• Winery’s eno-turism projects: from the artistic activities to the picnic in the vineyard

    Here’s great news for wine lovers and anyone interested in the world of wine. Offers of food and wine served outdoors are on the rise in response to the demand for activities that put people in touch with nature and offer a chance to get out of the city for a day.

    Food and wine tourism focuses on getting to know wine-producing areas and local cellars. Winemakers in these areas offer various activities, in addition to wine tasting which make an indispensable contribution of economic development throughout Italy.

    For both experts and neophytes alike, visiting a cellar, getting to know the producer and his philosophy, learning about vineyard and vinification techniques and understanding the effort and enthusiasm behind each bottle of wine are all fantastic opportunities.

    This is not a marketing strategy, it is communicating essential information to the client–useful knowledge to help in choosing products that reflect his or her taste as well as ideas about responsible, sustainable production.

    We can no longer make excuses–we now know that we are what we eat and drink.

    What can Piedmont contribute to satisfy this thirst for knowledge?

    Here are some activities we recommend you try:

    • Guided visits to wine estates, with tastings accompanied by local products.
    • Spa and beauty packages using products derived from grapes, with their anti-oxidising and anti-inflammatory properties;
    • Visits to local vineyards, as well as exploring and trekking in them to enjoy nature and the area’s magnificent panorama;
    • Cellar and vineyard lunches that pair traditional local cuisine with typical wines of the area;
    • Scooter tours with stops in various cellars and wine shops;
    • Harvests open to tourists, so that they can participate in this unique experience firsthand;
    • Bicycle and electric bicycle tours for exercise that respect the surrounding region;
    • Truffle hunts with a truffle hunter and his dog, to discover all the tricks of the trade and observe a trained dog in action;
    • Artistic and cultural activities such as installations and design-oriented cellars, many of them built with environmental considerations in mind.
    • Yoga in the vineyard, to relax and exercise in the midst of breathtaking scenery;
    • Vineyard picnics.

     

     

    For this last activity the first picnic booking site, Picnic Chic, has been established.

    This platform helps picnickers to find restaurants, gastronomy shops and cellars that offer special experiences, such as picnic baskets with local products ready for tasting outside.

    A simple solution to the job of organising a day out.

    These experiences combine the discovery of new places, both close to home or further afield, with support for small Italian businesses that now more than ever are in need.

    It’s also the rediscovery of small villages and the beauty of Italy envied the world over.

     

  • The legend of “Masche”, or Piedmontese witches – tempestuous women like me

    I remember being little on cold winter afternoons with my grandmother recounting stories of the Piedmontese witches or

    “Masche”

    (pronounced mas-keh).

    I was half-afraid and half-charmed by these stories that had women as heroines with magical powers. My grandmother told me about these women who lived alone, and had black cats and nocturnal animals accompanying them out at dusk to mutter curses and spells.

    These women and their rites could influence the harvest of crops and grapes and even the health of people in the village.

    They were blamed for drought, sick farm animals or unfortunate accidents in the fields. They could make things disappear and reappear in strange locations; how often did I hear “aj sun le masche!!”, or ‘it must have been the witches’! whenever my granny couldn’t find her glasses. And I laughed, ‘but Granny, they’re on top of your head!’I don’t want to recount the stories people told here, but rather how I looked at it, growing up. As I said before, most of the women who were considered ‘Masche’, were solitary women who had had a misadventure in life, or simply preferred to live as they pleased, without giving importance to what people around them thought.

    These women, who frightened “normal” people, I would consider anticonformist, free and courageous.

    Independence and choices that go against the grain often scare people who are afraid of the unfamiliar. All the more so if the anti-conformist was a woman. Irrepressible women who made bold choices, choosing to ignore the dictates of fathers, husbands or whomever else to keep them happy.

    And instead, who followed their own desires even at the price of being viewed as a malevolent witch. I’m inclined to think that the legend of the witches came about because of limited knowledge in the areas of medicine, veterinary medicine and agronomy. Without a rational explanation of events, someone to blame was needed to explain the ‘why’ of each misfortune. The easiest and most efficient solution was to find a scapegoat, so much the better if it was a solitary woman with an unusual, if not wholly outlandish lifestyle.

