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Piedmontese on the map but Valdostano in all intentions: Carema, the first Canavese town to the north and 63 km (39 mi) from Turin, presented a referendum in 2007 asking for annexation from the Valley d'Aosta. Annexation denied, the great majority of Carema inhabitants returned, in a disappointed but good-natured peace, to their lives in their small, ancient town.

To be a land of borders seems to be written in their DNA; "Carema" derives from Caremam, "customs." The village's atmosphere hearkens back to a time long ago, and its roots of tradition grow strong. The oldest section of Carema, its heart, seems to be formed naturally out of the granite rock. Opposite of the town along the main road stretches the most recent, inhabited zone. With little more than 750 inhabitants, many of whom are greatly affectionate towards the old town, Carema is a winding labyrinth of small alleyways.

Park your car at the beginning of the village and climb up on foot in the narrow streets to the center. Look at the form of the town, its flagstone roofs, the belltower of the church of Saint Martino that rises up 60 m (196 ft), and the many chapels. You will also see architectural elements from another epoch: stone walls, houses built one right next to the other in medieval style, wooden balconies, and inscriptions on granite fountains.

The biggest surprise is the miniature lots of cultivated earth between houses. The viticulturalists of Carema talk of their vineyards with fierce pride, their rows of vines clinging to the mountain side and trailing between buildings. "The vineyards are the gardens of our houses," they say. In Carema, the vineyards are small plots of land interspersed like small gardens would be: there where the sun beats down, or here in the hollow sheltered by the Maletto Alps, the Caremesi have constructed solid terraces.

Old Giovanni Vairetto, the oldest inhabitant of over 80 years, remembers which Nebbiolo grapes have come from which producer in the local cantina. The industrious worker has involved the town's inhabitants one generation after another in production.

The pylon are constructed on the terraces, conical columns in stone and limestone, topped with a stone disc. The trellises are traditional pergola style in chestnut (tòpion in local dialect), overtop which the vines wind around and grow. The harvest is clearly possible only by hand.

If you're lucky, you may pass by a cròta with an open door as someone is opening a bottle of wine to drink among friends. 

The mild microclimate is characterized by good exposure to the sun which heats the pylons during the day and allows them to release it during the cool night. This favours a unique red wine with intense and persistent flavor. DOC since 1967, the Carema is 100% Nebbiolo grape.

The bounty of good food and Carema wine also enters the restaurant of Fabrizio Vairetto, owner and chef of Ramo Verde for 22 years. Don't be fooled by the dull exterior: this trattoria is a sure success inside. With no written menu, Chef Fabrizio uses only seasonal ingredients and serves in an inviting atmosphere. We suggest the veal cheek al Carema, the roast with mushrooms, or the popular carne cruda, steak tartare. The sweet and creamy zabaione is delicious for dessert. In the springtime, taste the soup di ajucche, cooked according to a traditional recipe and prepared with a chunk of white break, a bunch of ajucche (a leafy green), and a slab of fontina cheese, softened with broth and cooked in the oven.

Of the 30 hectares (73 acres) of cultivated surface in Carema, 17 hectares (42 acres) divided amongst 50 owners represent the production of the Cantina of Nebbiolo producers that was founded in the 1960s. The cooperative today makes 6 labels and produces 45 thousand bottles a year. The older inhabitants say regretfully that the new generation doesn't want to follow in their fathers' footsteps. The viticulture in its pergola style, proud of its Caremesi roots, is in need of new momentum.

    Last modified onTuesday, 26 February 2013 13:28
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