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2019 #Piemonte | Rovellotti winery, Ghemme

Updated: Jan 8, 2020

When I was planning my Gattinara wine trip of course I also planned to visit some wineries in Ghemme area, which is located on another side of Sesia river, just in 10 min driving from #Gattinara. Unfortunately Ghemme wine area is not well-known abroad, by the way even inside Italy as well, although they produce very good wines from Nebbiolo grape under Ghemme DOCG, but, same as Gattinara, it's just not that much commercialized outside of Italy. So pity, as the area itself is amazing and the wines produced here are great too.

Ghemme is a commune in the Province of Novara in Piemonte, located on the river Sesia (same as Gattinara) about 80 km northeast of Turin. The road from #Ghemme to the river Sesia was historically the border between the Duchy of Milan and the Duchy of Savoy.

First winery I visited in Ghemme was Rovellotti, a family-led business historically cultivating vines and crafting wines in the area during 600 years. The winery is run by current generation, two brothers Antonello and Paolo, and located right inside the Castello-Ricetto di Ghemme. The castle is an impressive historical building, was a surprise for me, thanks to super nice Alessandro Rovellotti who managed my visit, I discovered this awesome castle and immediately fell in love with the place.

The Castello-Ricetto di Ghemme was built between the 11th and 15th centuries on the initiative of Ghemme’s inhabitants to defend themselves from the forays of the French and Spanish, as well as to serve as a shelter for local people. Castello was built in the days of the fights between Guelphs and Ghibellines, which left their mark with plunders and disastrous fires.

As local Ghemme's people were just super poor peasants, they didn't have weapons and they were not able to fight with soldiers, so they just hided inside the #castle with their families, domestic animals and food, waiting when the invaders will leave the town.

Originally the castle was surrounded by a moat being supplied with waters coming from the Roggia (artificial irrigation canal) Centurina and from the canal that enclosed the village and entered the Roggia Mora. Protective outside walls that were about 4 metres high still partially visible today on three of the four sides.

The total area of the castle is about 12 000 square meters, access to the defensive site was via a keep with a draw-bridge, in the north-west and south-west corners were two small cylindrical towers, now the only one remains, while the outer walls are still visible.

Inside there are many different buildings constructed in river pebbles laid in a herring-bone pattern, spaced out with courses of bricks.

The houses, grouped around small courtyards, have a graceful appearance.

The structure was like: ground floor, accessed by a round-headed arch, was principally a warehouse for storing provisions, especially wine; the living quarters were on the first floor. Nearly all the houses have an attic under the roof, once used as a grain store.

Despite heavy intervention during the 18th and 19th centuries, the Castello-Ricetto di Ghemme is one of the best-preserved in Piemonte, still today the fine Ghemme DOCG wine is produced and aged in the cellars of the #castle.

As said above, the houses of each family were very small, so inside there were basically thick walls dividing each family's territory one from another (the analogue of modern townhouses structure). Based on this original castle's structure, even though some walls inside were already destroyed many years ago to increase the space of some expanded families' houses, so the wineries' structures inside the castle is a bit unusual...

The fermentation rooms of Rovellotti, only stainless steel tanks are used for both alcoholic and malolactic, with temperature control of course, to create fresh and elegant wines.

While talking about the process, I was having a question what kind of yeasts are used for #fermentation here... then we were going upstairs, we accidentally met Paolo Rovellotti, one of two bothers who runs the winery, very elegant and kind gentleman...

..so certainly I used this lucky chance to ask my question about yeasts directly to Paolo. As explained by him, the #yeasts used at Rovellotti are only natural strains, not cultivated ones. Once a fermentation starts, natural yeasts immediately jump into their job, they work quite fast and reliable, and Paolo believes they help to craft more natural and fine wines.

The fermentation tanks are located in the rooms where you can find reconstructed ceilings with original old wooden beams...

...original old walls made of river pebbles...

...and modern constructed arch-shaped ceilings made from the bricks.

Imagine that you can't find one big room to put all your stainless steel fermentation tanks in it, or to place all your casks & barrels for ageing, or to put your bottling machine and other operational things of the #winery. Thus you just use many different small available spaces, which are split from each other and located in the different houses of the castle. Therefore winery visit here looks like a quest, where you will be browsing in & out to many different gates, doors, staircases, houses, rooms, etc. I simply loved it, and thanks to Alessandro, who was perfectly guiding me through this historical labirinth.

Moving to the cellar rooms (split and located in two different houses), we find big casks made of Swiss oak...

...and tonneaux (500l oak barrels)...

...where for instance a part of #Nebbiolo for Ghemme DOCG wine is ageing, currently it is vintage 2017, which will be put on the market in 2021 (if I calculated it right).

The oldest part of the cellar.

Family's wine archive, where all known vintages of Rovellotti's wines are being carefully kept and tracked.

A couple of super old bottles are just peacefully laying on the floor.

The labels on these bottles have a picture of castle's original lancet window decorated with vines & grape clusters...

...once moving upstairs, going to bottling and labeling area, on our way I was able to see exactly same window just in reality... This is how design and original inspiring object work together.