    Women have always had to work twice as hard to obtain freedoms that we take for granted today: choosing which clothes to wear, who to marry or if to marry at all, which job to do–in short to make choices regarding their own lives. Perhaps it is in some way thanks to these ‘Masche’ that we can now live our lives as we wish, and make alternative choices that in the time of the witches would have been looked at askance.

    So hurray for the women with superpowers like courage, tenacity and a revolutionary spirit, ready to challenge any prejudice or superstition!

    sara-vezza-winemaker

     

     

     

     

  • The vineyards “ciabot” UNESCO World Heritage of Langhe, Monferrato and Roero

    Here in Piedmont, we agricultural and winegrowing families have a unique word that immediately conveys a very precise meaning, a word that doesn’t exist in the rest of the world. It might not mean much outside our regional boundaries, but inside my head it conjures up the sound of the voices of my grandparents and parents.

     

    The ciabot.

    ciabot-aereo-langa

     

    That’s what we say here in the Langhe. In the Monferrato area they say casot, but it’s just a different name for the same thing.

    For those who don’t speak Piedmontese dialect, a ciabot or casot is a tiny little house set in the middle of the vineyards, almost as though to protect them or to watch over the grapes. In actual fact, the ciabot has always fulfilled a much less poetic purpose than it might seem from the outside: it was merely a glorified tool shed, used to store the equipment used in the vineyard, inhabited by spiders, insects, the occasional field mouse and all kinds of birds.

     

    The ciabot was created to meet the daily needs of those who worked in the fields every day and needed to take their tools with them every day, or as a place to take shelter from a sudden summer storm while they were working in the vineyards.

    ciabot-langa

    The natural solution was a little brick building that could also be used to store drinking water and food, as well as providing shelter for people.

     

    Some of my childhood memories are of hot spring or summer days, running around barefoot and carefree among the vines, and then sitting down at the table of the ciabot to eat bread and jam, bread and sugar, or fruit. Those tables were also used at the end of the days during the grape harvest, when everyone would have dinner together in the vineyard, tired and dirty, but happy about the grapes that had been harvested to give birth to a new wine.

     

    You can find ciabots everywhere in the Langhe, Roero and Monferrato.

     

    Every vineyard has its own brick guardian which, if only it could speak, would have an endless stream of stories of generations of family to tell. Happy stories and sad ones, stories of arrivals and departures, of good harvests and bad ones, of drought, of years of hardship but also years that were sunny and serene, of children’s voices and the memories of the elderly.

     

    And the ciabot has become UNESCO World Heritage.

    ciabot-inverno

     

    Something that we’ve always had right under our noses has become a treasure, precious not only to us but to everyone. Things of simple beauty that tell the tale of a time when man’s pace matched that of nature, the two entwining in a strong and crazy love story.

     

    Ciabots are so important to the people of Piedmont that a project called “Banca del Fare” (The Bank of Doing) has been created by the non-profit organisation Parco Culturale Alta Langa, to teach people the theory and practical techniques for the conservation of Piedmont’s heritage of stone buildings. A manual and tangible project to reconstruct the ciabots and restore the social dimension that characterised them in the past.

    casot-neve

    That’s just the way we Piedmontese are: we keep our heads down and work hard, concentrating on the fruits of our land, while building or work with invaluable treasures, like our ciabots, tiny houses full of life and the energy of the vineyards.

     

    If you have the chance to pop in to see me, I’ll take you for a walk in the vineyards to learn about the ciabots of the Langa!

    Ph credits: Franco Bello Fotografie

  • Murazzano and Alta Langa: among woods, vineyards and legends

    Luigi Veronelli used to say “you have to walk the earth”. Walk to learn, to live in perpetual movement and for the joy of progressing step by step.

    So that’s exactly what we did a few weeks ago, with my kids Clara, 8, and Giovanni, 7, in the village of Murazzano: 749 metres above sea level, woods, animals and an impressive medieval tower which rises 33 metres above the houses. The village is known as the “shield and key of Piedmont” due to its strategic position, and is part of the Strada Romantica of the Langhe and Roero.

    murazzano-sara-vezza_winemakermurazzano

     

    Have you ever been to Alta Langa?

