What makes a truly luxurious wine tour? In my tasting book, it’s all about bespoke added value and authenticity rather than outright ostentation. If this appeals to you too, then Michael Palij’s intimate (it is limited to just four couples) Truffle Hunting trip to northern Italy, at the end of October, really shouldn’t be missed.
Palij, both a master of wine and one of the world’s leading Italian specialists, has put together a unique nine-day bacchanalian extravaganza (£4,000 per person), based on more than 20 years’ experience of working with some of the country’s finest boutique producers. It all begins in the Veneto, with guests staying at Hotel Tamasotti, which overlooks the vineyards of Corte Sant’Alda. Although the award-winning Sant’Alda is closed to the public, Palij has naturally arranged a guided tour, tasting and wine dinner there with its inspirational founder Marinella Camerani.
Guests clearly won’t go hungry or thirsty, as the itinerary also provides pit-stop sojourns at several Michelin-starred restaurants, including La Peca, La Rucola and Il Desco. Visits to growers such as Giovanna Tantini in Bardolino and the inimitable Stefano Inama in Soave promise to be just as memorable.
Moreover, it’s not all wine and food. Palij has also taken care to leaven the trip with a number of cultural elements led by Mark Powell. Most notably, there are guided tours to the Grotta di Catullo in Sirmione, as well as visits to Verona and Vincenza.
Remarkably, the Piedmont part is just as good (if not better), with guests staying at the Villa Beccaris Hotel in the bucolic Langhe Valley. Again, personalised visits will be made to some of the region’s greatest wineries and winemakers, including the legendary Angelo Gaja in Barbaresco, the unique Walter Massa in Tortona and the incomparable Mauro Mascarello in Barolo. In addition, guests will delight in authentic meals at La Rosa dei Vini, Osteria Bovio and Da Guido.
Truffle hunting comes on day seven and is led by Piedmont’s champion truffle hunter Ezio. Lunch and any earthy spoils will follow at Ezio’s restaurant Tra Arte e Querce in the gorgeous village of Monchiero.
According to Palij, “nothing has been chosen simply because it the most famous or most expensive – although sometimes it is. You will taste with winemakers who never open their wineries to the public, people whom I have known for years, sometimes decades.” Having worked with Palij in the past, I know how generous, expert and enthusiastically engaging he is. It promises to be quite a trip.