Italian Labor Day, rainy grey skies, winery appointment at 6 pm. It was late, dark and quite frankly Claudio and I were pretty comfy wrapped up in blankets on our couch. Did we really want to put our shoes on and head out into the rain for yet another wine tasting? I wrote a text to the winemaker, Michele and asked if another day would be better but when he answered with, “the wood burning stove is on and we just took the kids to their granny’s” I couldn’t say no, and I am sure glad we didn’t!
Of course we got lost especially because it was raining so hard that we couldn’t even see and to make things worse the GPS couldn’t find this remote address. Finally we saw Michele, a tall curly grey haired man waiving at us in the pouring rain. He took us into his cozy farmhouse and spoke English while pouring us a Rosè without further ado. The name of this winery is a bit confusing, officially Azienda Agricola Carta Vanina Maria (what a mouthful!) and the wine label being called Cascina Melognis.
The Rosè was crisp, pleasant and clean. Perhaps it would be better on a warm day near the sea! However, the interesting story of this wine is that it is made up of native grape varietals that I had never heard of before! 50% Neretta, 20% Barbera, 10% Freisa, and the remaining 20% of mysterious varieties like Pelaverga, Chatus, and boh!???? The grape varietals are not all distinctly planted and categorized in the vineyard but are mixed, just as they were over 60 years ago.
Because this tiny town called Revello (pop. less than 5,000) is 30% rainier than in Langhe, planting the famed Nebbiolo grape was impossible. So they planted Barbera along with a high quality Pinot Noir Bourgogne clone (all before Sideways!) to get the best quality wines in this unique area. In fact, we moved on to tasting their 100% Barbera Colline Saluzzese Rosso Ardy, which was so much more delicate and subtle compared to the colorful and fruit-forward Langhe Barberas that I have tried. It was also incredibly nice that his cute wife Vanina brought out local cheeses and homemade bread.
I felt at ease with this couple, talking about our local town, mutual friends, and winemaking decisions. Initially people thought that Michele was mad for trying to make wine here in Revello but he proved them wrong! As we tasted his amazing 30%/70% Pinot Noir/Barbera blend called Novamen, he told us that he first got interested in winemaking when he did his civil service in Canale wine country. It was not until then that he was exposed to proper winemaking techniques and wanted to give it a try on their own mini family vineyard back home in Revello. His father was stubborn, just like many elderly Piemontese are, and hesitated to let Michele apply his newly acquired knowledge. It was only in the 90’s that Michele had to teach his father “new” practices like pruning the vines down to about 8 buds, and keeping the wines in a warmer environment to get a second fermentation. Once his father reluctantly tried these new “crazy” wines, he couldn’t go back. Michele joked that now it is his father that wants to cut down to 6 buds like he is some kind of “Voerzio” or something. (Voerzio is one of the most modern winemakers in Piemonte).
Then out came his wife’s warm savoury vegetable tart just to make the experience even better. Michele would like to move his production from 7,000 bottles to 10,000 next year and that’s it. He ages his reds in used barrique barrels for a smoother untainted feel but also because he only has room in his garage for these!
I feel lucky to have been able to taste these rare wines and share stories with Michele. The Pinot Noir Novamen was outstanding and was a fun new discovery. If you ever visit the area, you can stop by their winery after visiting charming Saluzzo, or you can find them in the best restaurants in our area. This was truly a splendid surprise!
Cascina Melognis – Azienda Agricola Vanina Maria Carta
Via San Pietro 10
0175 – 257395