    I’m in love with it. I love that wild feeling that the part of the Langhe where Barolo grows has lost. If I close my eyes, I feel as though I’m breathing in the sea air. This is where my I’m going to plant my new Chardonnay and Pinot Noir vineyards, to make my Alta Langa docg.

    sara-vezza-winemakermurazzano-terra-bianca

     

    Together with Clara and Giovanni, we walked and learned about the history of Murazzano, as though it were a fairy tale.

    The village was once devoted almost exclusively to goat herding and is home to a much-loved DOP cheese named Murazzano after the village. Half way between a robiola and a toma, it’s made in small quantities using Langhe goat’s milk. It is also a Slow food presidio.

    murazzano-formaggio

     

    There is a legend about this cheese and I told it to the children, who like stories that are a little bit scary.

    A young boy from Murazzano, called Giovannino, had been given the job of watching over some Murazzano cheeses but he became distracted and a big black crow swooped down and stole  some of them. Frightened that his mother would be angry with him, Giovannino followed the crow as fare as Ceva, known as a meeting place for witches and devils.  Giovannino was tired and hungry, so he decided to rest in a hut. When he entered the hut, he found a surprise: a table laden with all kinds of delicious things to eat. So the boy ate! All of a sudden the devil appeared and accused him of stealing his lunch. He ordered Giovannino to follow him to hell. The crafty young boy asked the devil to grant him a last wish: to drink some cool water from the well. Upon reaching the well, the devil leaned over it to see whether there was any water and Giovannino pushed him in. He promised to help the devil out but only if he returned the stolen Murazzano cheeses. The crow was actually the devil. And this goes to show how valuable this cheese was, so valuable that even the devil loved it (source: DOC cheeses of Italy, pp. 71-72).

    murazzano-terramurazzano-sara-vezza

     

    Murazzano is a village known for its food and wine too.

    Cafe Gianduja does excellent aperitifs (tel. +39  0173 798013): they have a list of very important and well-selected wines, including some very rare native grapes. If you want to have lunch or dinner in Murazzano, I can highly recommend Trattoria da Lele (tel. +39 0173 798016), a welcoming restaurant with a family atmosphere and a strictly Piedmontese menu. A great place to eat!

    murazzano-sentierimurazzano-pietra

     

    I’m going to close with some words from Veronelli: “Those who walk the earth know that the important thing is not to arrive, but to progress, step by step. Walking the earth is about expressing our lives in constant movement. Sometimes you have to stop to rest or think and to rejoice or cry, and then start walking again. Stop also to remember and relive the road you have travelled”.

     

  • «Weeping of the vine»: the emotion of seeing a vine «weep»

    Have you ever seen a vine “weep”? It really does happen. If you find yourself driving past a vineyard in March, stop the car and get out.

    Walk up to a vine that’s been pruned and observe it carefully: every 30 seconds, a little teardrop forms on the incision where the vine has been pruned, and drops. This extraordinary phenomenon is something not everyone is aware of. We call it «weeping of the vine». Not tears of sadness, but a proclamation of life.

    pianto-vite

    Let’s see what happens.

    The plant reawakens from its winter sleep and recommences its lifecycle.  The “tears” are little droplets of sap, rising up the stalk of the vine and seeping out. This happens when the roots start working again, when the sap begins to rise up through the wood. It’s as though the vine is taking a deep breath before the birth of the new buds.

    pianto-vite

    But what happens to the vine to make it weep?

    The vine is explained clearly on the website www.agraria.org: “The budding phase is preceded by a typical phenomenon of the vine called “weeping”, which is actually the release of fluid from the xylem vessels where they have been pruned. This is due, on one hand, to the reactivation of the sugar metabolism – the transformation of starch into simple sugars – and the consequent reactivation of cellular respiration, and, on the other, the high level of absorption that characterises the roots, which peaks during this phase”.

    But what are the “tears” made of?

    This varies from one grape variety to another, but as a general rule they are a combination of mineral elements, organic compounds, sugars and acids.

    pianto-vite

    How do we know when a vine is “weeping”?

    Good question! It’s impossible to know for certain but, according to some agronomical studies, it always happens just after the middle of March. Fortunately, it lasts a few days. Don’t miss it this year: it’s an emotional experience! This is another aspect of life as a winegrower!

     

  • #roséallyear: happy rosé everyone!

    I’m busy bottling the 2018 vintage of our Langhe doc Rosato, a young, fresh and cheerful wine, made from Nebbiolo grapes.

