The members of the Bera family, in my opinion, exhibit all the characteristics of the Langhetti. They are original, creative, adventurous, and deeply rooted in the land. Tenacious workers and epicureans, they are open to new knowledge and yet the bearers of tradition. Reserved and at the same time available, each one of them contributes to the whole of a family that is strong and dynamic.
The winery is a recent creation; in fact it is younger than the youngest of the Beras. It was the dream of the preceding generation, and has been realised by the current generation. Now the goal of the family is to grow and to continue to confirm their success.
The care that the family gives to their grape vines is fully manifested in the production of the wine that I like so much. For example, at their winery you can find the aged and rare Dolcetto, which is quite extraordinary.
Their cuisine is also delicious; I recommend testing it while you are buying wine!

Giovanna


Il Bosseto: The winery of the Bera family

The family

The family name “Bera” appears to have its origin in the English word “Bear”. There are records of a noble family that came to Italy around the year 1000, following barbarian invasions. The family reputedly came from northern Europe – perhaps from Germany or England. Its family crest was a bear, a symbol of power, pride, and cleverness, but also of cruelty, harshness, and royalty. Until the 800’s, the bear was the king of the animals. An offshoot of this family established itself in the Langhe, and it is from this that we descend. We are two brothers, two sisters, and a mother that have in common a love for the land, the vines, and the wine that we produce.

The Wine Producing Company il Bosseto

Il Bosseto

Il Bossetto takes its name from “Bosso”, which is a wild bush found in the Mediterranean area. It is an evergreen shrub with small oval leaves which are glossy and perfumed. The bosso is a fundamental element of the “Italian” or “formal” gardens, characterised by geometrical shapes. It is also a feature of “topiary art”, which creates animal figures, and shapes rich in elaborate details. These shapes are formed from clever cuttings of the shrubbery, and constant care is devoted to maintaining their pleasing forms. Examples of these can be found in the gardens of the castle of Boboli in Florence. To a lesser extent, there are traces of it around the Langhe castles (Govone, Serralunga, Magliano Alfieri). Long ago, it even surrounded old churches, and was used as a hedge to delimit spaces in the gardens and vegetable patches of monasteries. Our company is in fact located on the spot where, once upon a time, there stood a powerful monastery dedicated to Saint Alessandro.

The bosso is a bush that grows slowly. It is patient and tenacious; qualities that we appreciate and try to cultivate in ourselves.

The company

It is located on the border between Trezzo Tinella and Triso, and is almost entirely devoted to the cultivation of wine grapes. The majority of the implants are recent. And while favouring these, we have still tried to leave the existing plants and fittings of the area as a mark of respect towards those who have preceded us, and so as not to impoverish the landscape. Among the vines, you can find Madernassa pears, antique apples, muriche, and peaches with white flesh. On the land one might still find the large concrete vats that were once used to blend verderame with lime to create treatments for the vines. In addition to these, there are wells dug into the tuff that once allowed for the transport of water to the family. You might also come across some small stone walls, and a pond where carps are raised.The vines are surrounded by the typical ravines of the Langhe, where oaks, locust trees, elms, and pines grow. The Bossetto is oriented towards biological cultivation; it has been many years since we have used herbicides. In addition to this, we make use of verderame and sulphur to cultivate the vines typical of the region: Moscato, Dolcetto, Nascetta.

Our Wines: Particularities, Anecdotes, and Memories

The Moscato

MoscatoUntil recent years, did not enjoy the popularity it has today – but our family has always cultivated it. Our paternal grandparents came from Castagnole and Castiglione Tinella, villages where this vine variety has always been grown. One of our childhood memories is related to the must (the sweet grape juice from which the wine is fermented) that would be filtered through sacks during the winemaking process. We would start filtering a couple of days after the harvest, towards the end of October. The sweeter the grapes were, the more the must needed to be filtered. The sacks often got clogged, and after supper the women had to go out in the windy autumn air and wash them in big tubs close to the water tank. The Moscato was drunk mainly in the summer, or on special occasions, such as when the parish priest came to give blessings. The few families of the village that produced it guaranteed its provision to the two parishes for celebrations, given its low alcoholic content.

