A Weekend in Piedmont. The wines from Roero
Roero has a relatively recent history, it is a region on the left bank of the Tanaro river which looks the Langhe area right in the eye but without touching it. This hilly area in the province of Cuneo, driving northwards towards the borders with the provinces of Asti and Turin, used to be green with algae, immersed in the deep blue and the only bubbles were those created by the sea currents circulating in the mass of water that covered the sea bed. It was only in around 2, perhaps 3 million years ago, that the Roero area surfaced with the subsequent formation of hills where, even today, shells and other marine sediments emerge from the soils. The vine has found ideal conditions on the great quantity of sand that makes up the Roero soil, and gives intense wines full of aroma. Also here, as in the nearby Langhe, the most-grown grape varieties are Nebbiolo among the reds, and among the whites Roero has become the home for Arneis.
Eight municipalities to visit on foot
It would be pointless to compare the wines produced on the other bank, because although it is just a few kilometres away, a question of metres as the crow flies, the results are completely different. This is the magic of Roero. The noble lineage of the Counts of Roero, who were the landowners here in the Middle Ages and who the area is named after, studded the region with castles, palaces and towers that dominate the land from high up on the Rocche, steep high ground which marks part of the Roero border from Pocapaglia to Cisterna d’Asti. The Rocche del Roero Eco-museum unites the eight hilltop municipalities and organises guided treks in over 100 kilometres of pathways that are also suitable for mountain bikes or just a simple picnic. It is the perfect itinerary for a weekend in Roero.
Vinegrowing has very old origins here, probably pre-Roman, but it is since the seventeenth century that we have the first documentation, thanks to certain municipal land registers. The Negro family, for example, have a certified history from a land registry document dating from 1670 and has built up the tradition of vinegrowing and winemaking in Roero over the centuries. Today, Negro numbers almost 60 hectares of vineyards, divided among the historic Cascina Perdaudin in Monteu Roero, the cascina San Vittore in Canale and Basarin di Neive. The estate is run by Giovanni Negro, with his children Gabriele (vineyard manager), Angelo (winemaker), Emanuela (foreign sales manager) and Giuseppe (sales manager), while his wife Marisa receives guests in the winery in the Sant’Anna di Monteu Roero area, the heart of the estate. Another notary deed drawn up almost a century later, on 29th October 1750, documents the sale of a plot of land in the Fippiane di Canale region to Giacomo Faccenda. Today this area is called Valle Faccenda and after more than two centuries Luca Faccenda, born in 1982, winemaker with experience in the southern hemisphere, in New Zealand, and on the other side of the Tanaro, in Langhe, decided to return home and start a new chapter: Valfaccenda. Today, Luca produces 15,000 bottles and is active in the SoloRoero association together with Alberto Oggero and Enrico Cauda from the Cascina Fornace, the only three producers to make only Roero DOCG, from Nebbiolo and Arneis grapes, in order to increase the name of the area, as well as to improve wine quality. Take note of these names of young enthusiasts and come to see their wineries.
Stories of vignerons in Roero, Matteo Correggia and Giovanni Almondo
Matteo Correggia is a name that anyone wanting to discover Roero and its wines should know. It was in 1985, just over thirty years ago when only a few believed in the potential of this land. Matteo Correggia was one of the first to stake everything on wines made in Roero; he built a winery in Canale and achieved significant results in Italy and abroad within a few years. “The strong link with the territory that Massimo conveyed to us is now deep-rooted in us, in everyone who is part of the winery,” writes his wife Ornella Costa Correggia, “after my husband’s death I decided to not give up and today our success is down to team work.” Soon their children Giovanni and Brigitta will join the team. Today the winery is in the process of converting to organic management and is committed to innovation, such as the use of screwcaps for certain wines. The Roero Ròche d’Ampséj, 100% Nebbiolo, is one of the successes of the area. As well as native grapes, the winery has experimented with international varieties such as Sauvignon, dedicated to Matteo Correggia. Also Giovanni Almondo in Montà d’Alba is a winery that has remained a family-run business since 1978, the year it was founded. Today, Giovanni’s son Domenico makes all the decisions in the winery. Arneis and Nebbiolo are the main grapes, accompanied by the ever-present Piedmontese Barbera and Brachetto. Production is constantly increasing because the winery always looks to the future and tries to maintain ties with tradition.
From sparkling wines to great reds: Deltetto and Cascina Chicco
Having reached the third generation, the Azienda Agricola Deltetto in Canale started a new wine adventure in 2000: traditional method sparkling wines that, together with the still wines made from Arneis, Barbera and Barolo, have become an essential part of the winery’s production in just a few years. The Cascina Chicco is another growing winery that takes the name Roero all over the world. Also the Faccenda family has reached the third generation of vignerons; the aim is to preserve typicity combining it with environmental sustainability. The winery has recently been expanded and modernised following the most advanced technology, without losing touch with its history. The new winery has been completely dug out of a hill, it covers a total of 1800 square metres and the deepest point is 28 metres below the vineyards. Overhead, on the other hand, is the new and spacious tasting room.
Malvirà, or the history of Arneis
The name Arneis may come from a will in 1480 of a landowner in Canale, who bequeathed a vineyard in the Renesio area to his daughter, which changed to Arnesio and later Arneis. This historic vineyard belongs to the Malvirà winery run by the Damonte brothers who produce Nebbiolo and, obviously Arneis, whose history is indissolubly linked. The elderly vinegrowers used to plant the white grape variety in the same rows as Nebbiolo, because its aroma and sweet berries attract birds, thus distracting them from the more precious grapes. For this reason, Arneis also went by the name of white Nebbiolo. From sparkling wines, like the easy-drinking Charmat Method Arneis with the evocative name “Rive Gauche”, to Arneis-based whites also from overripe grapes, to great reds for ageing, there is a vast and high-quality choice of Malvirà wines, just like the hospitality. The Villa Tiboldi farmhouse accommodation is located inside the Trinità vineyard.
Where to eat during a weekend in Piedmont
All’Enoteca restaurant in Canale, Michelin-starred and welcoming, it is the creation of the young chef Davide Palluda, born and bred in Canale. It is a symbol of fine dining in Roero, the restaurant is located in a historic and prestigious building in the town centre.
All’Enoteca Osteria in Canale, a young and informal (also cheaper) version of the restaurant that maintains, however, all its elegance and finesse. There is a relaxing courtyard for al fresco dining.
Cantina dei Cacciatori, in Monteu Roero. A cosy and homely environment, where you can admire all the typical local dishes: from the numerous starters, moving on to the calorific pasta dishes, especially tajarin made with 40 egg yolks.
Where to sleep
Villa Tiboldi, farmhouse accommodation in the vineyards of Canale.
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