Negro Angelo & Figli
- Written by Pietro Ramunno
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Practice, produce, progress. In these three words of the slogan of 1960s Coldiretti youth lies the history of the wine estate Negro Angelo e Figli. From these words began the adventure of Giovanni Negro, the son of Angelo and creator of the estate’s success when it launched in 1949 (even though the first proof of family viticulture is from Giovanni Dominico Negro, son of Audino, in 1670). He began with a fifth of the property of a tumbledown farmstead, two cattle, and three calves, to grow into an estate of 65 hectares (161 acres) of vineyards in Roero and beyond.
In the world of wine, "Negro" is synonymous with Arneis. This association has its roots in the 1970s, when just seven producers believed in this vine. In the past, the vines’ early maturation was used for attracting birds, in this way protecting the more precious Nebbiolo and Barbera vines from bird consumption. Gathering everyone's grapes together, these seven producers were unable to fill a even a single wooden cask of seven quintals. Giovanni subsequently left for Canale to purchase the missing quantity in order to fill the entire cask. Upon arriving in Piazza San Bernardino on his bicycle, he discovered the farmers had already sold all of their harvest to middlemen. Upon hearing this news, he held his first rally cry, a meeting that was to be a prelude of the political career that he pairs with his wine business today, and he convinced them to resell him the quantity he needed, at the same time starting the boom of the popularity of Arneis. They decided to change the traditional mode of vinification; before Giovanni’s intuition that changed its destiny, Arneis was a sweet wine used in Mass. Finally, to have produced the wine was not enough; he had to show the world.
"Not even the word existed, but what we were doing was marketing," says Giovanni Negro. "We heard that in Torino, they were holding the Fiera dei Vini (Wine Fair). All the big names in the wine world were there, and so was I, presenting the Arneis with its label designed with the Church of Sant'Anna, the coat-of-arms of Monteu Roero, the famous "Three P's" (“Practice, produce, progress”), and a phrase in Latin written, 'This is the wine of the god Bacchus.' This was the origin of the winery's luck, tied twice to the territory that we clearly expressed. Our values today are still the simple ones that they once were: we remain a family-operated business, with the fortune to have my four children work with us, all of them passionate for the work and each one occupied with a different aspect of the winery."
"We've always been environmentally aware, and we've chosen not to use chemical fertilizers, using more of the biological kind instead. For this reason, we've decided to equip ourselves with an earthworm cultivation system. Here in the Roero the terrain is sandy, and therefore poor in biological components. We enriched the vineyards with natural, biological substances in order to improve the soil structure, water retention, and microflora and microfauna of the soil. The fertilizer that we obtain from the earthworms, totally organic and biological material, guarantees a notable savings in time and manpower, thanks to its practicality in distribution. In all the earthworm species in the word, very few can be raised in captivity, and among these the most manageable are the California red worms, which can be raised out in the open. They're different from the others principally because of their great versatility and adaptability: the California red worm is very small, and its lifespan is four times greater than the common earthworm. It consumes as much food as it weighs every day, expelling about 70 to 80% of it."
Our values today are still the simple ones they once were: we remain a family-operated business, with the fortune to have my four children work with us, all of them passionate for the work and each one occupied with a different aspect of the winery.
"We like to experiment. One test is the Seven Years project, a venture that gave us very surprising results. It was in 2001, and our father wanted to know the heritage of his vineyards more in-depth, so he decided to separately cultivate every single vine of Arneis. The resulting wines fermented in their own yeast for 6 months, then passed into the bottle. The tasting of a single cru was done every year to carefully evaluate its evolution, looking to understand which vines had the best potential to age. After 8 years of study, experimentation, and evaluation, the Arneis "Sette Anni" was born, from one of the historical vines of the estate, definitely from the most chalky soil and the richest in sand and mineral salts. The principal characteristics of this reserve are surely the stand-out flavor and its formation during the years of organic decomposition, its elegant aromas and nectar that at times recall German Rieslings. Unique of its kind, it's the first Arneis ever to have undergone this long of a road of aging."
"Our winery produces about 300 thousand bottles a year, concentrated exclusively on the wines from native varieties in order to better evaluate our terroir. Export sales make up about 55%, divided between Europe, Asian countries, and the USA; new markets are growing fast, like Thailand, China, Taiwan, and Australia. We have the good fortune to have commercial networks and young management that's able to respond dynamically to the crisis. Our points of strength are the family management and our collaboration with trustworthy people who are in love with our estate: we're able to look after every aspect with passion, from commerce to reception, which is simple and warm and at the same time, calculated and technical."
"There's a product that we've taken particularly to heart, regarding the salvaging of an old ciabòt (hut) of the family, where our grandfathers would go to celebrate Easter. What they affectionately called a ciabòt was, in reality, the Castle of Pulciano, an Alemannic settlement from the Medieval period. It belonged to our family, but in the 1950s the property was fragmented and the structure almost went to ruins. Today we've bought it because it holds great personal value for us. It's an expression of a territory that we love, and it evokes a way of coming together as a family...our style is the best business card that we can offer."
SAN BERNARDO - Roero DOCG
The Nebbiolo grapes from the vineyards of San Bernerado in Magliano Alfieri are vinified according to tradition (fermentation in floating skins for 18 days), and aged for 17 months in oak barrels and used barriques, then 7 months in the bottle. Intense on the nose, with peach and red fruit; on the palate, sweet and pulpy, with long and decisive tannins.