The vine plots were planted in 1953, set in tight rows through which an ox could barely pass. We sometimes feel our work is a masochistic endeavour, since all of the labour needs to be done manually, given that there is not enough space between the rows for a tractor to pass. Now we produce D.O.C.G. (Designation of Origin Controlled and Guaranteed) Moscato wine called “submerged cork” to distinguish it from spumante. We have also named the wine obtained from the must of supermature grapes “ambrosia”, after the mythological nectar of the gods.

The Dolcetto

DolcettoThe Dolcetto is a vine variety native to the Langhes and Monferrato. The red grape and its DOC (Designation of Origin Controlled) take their name form the areas in which it is cultivated- Dolcetto d’Alba and Dolcetto di Dogliani, as examples. It is a delicate grape – yet difficult, demanding in both the vineyard and in the winery. The name probably comes from the sweet and sugary taste of the grapes. The Dolcetto is an elegant and rewarding wine, ideal for every meal. In the mid-20th century, it was the most appreciated full-bodied wine of Barbera. After the birth of a child in the area, there were always celebrations with a glass of Dolcetto. And if the baby was a boy arriving after one or two girls (and thus ensuring the continuation of the family name), the father-in-law would offer a celebratory glass to the mother-in-law. In spring, people would come to buy carboys of Dolcetto to bottle during the new moon in March. The wine of the previous year would be a hearty accompaniment to the stews they would eat for lunch when they came to buy wine.

The Bossetto is used to produce both a young and an aged Dolcetto. The grapes of the Dolcetto vine often have problems with the grapes dropping off. Long ago, nothing was wasted in the production process, and the harvesters gathered all of the grapes that had fallen during the harvest before cutting the bunch. Children were asked to check beneath the vines in order to save what had been lost. Less fortunate harvesters had to rely on their chickens to find errant grapes!

The Nascetta

NascettaIt is a white wine with a noticeable mineral flavour. It has existed for a long time on these hills, and was traditionally cultivated alongside other white grape varieties such as Timorasso, Malvasia, and Livertiin, which was so bitter that the housewives of the high Langa used it instead of rennet. For years, these grapes had all been pressed together and because of this, when the current potential of the Nascetta variety was discovered, nobody remembered how to process it on its own.

Nowadays, there are very few farmers that cultivate this vine, and there is not enough land to plant new vineyards that might fully exploit its potential. Every producer now makes wine in his own distinctive way. As a result of this, you can find many different Nascettas on the market, and this is a great boon to wine connoisseurs.

For a more detailed explanation, check out our website: http://www.ilbosseto.it/

Merenda “sinoira”

These days, the Langhe is a region envied by many for its wines, truffles, hazelnuts, and beautiful vistas. However, until the 1970’s, the economic reality in these villages was very different. Every family raised pigs, chickens, and rabbits, and needed to cultivate grassland and wheat for subsistence farming. The grasslands were mown for hay during the summer. This was the hardest season, since the wheat also needed to be harvested, and the manual labour entailed in these tasks was difficult and taxing. Those who worked the land laboured all of the long hours of daylight, and for this they needed to be well-fed.
The massaia, or housewife, who was in charge of keeping an eye on the children, would prepare a basket with food and in the mid-afternoon would bring it to the men and women that were hard at work in the fields. These merende sinoire were eaten later than the usual meals, and were composed of substantial, filling, and easily-available foods.

We had the Moscato wine and the eggs, and so our grandmother used to prepare a cold zabaione. She used to beat ten egg yolks with sugar, then add the whipped egg whites into the mix. She would then pour a bottle of fresh Moscato into this cream, and everyone was given a bowl of it to dip a slice of bread in. After the merenda, the country folk would get back to work until twilight. These days, we offer these same merendas to the clients that come to our winery as a sign of hospitality. We do this because our wines have a strong connection to the produce of the land, and good food strengthens and reinforces the ties of goodwill and friendship. The dishes that we offer are the traditional meals of the region: soups, gnocchi, jams, eggs in salmonidae, friciulin (potato pancakes), wild herb pancakes, and bagnet and bunet (sauces and pudding).
Venite a trovarci, vi aspettiamo! (We look forward to your visit!)