    It could be because it’ll be St. Valentine’s Day soon, or perhaps it’s that spring is just around the corner. Whatever the reason, I find myself wanting to talk about rosé, or perhaps I should use the Italian word, rosato.

    The first thing I want to do is dispel a few clichés.

    Rosato is NOT:

    a summer wine

    a wine for women

    a wine for amateur palates

    a wine that cannot be aged

    We’re with the Huffington Post, which has launched the hashtag #roséallyear! While rosé was once considered a wine for drinking in summer, we now drink it all year round and from the start to the finish of a meal.

    The other myth to be dispelled is that it’s a wine for women: a survey by Nomisma Wine Monitor tells us that 73% of women and 67% of men buy rosé wines.

    I’ve taken a look at some of the figures: in recent years, consumption has risen particularly among the millennials. As much as one bottle of wine in every 10 consumed in the world is rosé and four in 10 bottles are consumed outside the country where they are made.

    Global production is around 24 million hectolitres, accounting for about 10% of the wines consumed throughout the world (data source: France Agrimere). And according to the study, international consumption of rosé wines is growing 1-2% annually.

    The French continue to be the leading producers, also leading the rankings for consumption, import and export. Italy is the world’s second exporter in terms of volume, with 16%. And demand is rising, particularly for rosé wines made with native grapes.

    I love it with fresh cheeses, fish and shellfish, but in her blog, Donatella Cinelli Colombini says it’s fantastic with pizza too.

    Happy rosé everyone!

     

  • The challenge of a 100% Nebbiolo sparkling wine from the Langhe

    Sometimes the best things come about by sheer chance. And this is exactly what happened with my sparkling wine, a native-grape bubbly, made with 100% Nebbiolo and vinified according to the Classic Method. It was September 2009. My dad walked into the cellar and said: “I want to try making a sparkling wine with Nebbiolo”. I didn’t pay all that much attention to what he was saying; I just let him get on with it. I thought he was just playing around. Anyway, we experimented the first vinification with the 2009 vintage. The second experiment took place in 2013, bringing forward the grape harvest to August. I gradually began to understand that Nebbiolo isn’t just perfect for the production of great reds like Barolo, it’s ideal for making sparkling wine too.

    The response from our customers confirmed that we were heading in the right direction and gave us the strength to pursue our project. Today we make around five thousand bottles of our sparkling wine “made in Langhe”. We are thinking about increasing the vineyard surface area dedicated to the production of our Nebbiolo d’Alba doc Metodo Classico.

    And we aren’t alone in believing in the production of a local bubbly. Along with other winemakers from Piedmont and Valle d’Aosta, in 2017 we set up a group called Nebbiolo Noblesse, united by a common aim: the production and promotion of Spumante Metodo Classico 100% Nebbiolo. Every year, we organise events, evenings and tastings.

    Together we are carrying on a story which dates back at least two centuries. Although we still have a great deal of studying to do, we know that Nebbiolo was used to make a sparkling wine way back at the beginning of the 19th century. The first document is dated 1787 and is a report on the visit by US President Thomas Jefferson to Turin, during which “staying at the Hotel Angleterre, he drank red wine made with Nebbiolo, finding it as sparkling as Champagne”. A letter addressed to one Giovanni Antonio Giobert mentions Nebbiolo used for sparkling wines and, in 1839, Prof. Euclide Milano made a list of sparkling Piedmontese wines that included nebiù d’Asti spumante.

    Lorenzo Tablino talks about the history of sparkling wines made with the Nebbiolo grape in his blog.

    Spumanti classici a base Nebbiolo: storia

    Around 250 thousand bottles of bubbly are currently made every year made from Nebbiolo.

     

  • The dancing art of PurpleRyta and my reflections on the five senses

    In the beginning everything was chaotic and in turmoil; this is what we’re told in the stories of the beginning of the world, so how could it possibly be different for any other new beginning? Today, after a day spent working in the vineyards and the cellar, and looking after my children, I took an hour to reflect a little.

    The turmoil of sounds gives birth to a melody, the turmoil of words gives birth to a thought which can be refined and become a story, a poem or a song. And in the very same way, a wine stain can be used to generate a painting, a multisensory work of art.

