The Underground Cathedrals … of wine?

Some cathedrals announce their presence with lofty spires that draw the eye skywards; Milan, Cologne, Westminster etc. But others are hidden away underground, and you might never even know they are there unless you have visited them for yourself. The latter can be found in the area of Asti in Canelli, capital of Italian sparkling white wine (Spumante) since 1850 when Carlo Gancia imported the “champenoise” method from France.

Recently they have been called “Underground Cathedrals”, with naves, ambulatories, transepts, and large cross vaulting that would not be out of place in the great cathedrals you might find on the surface. Built from exposed brick set into the tuff hills, they constitute authentic masterpieces of architecture.

These cathedrals of spectacular beauty, uniqueness and historicity are composed of galleries, underground passages, long corridors and broad vaults emphasized by a clever play of light that highlights the imposing excavation works and exposes, in certain areas, the tuff of Canelli.

The cathedrals have their origins as small conservation caves, likely built during the XVII century, and remodelled and enlarged throughout the centuries into the form they take today. Built in order to preserve land products, salt, and other goods that passed along the trade routes for Savona and Vado Ligure -historical ports and commercial hubs on the sea of Canelli – 15 kilometres of underground galleries, reaching 40 metres in depth, stretch below the ground of Canelli.

Over time wine became the primary good produced in the area, and the calcareous tuff of Canelli proved to be a precious ally to winemakers. Hard to carve and incredibly stable; it is a perfect insulator and thus maintains a constant humidity and a temperature between 12 and 14 degrees – ideal conditions for the aging of great wine. For this reason, starting from the second half of the IX century and during the first years of the XX century, several kilometres of galleries were dug under the city of Canelli. These galleries served not only for the storage and aging of wines, but also for the entire process of winemaking. The remains of this process (presses, filtering systems, vats, barrels and machines) are still visible today and stand as tangible memories of the past.

Some of these Cave-Cathedrals (in which darkness protects the wine during the long and delicate stages of its preparation) have produced the most prestigious sparkling white wines (Spumanti) with the traditional method. While visiting, you could be lucky enough to see the “cellarman” working on the bottles that are in the “pupitres” (he works on every single one of them every day, and there are thousands).

In summary, these are the main stages that are carried out in the production of the wine:

  • Over the course of the first period in the cave the wine acquires its “perlage” and the complexity of a bouquet from the fermentation process. It is during this stage that the bottles become frothy;
  • The bottles are then transferred to the “pupitres”, which are the wooden wine holders that have become the symbol of the Classical Method. Here, every day, the cellarman rotates every bottle 90 degrees and inclines it towards the ceiling for the sediments to deposit in the bottleneck;
  • The process continues with the “degorgement”, during which the cap of the bottle is gently removed to eliminate the sediment. In the last phase the “liqueur d’expedition” is added, which is a secret dosage of wines, sugar cane and other ingredients that give a unique touch to each one of these sparkling wines.

Thanks to their beauty and importance, the “Underground Cathedrals” have been recognized as a world heritage site by UNESCO within the “Wine landscapes of Piedmont: Langhe Roero and Monferrato”.

I highly recommend you experience the magic of these unique and charming sites in person!
They can be visited by making an appointment:

Web site Reservations


Enjoy your visit and wine tasting!


I went to see the 73 rd edition of the lighting of the furnace beneath the direct-fire still at the Levi distillery in
Neive, which elicited a whole host of emotions within me and enlivened all 5 of my senses!
This event had a bit of everything: a magical place, the ritualistic fire, the band, the poetry and design work
of Romano Levi, the grappa labels that he designed himself and often dedicated, the wonderful things to
taste …I hope that all of the many special people who read our blog enjoy learning about this extraordinary
place and its history.
Happy reading and a (virtual) toast with the grappa from the Levi distillery!