Marinella Bera

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
BOSCA cantine@bosca.it
CONTRATTO visite@contratto.it
GANCIA franco.ferrero@gancia.it
COPPO www.coppo.it/cantine

 

Enjoy your visit and wine tasting!

Giovanna

Underground

The oldest and largest farmstead in the town was built around 1750 in local stone. It is a large complex located on the top of a hill (brichet in local dialect). The closed complex structure has a big wooden door that once allowed for easy access to carts and animals. All buildings overlooked a large barnyard with the exception of the country manor which was found on the west wing and has a separate entrance.

The land surrounding the entire farmstead was used for farming and haystacks. There were woods, vegetable gardens, orchards and several vineyards for a total of 100 “Piedmont days” (a “Piedmont day” is equivalent to 3,800 square metres and is an ancient measurement unit that corresponds to the land a couple of oxen could plough in a single day. This unit of measurement is a valid agricultural term today.)
This information is still approximate, however, since both public and private documents were destroyed in the fires set during World War II.

The homes of the farmhands overlooked the large barnyard as did the barns, haylofts and warehouses, tool sheds; carts and large wooden tubs (arbi in local dialect) were placed in the rooms below that led to the rear of the farmstead. Lastly, a long cellar was dug into the tuff as foundation and is still in use.

About 60 people lived on the estate during World War II: the owners and farmhands who were elderly men, women and children while the younger men were either soldiers or resistance fighters. I remember that these hills were the theatre of terrible battles between the Nazi-Fascist soldiers and members of the
Italian Resistance Movement. The nearby city of Alba fell and was “held” by Italian resistance fighters for 23 days until the Nazi-Fascist armies retaliated with horrible round-ups throughout the Langhe region. One of these round-ups took place at Cascina Bricchetto. The people living here were forced to stay outside in the freezing cold (including small children) with machine guns pointed at them while all the furniture and equipment was stacked in the large barnyard and set on fire. The fire spread to the haylofts and wooden facilities, burning everything that wasn’t made out of stone. Fortunately there were no casualties.

I heard these stories from several people who had lived in this area at that time and in the early years following my purchase of this estate I had the fortune to receive visits from the men and women who had lived here as children. They came back to “see it one last time before their final journey” – those were the words they used to describe the visit to the place of their childhood and youth in the hopes of finding something familiar here. They had many stories to share, many emotions, and their memories only strengthened my determination to “preserve” as much as I could.

Green Entrance 2

The door and the sky

The farmstead devastated by the fire marked the beginning of the decline. The land was dissected and sold piece by piece. Some was even gambled away. The land changed ownership time and time again, sold to people whose only interest in it was to make some money. Nobody cared about the buildings and much of the estate was reduced to mounds of stones…

The breathtaking beauty of the area, the fact that I had fallen madly in love with it added to a tinge of recklessness, the sense of challenge and so much more acted as both the circumstances and the trigger for the purchase I made in 1955. Ever since, work and more work have brought this farmstead and surrounding land (now a vineyard) back to life. There is still much more work ahead…

Many projects aimed at recovering the ancient farmhouse. One of these involved the doors in the photographs (some were rebuilt with pieces of other doors). These doors are open to you…and to all those romantic souls out there, I’m waiting for you!

Giovanna

Discover Cascina Bricchetto

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!
Giovanna

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)
http://www.lacucinaitaliana.it/storie/luoghi/luigi-veronelli-cucina-vino-olio-storia/

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.
http://en.distilleriaromanolevi.com/romano-levi/#distillery
http://en.distilleriaromanolevi.com/romano-levi/
https://www.facebook.com/DistilleriaRomanoLevi

RENZO “The basket weaver from the Langhe region”

Foreword

In the past, all the peasants in the Langhe region used baskets for various purposes: for harvesting grain, vegetables and fruit: They held wood, eggs and so much more. Almost everybody would make them during those long and snow-capped winter months for the requirements of the family. Some of these baskets were expressions of the creativity of the weavers and featured an alternation of colours, shapes, decorations and trim but they always remained objects of practical daily use.

