Piemonte adventure (1) Neive: La Cantinetta di Barun, and Degusto

I’m in Piemonte for a few days. Monday to Wednesday I’m lecturing at the University of Gastronomic Sciences, Pollenzo, for the the third time. The first time was remote, because of Covid, then in 2021 I was here in person but with Covid restrictions, and this time I’ve taken a few days to look around beforehand.

This is such a beautiful part of the world. It’s an amazing viticultural landscape, and at this time of year it’s truly beautiful. The best thing: when you visit, the wines are accessible. Many restaurants have really good wine lists, with good allocations, and by UK standards it’s absurdly cheap to drink the wines in a restaurant serving authentic local food. Even fancy stuff is on the lists, at prices normal people like me can afford. To be able to drive around amazing vineyard sites, and then taste the top wines in really good restaurants, is utterly life affirming. Few wine regions offer this opportunity, although a local winegrower I spoke to has said that tourism has started to impact the region in negative ways, in that locals have to avoid certain spots at certain times. [So you really shouldn’t come here, OK? Nothing to see.]

Vineyards of Barbaresco viewed from Neive

Day one was spent in Neive, in the heart of Barbaresco. It’s a lovely village, and we arrived without reservations, on a Friday night.


The most famous Neive restaurant, L’Aramotario, was fully booked. So we wandered and found an amazing wine bar:

This is my sort of place. A brilliant selection of local and also international wines. We were sticking local, and we tried a few things by the glass, with a wide range of options on Coravin. Pricing is very fair, and the staff know their wines.

Rèis Derthona Timorasso 2021 Colli Tortonesi, Piemonte, Italy
The variety here is Timorasso. Full yellow colour – spicy nutty and mineral with fine toast and spice. Has juicy lime and pear fruit with mandarin brightness. Lovely weight. 93/100

Cascina San Michele Eteronimo Bianco 2020 Piemonte, Italy
Beautiful stuff: rich, golden, powerful and yet still fresh. It’s Cortese with some skin contact and lovely flavours of pear and peach. Wonderful concentration and poise. There’s some richness but also a spicy mineral twist. 94/100

Margherita Otto Barolo 2019 Piemonte, Italy
Concentrated, fine and mineral with firm structure but also sweet cherries and berries and hints of tar and minerals. So fine with many dimensions and a combination of structure and finesse. So fine – youthful but profound. 96/100

Then for dinner, we headed to Degusto, eating on a terrace with amazing views of the Barbaresco vineyards, on a beautifully warm late May evening. The food here was spot on: we went for three primis, and they split each. Tajarin of 40 egg yolks and sausage ragout of Bra, then plin, salted butter and sage (cow, rabbit and pig in the stuffing), and Val Varaita’s ravioles, courgette cream and courgette flowers.

To drink, a really good Barbaresco.

Ceretto Barbaresco 2018 Piemonte, Italy
Savoury elements in the mix here with spice, undergrowth and pepper as well as sweet red cherries and plums. Fine and detailed with spicy detail and some tannins. Bold and ripe but also has elegance. After being open a while this freshens and displays a wonderful pure fruity elegance. 94/100

The view from Degusto as night falls, looking towards the alps

More to come…