    The art of PurpleRyta with the wine 

    And this is how the works of Rita Barbero, aka PurpleRyta, are born, from wine that is poured onto paper and becomes a stain, giving life to the creative process. The wine dances across the sheet and creates images and inspiration which she then moulds into art.

    Rita Barbero’s “wine paintings” are quite literally multisensory works of art. They involve all the senses of those who stand and admire them: sight, smell, taste but also touch (think of the astringency of tannins, which is textured), and sound – everyone is familiar with the sound made by bubbles when they fizz up inside a wine glass and make the atmosphere in a room sparkling and fun.

    The works of PurpleRyta are both entertaining and sensual, dancing on paper and just begging to be admired and discovered with all the senses. They are paintings that talk about the vine, grapes and wine as feminine art elements.

    Rita Barbero guest at our winery on Saturday the 15th of December

    Rita Barbero will be a guest at our winery on Saturday the 15th of December, and will be bringing her art and her “women with messy hair”, for an event where everyone will have the chance to paint with wine.

    An afternoon devoted entirely to the nectar of the gods and to art, in which each participant can discover how the senses interact with wine, along with the brain and the body. 

    Painting with wine and tasting: Barbera and Nebbiolo, two very different grape varieties and wines: let’s explore them with all five senses”, this is the event I’m organising at the winery, dedicated to those who want to play and have fun with their senses and with wine.

    Appointment at 2:30 p.m. at the winery in Località Castelletto 39, Monforte d’Alba; the cost of admission is €15.00 per participant.

    sara-vezza-firma

     

  • 5 reasons to visit my cellar (even when it’s cold)

    Here I am at the end of a long day, as rich as ever of so much work in the management of my farm and beyond.

    I often tell friends about my days and their question is always the same: “Sara, how are you doing everything?Yes, good question! Sometimes I ask myself how I do it. I talked about it some time ago in my blog: my company, 4 children and a husband represent in reality my energy to face with joy and serenity all my daily challenges

    Precisely with the arrival of the cold season, when the long summer, which culminates with the September harvest, is now behind me I like to rethink all the work of the last months and the many people who visited my cellar during the beautiful season.

    Each tasting is a unique moment

    Every person, every tasting is a special moment. I welcome winelovers (… and not only) from all over Italy and the world in a moment of meeting that goes well beyond the simple wine tasting. They are moments of exchange in which my desire is to build a community. A group of people that increases year after year, which is a first time and then a second until, almost without realizing it, a friendship is established and the tasting becomes a fixed appointment year after year to rekindle and tell a lot of things with a good glass of wine.

    I thought then to share here with you 5 reasons why visit my cellar, (even when you are in full autumn or winter) that for me are really very important:

    1. Drink wine, an excellent wine. It seems obvious but it is not. A visit to the cellar must have as a central moment the wine tasting! If this is not good, you risk losing much of the magic of the moment. The wine I produce is the result of the work and passion of all those who work in my company. Thanks to this commitment we have received many international awards that give us the incentive to improve and always offer a better product.
    2. Know the history of my company. Starting from my grandfather Ernesto Saffirio up to me, we have been cultivating the vineyard for more than two centuries and telling this territory through our wines. I love to describe this story as a marvelous adventure in the land of the Langhe, made of passion and love. A story that excites me every time I tell it to those who want to listen.
    3. Enjoy a unique territory. My company is in Monforte d’Alba, we are in the Langhe, a UNESCO heritage. I am proudly part of this territory and if you come to find me you will discover not only unique wines but, also, postcard landscapes. During the last summer I proposed some itineraries in the area that can also be done in autumn or winter. Every season in the Langhe has its own peculiarities that deserve to be seen. Discover my itineraries:
    4. Discovering my eco-sustainable winery. A very important project that I realized is the modernization of my cellar, a structure designed to integrate into the rural landscape and reduce the environmental impact. The entire building has been designed to optimize work and resources. A winery in harmony with its territory that blends with my idea of sustainable viticulture
    5. Participate in my projects. I have always understood my activity as a wine producer as something that goes well beyond the vineyard. It means for me to take care of my territory. I do this by always investing in new projects. One of the initiatives I am particularly proud of is Adpot a row, I talked about it in my blog in October. By joining this project you will become part of my community of adopters, who take care of a precious row and you will contribute to participate in the preservation of a unique environment, protecting the traditions and practices necessary for the birth of a true Barolo DOCG.

