Cascina Chicco: "What makes a wine different is what makes it excellent"
- Written by Gabriele Pieroni
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“See that rock, the one with its bright minerals that shine? That’s gypsum, and it comes from our land in Castellinaldo. It’s a vein of rock that runs from Guarene to Govone and passes right through our vineyards. We used it to finish the vaults in our underground wine cellars. Even the walls speak of our wine.”
Some wineries represent their territory; others are their territory. Cascina Chicca, beginning with the very materials with which it was constructed, without a doubt belongs to the latter. It sings of that mysterious yet fascinating thing called terroir, a concept made of geography, microclimate, geology, and perhaps more than anything else, of passion for the land’s natural vocation of turning out high quality wines for centuries. “But it’s also about the work in the cellars, the absolute dedication to the choices we make there, and to the valorization of the best lands,” says Enrico Faccenda, class of 1972 and owner of the winery located in Canale d’Alba together with his older brother Marco. “Since we were kids, this is what has always pushed us to skip school so we could bottle wine. And it’s this,” he continues, “that has guided us over the years as we acquired property and decided which varieties to cultivate as befit their ideal plots of land.”
People of the Roero
The Roero is not a homogenous land, and thus certainly is not fit for growing one, single grape variety. It is a fresco of viticultural variation that changes from vineyard to vineyard, hill to hill. To cultivate it well, the Roero requires long experience in the field and constant attention before it gives up its best fruits, which are ever more appreciated and recognized all over the world today.
“We’ve cultivated these vineyards for at least three generations,” says Enrico Faccenda, “and we’ve always vinified our own grapes. My great grandfather knew the land very well, and he also owned orchards of the highly prized peach of Canale in Mombirone.”
Beginning in the 1980s, Cascina Chicco acquired the look and feel of a modern winery as it added new vineyards and structured itself for the market, enlarging its winery and the gamut of products it made. These were the years in which brothers Enrico and Marco decided to end their eno-technical studies and dedicate body and soul to wine. “Our father owned a famous salumeria in Canale, but he warned us not to follow in his footsteps. ‘It’s too much work, even during the holidays, and you’ll never be at home.’ So now we work 365 days a year in the vineyards and in the cellar,” jokes Enrico.
Excellent earth and historic wines
From little more than a hectare cultivated after World War II to the 40 hectares cultivated today; from the demijohns of Nebbiolo and Barbera to over ten labels and 350 thousand bottles today, Cascina Chicco has come a long way. “The first real growth of the winery was during the Arneis boom in the 1970s, when the wine of the Roero really took off.”
Thanks to its “white Nebbiolo,” as the Arneis is sometimes called, Cascina Chicco grew in size and prestige, earning its first international recognitions. However, the ambitions of the Faccenda brothers go beyond the success of selling one wine. They wish to communicate all of the Roero and to express the land on which they were raised through wine. “If there’s one thing I can say I’m proud of, it’s the research of the grape varieties that we’ve done over the years,” says Enrico. “We weren’t content with cultivating just the land around the farmhouse and planting according to the requests of the market. We went in search of better and better parcels of land to obtain the best earth for each variety: Arneis in Canale, Barbera in Castellinaldo, and Nebbiolo in Vezza and Castagnito. We were among the first in the Roero to basically pair the correct earth with its called-for grape variety, following the history and true vocation of each plot of land.”
As an example of a “territorial fingerprint,” Enrico brings out the Barbera wines of Cascina Chicco, Bric Loira and Granera Alta. The grapes of these wines grow among the peach trees of Castellinaldo and, as a result, ripen to showcase singular colors and aromas. “When we brought these to wine tastings, instead of underlining the quality we tried to point out their tipicity: the aromas of red and mature fruits, their unique color. Compared to the standard, our Barberas not only know how to distinguish themselves, but people can immediately identify them.”
Underground cathedrals of the Roero
Speaking of distinguishing identification points, even the very cellars of Cascina Chicco underwent a unique evolution. The latest restorations began a bit after 2000, transforming the old 1950s farmhouse to a modern structure outfitted for wine tastings and events, including a kitchen and multimedia room.
