals have the tradition of the badie, or abbeys, which, despite the name, were historic lay male organizations that used to be armed and were charged with citizenry peace-keeping and the organization of public events.

The Wines

With 46 different DOC and four DOCG areas, Piedmont is the region that produces the largest number of best known, noble, and world-appreciated prize-winning wines, such as Barbera, Barolo, Barbaresco, Dolcetto, Nebbiolo, Grignolino, Malvasia and Asti Spumante among others.

Another distinguished characteristic of Piedmont is that most of its wines are produced on family estates made up of relatively small parcels of land.

The main grape grown here is the distinguished Nebbiolo, which is the base for the famed Barolo, Barbaresco and Gattinara among others. Its name derives from the word nebbia, or fog, because of a velvety, whitish coating over its berries in addition to the fact that it grows in an area where, at ripening time in September, heavy morning fog is a given and the humidity that it provides gives the grapes an ideal habitat.

The production of strong reds is predominant in this landlocked, mountainous region and are the perfect complement to the rich and hearty cuisine featuring white truffles, fonduta, which is a variation of the Swiss cheese fondue, rice, meats, pastas and stuffed vegetables.

That said though, among the whites the Asti Spumante achieved national fame thanks to Carlo Gancia, who learned the Champagne method in Rheims, France, and applied his newly acquired knowledge experimenting with Moscato grapes. This wine is perfect with the rich pastries and fine chocolate products such as the spumone piemontese, a mouse of mascarpone cheese with rum or panna cotta, a smooth rich cream, and the gianduiotti, the lingue di gatto, (cats tongue), and the baci di dama (ladys kisses).

Another Piedmont creation that achieved worldwide fame is the Vermouth, which was first created by Benedetto Carpano in his wine shop near the Turin Stock Exchange. The classic American martini cocktail takes its name from the most known Italian producer of dry vermouth, Martini & Rossi.


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