    If you wish to book a tasting session in my cellar, click here and you can experience the 5 points that I have just told you in person! If I think back to what I just wrote now I can explain how I can do everything. The passion for everything I do allows me to face with a smile the myriad commitments of my mother’s day, businesswoman and wife and a part of the merit is yours! With your visits to the winery, at meeting times with my adopters, I understand that everything I’m doing makes sense.

    Looking forward to seeing you soon!

  • Adopt a row: at the origins of Barolo

    We are in the Langhe, a land where vineyards stretch out on the hills and where the scent of grapes blends together that of the ground. A land that gives you really exciting glimpses!

    So, it seems quite natural that one the most precious wines, famous all over the world, has its origins in this unique land: I’m talking about Barolo DOCG wine, the symbol of our country.

    This wine comes from a long production process that starts in the vineyard, goes through the harvesting, the ageing and, finally, finishes with the bottling.

    Are you aware of all the work that lies behind every Barolo bottle?

    Imagine doing this experience directly: Now you’re coming with me in our vineyard and you’re going to take part in a unique experience, passed down from generation to generation. An experience made of dexterity, passion and patience.

    Imagine tasting Nebbiolo grapes straight from the vines, while you learn the culture of wine and discover everything about the wine making, from the vineyard to the cellar.

    Imagine yourself tasting a real, high quality Barolo DOCG. And you are the one who helped make that same Barolo, following step by step all its life, all the works in the vineyard till the harvesting, such an important moment!

    What you are imagining it’s already reality: It’s the “Adopt a row” project.

    Why I have so strongly wanted the “Adopt a row” project become a reality

    I strongly wanted the “Adopt a row in the Langhe” project because it’s a very good way to make you – and all the other wine lovers like you – more aware of the work that lies behind a bottle of Barolo. By joining this project you’ll become for real a protagonist of what happens in the backstage of my winery: You’ll be with me in every step, throughout the works in the vineyard and the harvesting, and we’ll wait together during the ageing, till the bottling.

    And… You’ll experience the real final product of your row: you’ll receive a case of wine, your wine! In fact, if you become an adopter of a row, this row will be dedicated to you and it will have your own name. Then, I’ll write you an email with monthly updates on what is going on in your row.

    “Wherever you live, adopt a row in the Langhe and experience directly the farming, the growing up and the making of an excellent wine, such as Barolo DOCG.”

    Sara Vezza

    Adopt a row is safeguarding this land

    Adopting a Josetta Saffirio’s row is not only about giving yourself some good bottles of wine. No, it’s much more. For me, it’s a challenge and I have gladly taken it up: it’s about becoming part of a more wide project of safeguarding of this unique land, in which we take care of our traditions and of the skillful work necessary for the creation of an excellent Barolo DOCG. When you’ll join this project, you’ll become a member of the adopters community, too. A community of people that take care of a precious row like you do.

    I have always promoted actions that have a positive effect on this region and I think the “Adopt a row” project is one of them: it involves people that love wine, it brings them beyond the tasting wine moment, it creates a real community of people who have the same values of respect and take care of the land, values that are mine, too.

    I think I’ve already won this challenge: It’s only 2 years since “Adopt a row” has started and more than 50 people all over the world have joined it, and are closed to me every month of the year during my work.

    Adopt a row: how to join the project

    If you want to join the project and live this exciting experience, you can click here or you can write an email to info@josettasaffirio.com: I’m pleased to give you more informations!

    What does the “Contract of adoption” include?

    • Your name and surname will be written on the row adopted by you and on the “Adoption certificate”.
    • 6 bottles of Barolo DOCG wine made from your adopted row and 6 bottles of other wines produced in my winery.
    • You can visit our cellar whenever you want (advance notice required) and I’ll be pleased to offer you a free tasting of our best wines, combined with a selection of local products.
    • There’s a 10% discount on the purchase of our wine bottles, reserved for you when you’ll visit my winery.
    • You‘ll receive in your email box regular updates on the different stages of your wine production.
    • Special events only for the adopters like you. And much more!

    I wait for you to become part of my adopters community: you’ll live a wonderful adventure and we’ll be the main actors of it, tight by our passion and our love for this wine, the Barolo, symbol of the Langhe.