Explore the hidden gem of Alto Piemonte
- Written by Diana Zahuranec
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The northern zone of Alto Piemonte has nothing to envy of its southern cousins, the Langhe and the Roero, with its excellent wines and beautiful landscapes, and differences that make it unique. A new project by the local tourism board plans to create a network of trails and enogastronomic points of interest.
Yes, in the Langhe and Roero, the landscapes are breathtaking: miles of rolling, green hills with endless, neat rows of vineyards; red-roofed farmhouses and wineries; winding roads and medieval hilltop towns; and the magnificent view of the Alps in the background of it all. Not to mention, of course, the possibility of a glass of world-class wine.
Alto Piemonte, however, is splendid in its own right, and its variation from the lower, more celebrated territories of the Langhe and Roero is what makes it beautiful and worth visiting. As one travels farther north, the dense forests crossed with streams encroach upon the vineyards, alternating with tamed countryside and wild landscapes. Closer to the mountain range’s foothills, the fog that Piemonte is known for does not veil the majestic Alpine sight quite so often. And the wines here, Northern Nebbiolos that vary from one hill to the next, leave nothing to be desired. In fact, prices are even a little more palatable because their fame has yet to climb to the same heights as that of Barolo and Barbaresco.
It seems as though, in the past several years, this northern Piemontese territory has begun to wake up to its own worth and beauty, both naturalistically and enologically. At Vinitaly 2014 in Verona, the Piemonte pavilion focused on its northern winemaking areas during its four days of scheduled tastings and presentations, including Alto Piemonte, the Torinese wine zone, and the foothills of the Alps. Beyond drinking wine, the territory wishes to value and communicate its cultural and touristic values.
Maria Rosa Fagnoni, President of the Tourism Association of Novara (ATL Novara), alongside President of the Chamber of Commerce of Novara Paolo Rovellotti, unveiled her tourism board’s plans for an ambitious new project that explores some of the best things the territory has to offer: Fra Vigne e Sapori, “Through Vineyards and Flavors.” The project consists of a network of trail routes throughout the province of Novara that hit on enogastronomic and cultural points of interest. Think Nordic walking your way to a gorgonzola producer, then sipping a glass of wine while overlooking the vineyards with Mount Rosa in the background. Imagine having all of that at your fingertips, routes and wineries and agriturismi on your computer or smart phone.
Other than its undervalued, excellent-quality wines like the Nebbiolo-based wines of Gattinara, Ghemme, Lessona, Boca, and more (read A Mini-Guide to the Many Wines of Nebbiolo), the case of gorgonzola is the perfect example of a region that pairs its excellent offerings with nonchalant modesty. 60% of all gorgonzola, that creamy, piquant cheese that America’s “blue cheese” aspires to be, is produced in the province of Novara, which also exports 35% of it. Its presence in the area, however, is taken utterly for granted, judging by the surprised looks on the audience’s faces when Signora Fagnoni announced the fact.
As this zone begins to recognize its value more, perhaps it will catch another eye, that of UNESCO. The Novarese hills encompass a landscape that hopes, one day, to be valued as a Natural World Heritage Cultural Landscape.
Click here to see the current list of trails in the zone.
Tel. +39 0321 394059
Discover more about the Alto Piemonte wine zone: Visit its wineries, read our Focus articles on wine cities, and explore our itineraries!
Gorgonzola cheese photo by Paul Morriss, Creative Commons. License found here.
Cover photo by Ario Gaviore, Creative Commons. License found here.