The Wild Woman of the Langhe and the grappa of Romano Levi

The Italian Comune of Neive is located at the centre of the Strada Romantica of Langa, and is the most
complex with 100 kilometres’ worth of pathways to explore a mesmerising and alluring landscape. This area
is home to ancient traditions, such as that of the legendary ‘Wild Woman’. This symbolic image, in which
the conflict between man and nature was reconciled within a female figure, once languished in the
background with mythology but was then made famous beyond the confines of the Langhe by labels
designed by the “Angel of Grappa”, Romano Levi of Neive.


The Wild Woman

An ancient tale about the Salige describes the Wild Women of the Langhe as “recurring figures in the sagas
of the Alps, which represent the deepest feminine, bodily and instinctual roots: the archetype of nature
wild and free, untouched by civilisation and its discontents”.
The Wild Woman is characterised in Langhe peasant society as the bearer of a culture deeply rooted in the
annals of time, in close contact with nature and its secrets, with trades linked to seasonality, with the
wisdom of elders interspersed with popular and superstitious religiosity.
Within the collective consciousness of the Langhe, the figure of the Wild Woman has always been bold and
forthright: a woman who does not easily adhere to dominant social conventions, one who pays no
attention to appearances and one who resists the conformity that pervades the countryside; an
independent woman who is proud, autonomous and able to fend for herself and, often, others as well; a
female archetype that embodies difficulty and joyfulness, material hardship and the spiritual riches of a
rural life unchanged over time.
Romano Levi, well known in Neive as an artisan grappa maker, poet and label designer, brought the myth of
the Wild Woman back to life and made it famous. For him, the Wild Women are visions, memories of the
past. When he walked to school through the streets, he would encounter “beautiful dishevelled women,
who were a little bit crazy, a little bit like witches and a little bit like fairies”.
Romano Levi recalls the ‘Wild Women’:
“As a kid, I would walk through vineyards on my way to school. Often, among the rows of vines, there were
so-called ‘ciabòt’, tiny shelters where winemakers and peasants took refuge … I used to pass by in the
morning and sometimes I saw these women coming out of the shelters, beautiful and dishevelled, a little bit crazy and lonely, often living on the fringes of peasant society. They were mysterious, had no constraints,
they disappeared and then came back. They were a little bit like witches and a little bit like fairies.
They were free, as all women should be to be able to enjoy the very best that life has to offer”.

The grappa of Lidia and Romano Levi

“I make grappa: the blood of fire, pangs of life and poetry are yours.”
Romano Levi

For more than sixty years, brothers Lidia and Romano Levi produced a truly unique grappa known as ‘The
Grappa of the Wild Woman’, continuing the traditions of their ancestors. It is not just the distilling of the
marc that made it unique, but Lidia’s skill in bringing together immersed herbs within the bottles, or
Romano’s poetic, hand-designed labels.

“The Wild Women climbs over the hills” – “The Wild Women surmounts all the confines.”
Romano Levi

The grappa is magnificent and he treats the labels that he painstakingly crafts by hand with the utmost
dedication and respect. The names are a timeless reminder of his great love for Women who are
respectable, unseemly, wild, influential and suppressed, Women who climb hills, who allow themselves to
be touched or not, who have silvery golden hair”. Luigi Veronelli (oenologist, chef, gastronome and writer)

The home/distillery of the Levis is now a vibrant Museum where Grappa continues to be made. It is a truly
special place that occupies its own unique space in time, where the Genius Loci of Romano Levi continues
to be at the heart of the art, methods, working times, simple and essential objects, scents and serenity
involved in the making of the Grappa.


The Monfalletto Cordero di Montezemolo estate boasts many centuries of history. Its origins takes us back to 3rd April 1340, when Pietrino Falletti becomes the owner of the La Morra comune, thanks to a loan granted to the municipality of Alba. Over the centuries the Falletti property increases, is sold, dismantled, lost, inherited and so on, with the rise and fall of various branches of the family throughout the Piemonte region. Nevertheless, ownership of the land in La Morra although somewhat altered, continues for sixteen generations, from 1340 until the death of Countess Luigia Falletti di Rodello in 1941. The family line having died out, the property passed to the nearest descendant, Paolo Cordero di Montezemolo, the Countess’ nephew and father of the current owner Giovanni Cordero di Montezemolo, who still leads the firm alongside his children Elena and Alberto.

