Any time I visit cellars in the Langhe area I always come back home full of positive energy and lots of inspiring stories and ideas. It couldn’t be different after my meeting with Sara Vezza Saffirio, a young and entrepreneurial winemaker at Josetta Saffirio in Casteletto (Monforte d’Alba). As 23-year-old girl she already decided to stay in the area and to continue a family tradition of making wines.
Old cellars covering 5000 square meters, long lyrical illuminated corridors and lots of bottles with fermenting wine. While I was visiting the ancient basements of Contratto, a party took over the place above. The huge elegant courtyard, of the oldest Italian producer of millesimato metodo classico, hosted a significant number of guests. This time I will not write about the reception (although I had so much fun and I don’t remember when was the last time I danced so much…), this article is about an unusual winery that can boast almost 150 years of tradition.
It’s Thursday afternoon. Heavy, dark clouds are gathering in the sky and a sound of rumble announces coming thunder. This day I have an appointment in Demarie Giovanni vineyard in the Roero area, on the left bank of the Tanaro river bordering with the Langhe in Piedmont. In Alba I meet with Giulia Breveglieri from Well Com company who arranged my tour and accompanies me to Vezza d’Alba. While we are driving suddenly a cloudburst gets us on the way and instantly the main streets turn into rapid creeks. Fortunately when we arrive to the place the weather changes dramatically and only cannon salvos that protects grapes against grade remind about thunderstorm only few minutes before overpowered Piedmont hills.
It’s 9 a.m, Friday, the end of October. Humid air envelops Piedmont hills and the castle of Serralunga d’Alba can be barely seen behind a heavy of water curtain. The sun is trying to break through the low clouds and although a beautiful and warm day is forecasted, I bottom up my jacket. I’m in the Rivetto vineyard and with a camera in my hands I’m waiting for a start of Nebbiolo harvest. The last big grape picking this year. Year not easy for wine producers with rainy spring, moderate hot summer and capricious autumn: sunny and warm September, but irregular weather in October.
After my visit in Elio Altare vineyard I was curious how traditional winery can look like in our time. So I visited Lorenzo Accomasso. He lives and works not far from Elio Altare and his family. In the Langhe he is a legend, honored by cavaliere title by the president of the Italian Republic for his merits in the Langhe wine culture. In the 70s he has already implemented the method of heavy pruning of grapevine gaining in this way a better quality of harvest, what’s more for more than 20 years he was the president of the Regional Enoteca in La Morra. He works with his sister and they cultivate 3 ha of land, take care of both vinification and selling process. Lorenzo Accomasso is a good example of an old generation – he lives lives in a modest and simple way. From time to time he is visited by wine lovers, professionals and distributors even from Asia. It turns out his wines are much more popular in distant Japan, then in shops and restaurants in Piedmont region…
Barolo, produced in 11 communes, by 770 producers, in the quantity of 10 920 000 a year, it has already become a true ambassador of Piedmont region, and a bottle of this red liquid is an object of desire for wine lovers. No wonder that both tourists and professionals visit wineries and they listen eagerly to winemakers telling about their history, job, everyday challenges, but also techniques used for wine production. And the last one, by the way, can be completely different. An example? Two neighbors living in La Morra: Elio Altare and Lorenzo Accomasso. Lorenzo Accomasso is a symbol of tradition, while Elio Altare was one of pioneers in using new methods in Barolo making process. And even though a division between traditionalists and modernists doesn’t exist anymore, no so long time ago the wine world in the Langhe was heavily divided. And the reason was …the size of a wood barrel.
Dolcetto is the most popular grape variety in Piemonte that gives wine of the same name. Although it’s spread all over the region, originally it was cultivated near Dogliani town, situated on the west part of the Langhe. Till today it plays a significant role in the local economy, like in case of a small village called Clavesana, where is located a big winery. This cooperative collects over 350 families of grape cultivators living and working on high hills looking on Tanaro river and Monviso pick.