Cellars of Langhe and Roero

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The cellars of Langhe and Roero are unique even within the varied and rich wine panorama of the peninsula. Because in Piedmont every hill and every farm really is a wine cellar. Legacy of a very fragmented medieval past, Piedmont has practically never known large estates. The nobility up to Carlo Alberto and Cavour had never been interested in agriculture, considering land ownership as a source of easy income, sellable when necessary (that is, often) instead pursuing prestigious military and diplomatic careers. So Piedmont, before and better than the rest of Italy, developed a fragmentation of land ownership due to Napoleonic laws (which abolished the right of primogeniture) and has been further broadened over the past two centuries. Therefore here, and only here, today, the classic farm (i.e. 90%) does not produce more than 50,000 bottles, a medium-sized one produces around 200-300,000 and the large cellars (which can be counted on two hands) perhaps one million bottles! Very modest numbers when compared to the Italian average, not to mention the rest of the world. In addition, the Piedmontese winemaker almost always uses solely native grapes, vinified in purity, with traditional methods of ageing (the famous large Slavonian oak barrels) but even when French oak is used (casks and barriques) it is always the terroir that leaves its mark, the trademark "vineyard of Piedmont”. The result of these conditions is the celebration of a proud peasant identity which pushed competition between these micro-enterprises to the maximum, raising to the stars the quality which is present in these vineyards, as neatly groomed as gardens. To visit a winery in these hills is to travel back in time where each of the ancestors has added something: first you meet a family, you are welcomed into their home and you become part of history. A history of fatigue and privations that after so many centuries of hunger and sacrifices finally reaped the deserved fruits. The wines of the Langhe and Roero belong in the “Who’s Who” of great wines, respected and drunk, but not by all: only by those who have found in wine a happy marriage of culture and pleasure.

Text by ©Pietro Giovannini