The bottling line, as explained by Alessandro, is a #Ferrari supercar in the world of wine bottling machines. Well, I definitely trust, it looks impressive.

Bottle ageing, for example for Ghemme DOCG it is min 9 month by law.

The last space we've visited was, of course, tasting room. It's built in the partially underground floor, so it naturally keeps cool temperature even if outside was +30C in that moment.

An ancient massive press works now as decorative element, but imagine that years ago people were really using it for winemaking, unbelievable how such things could work and what kind of #wine they were able to craft those times.

Some examples of special editions from Rovellotti for corporative world and events. And yes, they produce grappa as well.

Metodo Classico, the real old thing in A-shaped pupitre...

...this is how it was produced in the winery at the past times: hand-made riddling, ageing on lees in the pupitre. Now Rovellotti's sparking wines are being outsourced for ageing and riddling in the giropalletes, thanks to the modern technologies as automatic pallets made winemakers' life much easier now.

Actually even before tasting I was already in love with the labels, as I do love Miro so these labels caught up my attention from the very beginning. I was not able to do not ask about the story of the design, curiosity rules the world.

Unfortunately I didn't write down the name of the artist, but the story said: it was a friend of the family, who was kind of a "flying artist", he was doing what he want, living where he likes and just enjoying his life. He was living some time in Ghemme at family's house as a guest, and he loved their #wines (of course!), so he painted some designs, which family loved and started to used on the labels. Interestingly that every painting really expresses a character of particular wine it's dedicated to. For instance, white mineral and saline Erbaluce has a fish-like greenish picture, red Vespolina with very strong red fruit and spicy character has a picture of mixed chaotic shapes an colors, Ghemme wine, the most complex and structured one, has the most complicated design. Loved them all. Pity that the artist died some time ago in car accident in Sicily. Nowadays Rovellotti family uses his paintings in his memory.

One more interesting story about the white wine. Actually it's made of Erbaluce grape indigenous to Piemonte, the grape has a long history in the region with the first written record dating to 1606, and most likely originated in the alpine hills of northern Piemonte. Consequently, many many many years local people produced white wine and always called it "Erbaluce". Isn't it logical?

As you can see now this wine is called "Vitigno Innominabile" which means in Italian "Unmentioned grape". This is kind of a very intelligent protest, which was started by Rovellotti brothers after a law issued by local Consorzio some years ago. The law said that only one area in Piemonte, teeny tiny village Caluso, can use Erbaluce name for their DOCG wines made of Erbaluce #grape, so they call their wines "Erbaluce di Caluso DOCG" because they applied to Consorzio "to be the one & only" and won that weird battle. These days no one else DOC & DOCG around can put Erbaluce grape's name on the label. God, the bureaucracy is so much stupid sometimes. Apparently with this "Vitigno Innominabile" wine's name Rovellotti family encourage other local winemakers, who also produce white wine from Erbaluce and just have no right to mention the real name of the grape, to put this "Unmentioned grape" on their labels. J'adore!

Il Criccione Vitigno Innominabile Colline Novaresi DOC

Grapes: Erbaluce 100% (Unmentioned grapes)

Vintage: 2018

Alcohol: 13.5%

Vinification: alocholic fermentation in stainless steel without maceration on skins, low temperature

Ageing: 4-6 months in stainless steel

Nose: green grass, saline, green apple, nectarine

Palate: dry, light elegant body, green fruits and citrus

Ronco al Maso Colline Novaresi Vespolina DOC

Grapes: Vespolina 100%

Vintage: 2018

Alcohol: 14%

Vinification: fermentation in stainless steel, malolactic in stainless steel

Ageing: min 4-6 months in bottle

Nose: cranberry, red sour cherry, black pepper

Palate: rebelling, grippy tannins, medium body, full of red fruits and spicy

Valplazza Colline Novaresi Nebbiolo DOC

Grapes: Nebbiolo 100%

Vintage: 2016

Alcohol: 14%

Vinification: fermentation in stainless steel, malolactic in stainless steel, low temperature

Ageing: min 6 months in bottle

Nose: earthy, raspberry, dried roses

Palate: dry, young tannins, earthy hints

Chioso dei Pomi Ghemme DOCG

Grapes: Nebbiolo 85%, Vespolina 15%

Vintage: 2013

Alcohol: 13.5%

Vinification: fermentation in stainless steel, malolactic in stainless steel

Ageing: 36 months in medium sized oak barrels, min 9 months in bottle

Nose: violet, raspberry, mushrooms

Palate: elegant, persistent, dry

Valdenrico Passito

Grapes: Erbaluce 100% (Unmentioned grapes)

Vintage: 2016

Alcohol: 14.5%

Vinification: grapes harvested in Sept and being slow dried till Feb-March, fermentation wooden casks

Ageing: 12 months in small wooden barrels, 12 months in bottle

Nose: raisin, hazelnuts, apricot, candied lemon

Palate: gently sweet, round full body, well structured

A lot of thanks to Alessandro Rovellotti for making this visit so interesting, will be looking forward to come back.

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