Farm Monfalletto

The cedar tree

At the top of the Monfalletto hill stands an impressive and majestic ancient cedar of Lebanon: it can be seen from any point on the perimeter surrounding the estate, which is covered with vineyards growing Nebbiolo grapes for the production of Barolo. From the tree’s hilltop position, in turn, the distinctive features of the entire area can be viewed; the shapes of valleys and hills as far as the borders of the land, giving an idea of its size. The tree is part of the history and tradition of this area: it was planted by Costanzo Falletti di Rodello and Eulalia della Chiesa di Cervignasco to mark their wedding in 1856, as a symbol of their love for the land.

The vineyards

The vineyards are laid out in a single block occupying 30 hectares, with the exception of the Enrico VI vineyard in Castiglione Falletto, and produce only DOCG and DOC wines. The Nebbiolo vines used for Barolo account for half the cultivated area, and this wine is the firm’s classic flagship product. Other important wines are Dolcetto d’Alba, Langhe Arneis, Barbera d’Alba and Langhe Chardonnay “Elioro”. The estate is located in a strategic position in the heart of the Barolo area, with excellent exposure and altitude for ripening of all the grape varieties. The winery was refurbished over ten years at the turn of the century, and today constitutes an example of the perfect integration of architecture within the surrounding landscape, a harmonious blend of modern and rural geometries.

The wines

  • Langhe Arneis
  • Langhe Chardonnay
  • Montezemolo brut
  • Dolcetto d’Alba
  • Langhe Nebbiolo
  • Barbera d’Alba
  • Barolo Monfalletto
  • Barolo Enrico VI
  • Barolo Gattera

The Langhe

The hilly Langhe region extends from the edge of the Roero area to the border with the province of Asti. Its distinctive characteristic is the parallel arrangement of crests and valleys which – in all likelihood – gave the area its name. (Langhe = langue = tongues of land). This has always been a land of great wines; indeed, in the hill country of the lower Langhe, vines are practically the only crop grown, resulting in an expanse of vineyards which is truly a spectacular sight. The main historical and geographical centre of the Langhe is the town of Alba, an important commercial and industrial hub in the province, but also the arrival and departure point for routes to the nearby towns.


The town of Barbaresco is easily recognizable from the lookout tower (XI sec.) With a square plan, the building probably belonged to a system of watch towers that had developed along the Tanaro river on the territory of the cities of Asti and Alba, heritage the Duchy of Monferrato.

From the top of the tower you can see all the surrounding countries, the course of the river Tanaro, Alba, Cherasco on the one hand, on the other Asti. The most famous of the wines produced in the municipal area is the Barbaresco who took the name from the country and made him famous.

Moccagatta Winery

Moccagatta_bric balinSergio and Francesco with their respective sons Martina and Stefano carry on the business of their father Mario that inherited in 1952 the cascina Moccagatta. In the 12 hectares of vine between Barbaresco and Neive grow Nebbiolo, Barbera, Dolcetto and Chardonnay for an average annual production of 65,000 bottles.

The search of a balanced production, a special care over the vines from pruning to green harvest in summer, and the use of modern facilities and equipment in the cellar have turned out to be fundamental to produce high quality wine.

Moccagatta_bric balin buschet

The soil characterizes the three single vineyards Barbaresco. Basarin from Neive with a sandier soil is more elegant and richer in perfume, Bric Balin inside the appellation Muncagota in Barbaresco is richer in clay that produces a powerful and fruity wine, Cole, closer to the center of the village of Barbaresco, is more complex, full-bodied and concentered thanks to the Sant’Agata marl.


