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A Cellar Full of Bubbles

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Old cellars covering 5000 square meters, long illuminated corridors, and lots of bottles with fermenting wine. 

Contratto vineyard in Canelli
Contratto vineyard in Canelli

While I was visiting the ancient basements of Contratto, a party took over the place above. The huge elegant courtyard of this oldest Italian producer of millesimato metodo classico, hosted a significant number of guests. This time I will not write about the reception (although I had so much fun and I don’t remember when was the last time I danced so much…), this article is about an unusual winery that can boast almost 150 years of tradition.

Contratto metodo classicoContratto metodo classico

Party in the Contratto courtyard in Canelli
Party in the Contratto courtyard in Canelli

Contratto is situated in Canelli, a Piemontese center of champagne-style sparkling wines. It’s quite difficult to believe that this small town, with less than 11,000 residents, hosts two famous vineyards. In 1866, brothers Carlo and Edoardo Gancia transferred their wine company from Chivasso near Turin to Canelli, and one year later Giuseppe Contratto moved from Ivrea with an idea to make Italian spumante metodo classico.

A small cellar of Contratto with old vintages
A small cellar of Contratto with old vintages

The biggest treasure of Contratto, despite the drink of the Gods, are its historic cellars. Walking into the underground, I had an impression of entering into a different world both mysterious and exiting. At the beginning of my journey, I was confronted by semidarkness; while my eyes adjusted to the dim lighting, I saw a narrow alley with an impressive number of bottles filled with maturating wine. Only after a few steps, I reached a larger room followed by long corridors and cozy corners with symmetrically arranged characteristic stands (pupitre) with fermenting bollicine.

One of the rooms with pupitre
One of the rooms with pupitre

An incredible number of bottles!
An incredible number of bottles!

The cellars were built in 1872 with the labour of 200 people. It took 3 years to complete the construction that digs into the heart of the hill protecting Canelli. The excavation  goes down 32 meters, providing a constant temperature of 13° Celsius and perfect humidity for fermentation in the bottle.

Picturesque cellars of Contratto
Picturesque cellars of Contratto

The Contratto winery is famous for a long and prestigious tradition: the bollicine of Canelli once satisfied the palates of the Italian Royal Family and the Vatican. "For England,” a sparkling wine much drier than French Champagne, was exported to the British Empire and its colonies since 1920.

Bollicine tastes the best when served cold
Bollicine tastes the best when served cold

In 1993, Contratto was sold to a local grappa producer, Carlo Bocchino; and in 2011 La Spinetta took over the winery. Today, we can find both a rich collection of excellent sparkling wines (like CONTRATTO Blanc de Blancs Brut produced with Chardonnay or CONTRATTO Millesimato Extra Brut made with 80% Pinot Noir and 20%  Chardonnay) and vermouths – a perfect aperitif or cocktail ingredient.

Lovers of vermouth will be satisfied as well
Lovers of vermouth will be satisfied as well

For more information visit

Ultima modifica: Martedì, 25 Novembre 2014 12:26
Monika Nowak

I’m Polish blogger and freelance journalist tasting “la dolce vita” by traveling around Piedmont. As Italia is my passion since the childhood I’m happy having the chance to discover  the kingdom of  great cuisine and probably the best wines in the world, but also charming little towns and interesting history. My blog  Bel Piemonte (available also in Polish and in Italian) was born to show the beauty of this region and to encourage others to discover this part of the Apennine Peninsula. 

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