I have always loved baskets. I buy them and use them although I’m always sorry when they break or wear out. Then I go looking for more…
I have had the fortune of getting to know Renzo recently. I’ve bought a few items from him and invited him to the Cascina Bricchetto to give a demonstration to us and our guests.

Renzo

The Langhe baskets makerAs a child, Renzo would watch his grandfather create willow baskets for his family and wanted to become as good at it as him. But, as his grandfather always said, you needed to weave a lot of them and you also needed to have some kind of artistic inspiration.
Under the guidance of his grandfather, Renzo began to make baskets until a steady job came along that involved travelling around so he had to abandon his weaving. Every once in a while he would look back with some regret and then say to himself that he would hold willows in his hands again one day and resume his basket weaving.
The years flew by. His children grew up and went off on their own and when the time came for Renzo to retire at last, he decided to dedicate his time to basket making. Fortunately he was in excellent physical condition and his wife was willing to collaborate with him.

That next January Renzo and his wife Silvana started roaming through the Langhe region in search of willows in different shades of yellow, green and brown. Branches of different diameters were needed for the different parts of the basket. Likewise, different lengths were needed for baskets in different sizes.
The branches had to be conserved in a place that provided the appropriate moisture in order for them to work well. If they got too dry, they were no longer pliable and they had to be thrown out and a portion of the barks needed to be peeled to provide the colour white…
Our friends Renzo and Silvana loved their outdoor walks in the beautiful Langhe region. They would stop in local taverns to enjoy traditional dishes. At home they tried and tried again to conserve what they had gathered – the “raw material”. Renzo drew upon his childhood memories and tried to weave his first baskets after so many years but he wasn’t able to. He wondered if he had forgotten something or if his fingers were too stiff to weave those unmanageable willows. Perhaps he didn’t have the right tools…

After asking around, Renzo and Silvana found some elderly men who made baskets. They also thought that these old-timers would be happy to teach the “art of basket weaving” so that the tradition could be passed down to the younger generations instead of dying out. The initial contacts were disappointing. The men said “No”. But our friends didn’t give up. The experience made them more cautious so they would limit themselves to quietly watching the old artisans at their craft. Once they got home, they would try to duplicate what they had seen – over and over again. Sometimes the basket was completed and other times they would get stuck at some point so they would go back to the elderly artists and watch what needed to be done at that particular point very carefully. It was then that Silvana realized that a certain amount of strength was needed and that she wasn’t strong enough. She continued working with Renzo, though, and discovered a passion for nature photography which she cultivated every time they went out walking in search of willow branches.

Renzo and Silvana are still working together today. Now Renzo has both the artistic inspiration and the technique. Each basket is unique – as I tried to convey through the photographs I took during the session with him that we hosted here at Cascina Bricchetto.
Renzo would be happy to show you his creations here at our place.

Giovanna

History

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.

Introduction
Elizabeth is an American writer who stayed with us and afterwards sent me the following article; the accompanying photographs were taken by her and her friend Trish during their enjoyable experience of cooking traditional food together.
We immediately got on well with both Elizabeth and Trish; their appreciation for the place, the house, the food and wine was obvious and enthusiastic; and also for things that were unknown to them, such as several aromatic plants and certain fruits; the dedication shown by them and their husbands as they cooked using traditional utensils they were unfamiliar with will stay in my heart for a very long time!
Giovanna

Slowing Down in The Piedmont
In May, my husband and our two dear friends, found our way to the Langhe, in the Piedmont region of Italy. An Internet search led us to Agriturismo Cascina Bricchetto, owned and operated by Giovanna Oliveri. The Langhe is a spectacularly hilly area, one of UNESCO World Heritage destinations, known for its long history of wine making and cultivation. This is the fertile home of Nebbiolo, Dolcetto, Moscato grape varieties and some of the greatest wines of the world.

tasting Piedmont productsThe Piedmont is also where the Slow Food Movement got its start 30 years ago. Slow Food (out of which I believe the concept of slow travel grew) promotes locally grown and sustainable food practices and aligns with the idea of local consumption, purchasing and cooking with fresh local products, supporting its producers, and celebrates what is fundamentally healthier about slowing down the pace of our modern industrialized lives.

