Piedmont is renowned for its Dolcetto, Brachetto, Barbera, Barolo and Moscato wines. (Click on the red link for more info.)
There are many vineyards, cantinas, enotecas and wine cooperatives who sell direct. Within walking distance of Casa degli Orsi, there’s La Guardia and the Villa Delfini. (On the road up to Morsasco.) Here you can taste the wines from their vineyards, if you wish accompanied by snacks, of if you are a larger group even arrange lunch. The beautifully renovated villa lays on wonderful weddings and parties, and will also tailor-make cookery classes for you. They are very flexible, but phone first. 014473076 www.laguardiavilladelfini.it
The nearest wine cantina “Cantina Tre Castelli” ( www.trecastelli.it ) is in Montaldo Bormida, in a rather hideous building, but offering a wide selection, including Dolcetto, Barbera and Gavi, all around four euros.
In Ricaldone, just a few minutes drive (turn left at Cassine on the road from Acqui to Alessandria) there’s an excellent cooperative, well worth a visit. Drive on to Alice Bel Colle for superb views. Check the wine cooperative out on www.tresecoli.it
Three wines we like from the Ricaldone cooperative are: Gavi - Le Ginestre (white), Barbera d’Asti - La Milinera, and Dolcetta d’Acqui, all incredible value for everyday drinking. There is also Brachetto which is a sweet fizzy red to accompany desserts, as well as a delightful sparkling pink ‘brut rose’. On our last visit we tasted a more expensive red, at just under 9 Euros, called "Albarossa" - delicious.
Just above Ricaldone, on the way up to Alice Bel Colle, there’s a road that leads off to the left to Acqui Terme. On this road, after 2 or 3 km, you’ll see ‘Paulo Pizzorni vini’ on the left, down a steep tight corner. Here, for Euros 7 per bottle, you can buy an excellent Barbera: San Sebastiano Barbera d’Asti Superiore, 2008 – T: 0144322378 www.vinipizzorni.it
Further afield is Vinchio-Vaglio Serra in Vinchio, a few kilometres scenic drive beyond Nizza Monferrato. We like their Barbera d’Asti “I Tre Vescovi” which sells for 5 - 6 Euros a bottle. www.vinchio.com
Photos: Top: The Regional Enoteca in Acqui Terme in Palazzo Robellini in Piazza Levi (Closed Monday and Wednesday).
Second: Wines to choose at Ristorante Vetta in Cremolino
Third: Recently pruned vines near Ricaldone in February 2013
Bottom: The ancient wine press in Villa Delfini near Orsara Bormida