‘Lady’ Barbera, Gianluca Morino from Cascina Garitina (in Castel Boglione, Asti, Piedmont) is telling us about, is an important character. She’s born from the same land she feeds. She is the great mother that has been feeding the rural population of the Monferrato hills for a long time. So she is necessary. Yet, Lady Barbera is also modern, she is pleased to relate to her younger ‘relatives’ across the pond in California. If she could, she would go and find them.
Villalta is a Barbera d’Asti DOCG (denominazione di origine controllata e garantita, it means label guaranteeing the quality and origin of a wine, Ed.) and has been made with 100% Barbera grapes for almost fifty years. The vineyards grow on south-west facing mixed lime soil (perfect for water retention) at 200 mt ASL. Up there the climate is still mainly Mediterranean with a continental influx during the winter. The springtime to autumn presence of the south ‘Marin’ wind accentuates the day-night thermal excursion.
The Villalta’s fermentation starts thanks to the activation of yeasts already living on the grapes skin. In order to achieve that, a few quintals of grapes (starter mass) are previously harvested and added to the main quantity of newly pressed grapes only a few days later. The subsequent fermentation and malolactic happen in steel on the lees until the wine is ready to be bottled. There is no filtering and the ageing lasts at least three months. Villalta perfectly matches meat-based dishes and medium to mature cheese. Villalta ages well and can be consumed after ten years. Let’s try it, pardon, let’s meet her…
What Gianluca is communicating here is a great devotion to his land and dedication to his firm. This kind of consistent commitment is what lay behind his care for the vineyard and attention to the cellar.
Cascina Garitina is in Piedmont, in Castel Boglione (Asti). It’s a family run farming firm led today by Gianluca Morino. It was founded in 1900 and its name comes from ‘Margheritina’, Gianluca’s great-grandmother Margherita’s nickname.
The vineyards grow right in the middle of Monferrato in an area of 26 hectares split between barbera, brachetto, dolcetto, pinot noir, merlot and cabernet sauvignon. But the firm’s aim is to add value to barbera as that’s the grape growing in the main and better exposed land. That is especially true for the oldest vineyards (from 1939, 1951 and 1969), dedicated to the production of Nizza, a Barbera made following a specific and very restrictive procedure and grown exclusively in a confined territory (belonging to 18 towns). Those hills surrounding the Nizza Monferrato are those where the origins of barbera can be found.