While we were interested in learning about the wine and food of the region—lets face it, who isn’t interested in wine and food in Italy? – We were also drawn to the possibility of putting on the breaks a bit after a busy week in Venice and the Cinque Terre. A farmhouse vacation in a beautiful place resonated for our group and provided a base from which to explore.

Cascina Bricchetto, located high on a hill near the village of Trezzo Tinella was a most wonderful find. The property houses a series of connected buildings, the oldest stone farmhouse dating possibly to the 18th century. Restoration of the place has been an on-going labor of love since the mid 1990’s and it shows nearly everywhere you look.

walk in the vineyards

The gardens and fruit trees, lavender, roses, cherries and quince—all planted in the past twenty years, are flourishing under Giovanna’s care. In fact, as far as you can see, over hills sloped with neat vineyards, dotted here and there with clay-tile-roofed farmhouses, fields strewn with poppies, daisies, sweet peas spilling over stone walls, geraniums in wall niches, there perfect chaos and order. Everywhere is evidence of fastidious attention paid to the land, the vines, the hazelnut groves; a symmetry, and at the same time, a random sensuousness that, to those with an eye for beauty and a nose for jasmine and broom (ginestra), will not be disappointed. This is a place that FEELS settled, tended to over generations, naturally ordered, loved. It rightly deserves reverence. People live with and from the land here. Artists paint these landscapes. Visionaries, like Giovanna, seek to preserve what is very special about this place.

We woke in our immaculate two-bedroom rental to the sounds of the lonely Cuckoo bird. (Our accommodation was named the Bread Oven House, for the historic oven attached to the building that once served the women of the hillside in their weekly bread baking chores). Fragrant scents wafted in open windows with the soft rustling of wind in the trees. We watched clouds change shape daily in a baroque sky and a few times were gifted with stunning views of the still-snowy Alps in the distance We enjoyed the easy-going presence of the farm dogs, Pippo and Peppa, and ate (and ATE) throughout the week from a banquet of local delights provided us by our hostess: cheeses, bread, homemade hazelnut cake, and of course, local red and white wines.

Days unfolded with an easy balance of country walks, reading on the balcony or out in the sunny yard. We made forays by rental car to explore nearby towns (Alba, Neive, Bra, Barolo, Barbaresco, to name some) for wandering, market days, a wine tour, among other slow-paced adventures. We were a laid back foursome, following our whims and the mood of each day.

Cooking ClassEggsCooking Class - Work!

The most meaningful experience of our time in the Piedmont included two late afternoons spent in Giovanna’s warm kitchen. There we donned aprons, filled our wine glasses, and learned her recipes for homemade pasta, ragu, the patient work of ravioli-making (make the filling one day and let it rest overnight to maximize the meld of flavors), risotto al funghi, green sauce with anchovies and quail eggs. Every ingredient was either grown in Giovanna’s garden, or came from a producer nearbi. To watch Giovanna knead dough on a smooth,

table-sized wooden board, passed down to her through generations, or hand us a weighty granite mortar and pestle that belonged to her great grandmother…to hear stories, and slow down enough to learn to use a Mezzaluna, (no cuisinart in this cooking class!)…

Cooking Class - at Work!Cooking Class - Ragu Cooking Class - Teaching

to muddle through our language challenges (Giovanna’s English is so far superior to our non-existent Italian), fill our glasses again, and depart, not only with a bounty of soul-filling food we were never quite able to finish during our week stay, but a deeper sense of home, hospitality, tradition, a feeling for what is important to Giovanna. She shared with us the abundance and “taste” of the authentic, all of this an enrichment, a generosity, and a connection we did not anticipate and will treasure always.

