World traveling, wine loving tourists might be forgiven for not associating the famed, vine-covered hills of Piemonte, Italy, with savage, civil war.  The towns of Barolo, Barbaresco, Alba produce some of the most coveted red wine in the world.  Made from the finicky nebbiolo grape, and depending on the soils, the position on the hills (full southern being the best,) the rain, the heat, the luck of the season, wines with their names are fermented and stored for a minimum of 3 years in order to get the prized DOCG label.  The land is overwhelmingly green and lovely.  The mornings are often cool and foggy from the not-so-distant Mediterranean.  In fact the nebbiolo grape is named for the nebbia/fog on which it depends.

The Famed Nebbiolo

The Famed Nebbiolo

Along with these wines comes Barbera, both a wine and a grape,  vines threading their way up and over the hills of the Langhe to the south and east.  In the bottom lands corn and greens are grown, the soil not propitious for the valuable grapes. Occasional small herds of cattle and sheep cluster, though greatly reduced from pre-war years, after wine and grape became the economic engine of the region.

Besides the wonderful views and welcoming people, the tasting rooms, the odor of the fabled white-truffle, the pleasant cobbled streets to wander, there is much to learn for those who will.  From the geology of sea-floors beginning to rise some 22 million year ago, to the viticulture that goes back to the Bronze age, merely 3500 years,  from Churches of the 12th century to those re-built after the destruction of the  WW II.  Keeping track of local festivities celebrating harvests, horses and saints could keep a person busy for weeks.

But war there was, all over these green and terraced lands. Continue reading »

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