History indicates 1830 as the year around which the official birth of Barolo can legitimately be determined, defined with a phrase, erroneously attributed to Count Camillo Benso di Cavour, that sounded like: “the king of wines, the wine of kings”. After 200 years Barolo is alive and marching with us, and this has had two consequences: the first was the explosion of the “Langhe-phenomenon”, the second was the fact that the Langhe themselves have almost totally monopolized the world of wine-critics, despite the Piedmont is rich in productive enclaves in which the Nebiolo gives rise to fascinating productions Although it is not possible to establish a definitive date, also because we are talking about a work in progress still developing itself, wine lovers have begun to rediscover these other productive enclaves, especially those located in Northern Piedmont.
For example, in the heart of the Western Alps, there are lands originating from a Supervolcano that, around 300 million years ago, exploded with an immense eruption and the power of 250 atomic bombs. The emersion of its remains, around 40 million years ago, in addition to having formed the aforementioned Western Alps, has given rise to a very peculiar terrain, whose characteristics are constant up to 30 kilometers below the ground. In this area (which is part of the Sesia-Val Grande Geopark, recognized by UNESCO) is included the Upper Piedmont, a land rich in valuable names such as Boca, Bramaterra, Coste della Sesia, Fara, Gattinara, Ghemme, Lessona and others.
In this area, just two kilometers south of Lessona, there is the Pietro Cassina winery, where Pietro carries on his excellent wine production assisted by his wife and his sons. It is a winery that has continued to operate privately, even when the farmers abandoned almost completely the 40,000 hectares of vineyards then existing, afraid of the continuous hailstorms and the arrival of Phylloxera in the early ‘900. Some found work in the assembly lines of taps built on the left bank of the Sesia River, others in the textile industries created on the right bank, but the Cassina family was able to keep the point, preserving its seven hectares of vineyard, and today its experience is more than ever precious for the relaunch of the local wine production, extended for just 1300 hectares total.
While refusing easy classification of naturalness, the winery carries on an ecological discourse, with the surrounding environment, of the highest level, through a series of measures such as the creation of a new underground cellar, on three floors, where the various steps of winemaking take place by fall, using the gravitational force and not stressing the grapes. Humidity and internal temperature of the cellar are kept constant thanks to its particular shape designed projected before its building. Finally, it is also worth mentioning the fact that the roof of the cellar has been equipped with a system of photovoltaic panels that completely cover the annual energy needs.
Speaking of aging containers, Pietro was a pioneer in the choice of using Swiss and Austrian oak barrels (for example Stockinger), then moving to a production that was born at 0 km. For the construction of the new winery in Cascina Chignalungo, Peter chop down the oaks from which he obtained the best boards of these hard and low aromatic spectrum wood, to be seasoned and then sent to expert assemblers of barrels, always Austrian and Swiss, who will have the task of creating the containers according to the indications given by Pietro Stesso.
Even in the vineyard there are many measures, starting from the protection of the environment surrounding the vineyards, consisting of woods (born after the abandonment of the vineyards I mentioned), and the protection of microfauna (especially earthworms and bees), able to naturally counteract the effect of harmful parasites. The level of the property pond, which serves to irrigate plants and gardens, and to cool some rooms of the cellar, is kept constant thanks to the construction of a system of gutters that make the water flow into a giant underground cistern (to keep the temperature cold).
As for the cultivation of the vine, the winery fertilizes the vineyards with horse manure and conducts the fight against diseases, only where strictly necessary, with low doses of sulfur and copper. Although the soils are highly draining, Peter does not put the vines in competition with each other, with an excessive density, but leaves them free to grow with a density of slightly less than 5000 vines per hectare from which he collects no more than 40 quintals, with a yield per plant of about 800 grams of grapes.
Among the wines produced, a place of respect certainly deserves the Coste della Sesia DOC Ciuèt, a pure Nebbiolo, cultivated in vineyards lying on the acidic soils of Tenuta Cascina Chignalungo (Municipality of Lessona), at 290 meters above sea level, with a south-east/south-west exposure. After a first selection in the plant, the grapes are collected in boxes of 7-9kg capacity and, then, sent to the cellar, to support a second sorting, on a vibrating table, destemming and a delicate pressing. The spontaneous fermentation, and the consequent maceration, takes from one to two weeks, at a constant temperature below 28 ºC, with double daily fulling and pumping over. Although the period of aging is closely linked to the fact that Pietro considers a wine suitable or not to be placed on the market, in principle, this reference stands about five years in oval oak barrels, and a similar period in bottle.
The 2012 vintage has a bright and vibrant ruby red color, with an olfactory spectrum that opens on notes of rose petal, wild blackberry, red currant and blood orange, followed by humus, clove, Kentucky tobacco and dark incense, with final blood and balsamic echoes. The palate is consistent, more than one would expect from such a northern Nebbiolo, with gentle but present tannins, a good astringent citric component and the mineral sapid part that frame a timid but clear fruity and floral component; all accompanied by the return of the most austere spice and tobacco that accompany the sip to a good length closure.
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