Cooking Class - Eating!

Sifting through photos of our recent trip to Italy, I can of course appreciate the history, mystery and watery majesty of Venice, the sparkling hills of the Cinque Terre, the brilliant blue of the Ligurian Sea, but I will remember Giovanna’s hands at work, her hand-picked cherries, the view from the top of her hill, the bounty of a life committed to her Langhe property, and her extravagant generosity. I have the satisfaction and sense, that between the lines of communication stilted by our linguistic limitations, we received gifts of understanding, and a shared hope that more people might come to know the gifts of slowing down, opening the senses, loving the earth that holds,

inspires, and feeds us, and pausing long enough to recognize our part in stewarding and honoring those who also tend it, no matter where our travels take us.

Beth Lodge-Rigal   Bloomington, Indiana

Langhe in Autumn: colours and scents
An idea of the colours can be seen in photography ,whilst unfortunately for now, the scents can not be appreciated , even if the smell of the truffle ( in piedmont dialect ‘ trIfula’ ) is very strong.
Colours like aromas are ‘sensory experiences’ and only experienced live…
Who looks for/ finds the truffles? An inseparable duo, ‘ il trabuj’ ( Piedmont dialect for the dog trained to find the truffles) and il ‘Trifulau’ ( Piedmont dialect for the dog owner and searcher of the truffles).

This is the right time, the hills are coloured in all shades of yellow and red, there are the truffles (le trifule) and for part of the autumn there is the ‘International Alba fair of white truffles’ until 27 November’.
People from all continents visit , looking to understand something from the ‘Trifulau’ (truffle hunter) and the future ‘trabuj’ (dog searcher of the truffles).

Giovanna

The Trifulau, or truffle hunter

In my fathers times, almost only peasants went hunting for truffles. They did it in Autumn, when grapes had been harvested and wheat had been sown, to earn a little more money and, possibly, to make up for a bad year.

You couldnt improvise yourself a trufle hunter: you needed good stamina, for the long and tiring walks after a hard days work, but also courage, to walk alone at night through valleys and hills with the danger of bad encounters.

Trifulau & dogs

Hunting truffles is a way to live moments in complete freedom, deep in the silence of nature, in a time of year when the colours and smells of autumn are enveloping; it’s gratifying to see the dog “at work”, admiring his skilful way of moving about sniffing the ground, selecring every scent and readily answering orders. Its a precious thing, being able to share all this with an inseparable friend!

The Trifulau is a lonely and very reserved figure, who shares a very close bond with his dog and with nature. He becomes one with his dog while hunting, and every time they re-enact an ancient ritual made of looks, signals and incitements that culminates in the irrepressible and liberating outburst of joy when a truffle is found.

Trifulau & dogs

The Trifulau usually moves by night, for various reasons: the weather conditions are better for hunting, the dog is less distracted, and the darkness and fog help hide from prying eyes. When the ground is covered in snow, he takes long detours to his secret places, leaving misleading trails in other directions for other hunters to follow and sometimes even simulating a find near trees that don’t hear truffles at all!

He walks with great agility and skill, overcoming every kind of obstacle; he knows every ditch and slope by heart. He knows when truffles grow, and the trees that bear them; how to tram his dog and how to reward it and, finally, he knows that a good truffle is worth a fortune!

Natale Romagnolo

Trifulau & dogs

Moccagatta_cole

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.

WINES

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

MOCCAGATTA

Strada Rabajà, 46 – 12050 Barbaresco (CN) Italia

Tel 0039 0173 635228 – Fax 0039 0173 635279

e-mail: info@moccagatta.eu – www.moccagatta.eu

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.

Giovanna

An english woman in Le langhe

Ann

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.

A PASSION FOR OLD THINGS

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

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Plate holder made from a wooden rake

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Towel rail made from a bed warmer

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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.

www.cascinabricchetto.it/surroundings/open-air-contemporary-art-museum-and-recycle-museum/

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 annstefani@tiscali.it

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