Rearing above the rolling hills outside the town of Alba in Piemonte, Italy, a rugged conical mountain dominates the surrounding region. It is called La Morra (The Moor), and marks the southern extent of an ancient Turkish invasion. The incursion was stopped near the bottom of the mountain at a street call Turkci (The Turk). Today, the battleground is occupied by acres of vineyards. Barbera, nebbiolo, dolcetto and other grapes of Piemonte sweep over the hills. Today, the battle here is to produce world-ranking wines. Piemonte is one of the more glorious of Italian winelands, rivalling the beauty of Tuscany and also matching that region for wonderful reds. Among the most renowned of the new generation of winemakers in the region is Gianni Gagliardo. He was in Hong Kong recently on a sales trip; he believes the only way to show his wine to restaurant owners and discerning consumers is to taste it with a meal. The monarch of Piemonte is the nebbiolo grape. It is used in the two grand regional wines, barolo and barbaresco. These classical wines have developed over centuries. Aged in chestnut or oak, they are generally nicely rounded, dry, soft reds. Mr Gagliardo's handling of the nebbiolo is slightly different. He uses it to make a wine he calls Batie, the 1995 vintage of which now sells for $270 through Qualitas Ltd (Fax: 2104-0923). This gentle, distinguished wine is an elegant and comparatively inexpensive version of the famous regional variety. Another innovative step taken by Mr Gagliardo and his two sons is to resurrect the long-neglected white grape, the favorita. Scorned by wine makers for a century, this grape remained popular with farmers. In a region where about 90 per cent of the wine is red, Mr Gagliardo wanted to make a distinctive white. Instead of bringing in clippings from France and planting chardonnay grapes, as so many Italian wineries have done, he started to revive the favorita. He now makes three different styles of whites from this grape. His house white, Favorita Casa 1996 is sold here for $145. It has a mild flavour, a very light colour and is a good aperitif. Some Gagliardo labels are expensive; the top-line barolos of the early years of this decade sell for up to $3,000 in Italy - and they have been sold out for several years. Even in Hong Kong, many of the more expensive vintages in his stable are sold out. Experts commonly award his wines high points in tasting panels. More important are his staple wines, particularly the 1995 Batie ($270) and 1992 Barolo ($280). These are a bit over my usual budget, but have such flavour and delight that I suggest you get two or three bottles of each for a special event. The Batie is light, with bright flashes of cherry and raspberry in the flavour. You can joyfully drink this now, but it has plenty of acid and tannins that will see it last through the next few years.