The most spectacular part of the restoration project is underground. Among the subterranean hallways, nooks and cranneys, crutin and infernot that are excavated in the bare rock to house the Riserve wines and historical vintages is an incredible circular room that opens up with vast, dodecagonal vaulted ceilings in brick. This architectural splendor, a breathtaking room for its width and height, reproduces the ancient banner of the Roero dynasty from which the very name of these lands takes its roots: the wheel, ruota, of twelve spokes.
This is true “wine cathedral,” with crypts, cupolas, and “frescoes,” the walls painted with the very rock that composes the soil of much of the Faccenda family’s land. They shine like the gypsum rocks of Castellinaldo, crystalized within the brown rock and sparkling along the hallways as they wink a welcome to visitors all the way back to the deepest hall, excavated 28 meters into the heart of the hill.
“This took us seven years to excavate and build. Today we’re very proud of it, because it’s here that we make all of our wines, and here that we found the right location for the perfect aging.”
Explorers of Nebbiolo
Staying true to the search for perfection and to the spirit of innovation, the final acquisitions of Cascina Chicco demonstrate the courage and curiosity of the Faccenda family.
As befits “explorers of Nebbiolo,” they disregarded the prejudices of Langhe folk who relegated the Roero people as “dle da Tane” (al di là del Fiume Tanaro, “from the other side of the Tanaro River”). Enrico and Marco embarked on a raid of the earth of Barolo. In 2007 in Monforte d’Alba, they bought five hectares of land in the Ginestra wine plot, a prestigious cru of the King of Wines. “After years of production in the Roero, our dream was to make wine from Nebbiolo on ‘the other side,’” says Enrico. “We still wanted to make a wine that respected and celebrated the complexity of aromas from its territory. Nebbiolo is an ancient variety, with a low yield, and we vinify and ferment it according to tradition with native yeasts and a long, 40-day maceration.”
He adds, “We had these scholastic notions of raising the quality of wines of the Roero, of creating a product that reaches the height of Barolo quality. But when we began to experiment in the vineyards, to the contrary of all our intentions and ideas, we found that the difference between Nebbiolo grapes in the two lands is impossible to remove. There are sweet and persistent tannins from Monforte d’Alba, and drier, sharper tannins that come from the Roero. And so we said, isn’t it the work of a producer,” he concludes with a smile, “to emphasize the differences?”
Roero Valmaggiore - Roero Docg
Grape variety: 100% Nebbiolo
Vineyard position: Vezza d'Alba - Piemonte - Italia. Subzone: Valmaggiore, which is celebrated for the high quality of its Nebbiolo. Christina of France and Filippo of Agliè already widely used Nebbiolo from Valmaggiore in 1640. Southwest exposure. Average age of vines is 25 years.
Soil: Loose, tending towards sandy.
Harvest period: Beginning of October
Yield per hectare: 40 hl
Wine making: Our objective is to have the highest quality of grape during the harvest as possible. Therefore, we carry out two thinnings at the beginning and end of August, when we eliminate parts of the grape bunches, thus guaranteeing an average production of 1.8/2 kg per bunch. Given its excellent sun exposure, the grapes must be shaded by their leaves, otherwise the sun would burn and dry out the grapes, at least during the hotter periods. During the harvest, which we carry out with these vineyards during two periods with a week in between, we use perforated crates of 18-20 kg in order to best preserve the integrity of the grapes until their moment of pressing. Maceration is carried out in steel fermenters, in which we can easily regulate the temperature of fermentation. It lasts for one week. The wine is then transferred in barrels (some new and some used) for malolactic fermentation of 16 months, before being moved once again in steel tanks. The wine is bottled in August and enters the market after one year in the bottle, or three years after harvest.
Tasting notes: It has rich, immediate notes of violet, raspberry, and blackberry, enriched with elegant touches of spice. In the mouth, it is well-structured and offers a growing sensation of violet and cacao powerful, firm tannins that prolong its persistent finish. Excellent with roasted, braised, and pot-roasted meats, game, and pairs very well with cheeses. Serve at 17-18° C.
Via Valentino, 14
12043 Canale (CN)
Tel. +39 0173 979411
www.cascinachicco.com - Facebook
• Wine tastings
• Winery tours
• Direct sale: from €7 to €20 a bottle
Translated by Diana Zahuranec
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