Barbaresco                                                            moccagatta_degustazione

Barbaresco Basarin

Barbaresco Bric Balin

Barbaresco Cole

Langhe Nebbiolo

Barbera d’Alba

Dolcetto d’Alba

Langhe Chardonnay Buschet

Langhe Chardonnay



VISIT AND TASTING ON APPOINTMENT                               moccagatta_cantina bottiglie


Strada Rabajà, 46 – 12050 Barbaresco (CN) Italia

Tel 0039 0173 635228 – Fax 0039 0173 635279

e-mail: –

Langhe: Art contemporary and up cycled old things

034My friend Ann is too modest, the truth is what she creates is art by recycling old things. in fact she did not want the title that I suggested but I will use it all the same.  This lady has an extraordinary strength ( also physically), she has even built dry stone walls at her house and has created a splendid garden.She uses her creative vision to transform things and materials, that  other people have judged  as useless, into artistic objects.


An english woman in Le langhe


Originally from the UK, in 2003 I began living permanently in Le Langhe. This has bought many new life experiences and has somehow released a creativity inside of me that must have been hidden away for years.

After first taking on the task of renovating our ruin ( in pre internet days) , I then turned to creating an anglicised Italian garden and finally my interests have now turned to an even more creative adventure.

In this throwaway society we live in today I have never been able to relate to the sheer waste of things. So when I saw so many abandoned houses here in Le Langhe with ; broken windows , shutters barely hanging , abandoned rusty farming equipment , relics of the past left for the mice to chew or wooden things just cast aside to be burnt, my mind started to think.

Many of these things from the past were skilfully hand crafted by someone with time and patience. They were made of good materials that have withstood the test of time as they were made to last or indeed to be mended.

The weathering by the passing of the years has, in my eyes, made them more beautiful. But if they were mended they would be of no use in their original form in today’s society.


My passion is therefore to give new life back to these pieces of rotting wood or rusty metal by transforming them with creativity and imagination into a contemporary, useable, unique object. It might be a simple candle holder made from a pair of rusty hooks or a photo frame from door hinges but it could be something bigger like a table or cupboard made from old doors, windows and shutters. It could even be a piece of art for a wall or the garden

P1020525-2Ceiling light made from a piece of a wooden cart and bed springs

Plate holder made from a wooden rake

Towel rail made from a bed warmer

Candle holder made from rusty bullhook

Since 2014 I have opened a display of my ideas in the Museo del Riciclo ( Recycle museum) in the small town hall of Camo near Santo Stefano Belbo.

It is open every morning but I would gladly show you around if you ring me in advance. Plus I have numerous larger pieces at home and a few exhibits in the restaurant Verderame in Castiglione Tinella

Ann Stefani

100-1Contact: call number + 39 3202698492

Monferrato wines
I present a beautiful-young-old company that produces excellent wines in the nearby Monferrato, knowledge comes from my great love for the Barbera d’Asti and initial encounter with Claudio exciting. Guests were from them for a tour and tasting were happy for both the rich tasting and for the warm welcome and again for the great expertise of Claudio.
Duilio Da Casto Winery

Our winery is a small family business that has been passed down for five generations. 

Our 7 hectares of vineyards are located in an area close to Agliano Terme. This area has  been identified as one of the most suitable terroir for the production of the Barbera grape.

Duilio My father takes care of the vineyards, the true heart of our winery, with the invaluable help of my mother Gabriella and my uncle Felice.

I have completed studies in Viticulture and Enology and now do my best to make and develop our wines.

The simplicity and the constant search for quality are the philosophy of our company, which produces wine that respect the land as well as the plants. Throughout the process we are inspired by the values that have been handed down by our ancestors. 

Claudio Dacasto


  • Monferrato Bianco Arneis “Vianus”
  • Vino Rosato “Vianus Rosè”
  • Piemonte Chardonnay “Bourg”
  • Barbera d’Asti
  • Barbera d’Asti Superiore “Camp Riond”
  • Monferrato Rosso “Forestiero”
  • Vino Spumante Metodo Classico Brut “Quattro”

Cellar, Vineyards and Tasting room – Fraz. Vianoce n.26, 14041 Agliano Terme

Vineyards and Tasting room – Fraz. Salere n.57, 14041 Agliano Terme

Tel. +393339828612

Between April and October every day from 5 to 7 pm , the rest of the year only with booking

It’s always well-accetped small notification before the tasting

Booking of the Tasting and tour of the winery: +393339828612 

Languages we speak

Italian, English, French