The Canavese hills hold pleasant surprises for tourists in search of oenologic adventures outside of the usual beaten tourist path. The zone of wines that comprises Caluso and Caremo is not just a fascinating area rich in history, but a viticultural reality that, year after year, gains in sophistication and quality in all respects. Proof of the fact are the prestigious ratings from the Gambero Rosso wine guide; in its many ratings in Italian Wines 2013, Gambero Rosso awarded an impressive five wineries of the area with the highest and most coveted rating: the Tre Bicchieri, or the Three Glasses.
Visualizza La via dei tre bicchieri in una mappa di dimensioni maggiori
Even more impressive, given the territory’s small dimensions and scarce number of cultivated hectares, is the method of terracing used. It is said that the viticulture is “heroic” on the mountains of Carema, because over the course of centuries, the winemakers, with hard work and dedication, have had to terrace the steep hillsides and train the vines to climb the trellises of wood and stone.
Our trip to discover the best glasses of wine in Alto Torinese begins with San Giorgio Canavese, a few kilometers north of Caluso. The city is laid out along the slopes on the southern side that closes with a natural amphitheatre of the Glacial Age morenic deposit from Ivrea, along the vast plain and originating from the river Orco. The town is shadowed by the impressive Castle of St. Giorgio of the Counts of Biandrate. With origins from the 10th century and restored in the 1700s according to that period’s style, today the castle is a hotel, restaurant, and beautiful locale for events and banquets. The castle is open to visitors from May to September during Sundays and holidays.
Our first tasting is at Orsolani, an essential point of reference for Caluso wines. This ancient winery, over a century old, was awarded Three Glasses for its Erbaluce Caluso DOCG La Rustìa 2011, but it boasts other awarded wines. For example, its Sulè Caluso Passito DOC 2005 earned three stars from the guide I vini di Veronelli 2013.
Leaving San Giorgio Canavese, we suggest a visit to the Museum of Nossì Ràis (“Our Roots”), with its impressive collection of documents about the material culture of the surrounding areas. On the road to Ivrea, the labels you must see are in Agliè and Piverone. Agliè is the town where Guido Gozzano, the famous Crepuscolari poet, had his countryside home Il Meleto (open to visitors every day except Monday and Friday), whose garish salon is described in the essay The Friend of Grandmother Hope (l’Amica di Nonna Speranza), with its famous line, “the good things about bad taste.” Piverone is a medieval hamlet overlooking Viverone Lake and overshadowed behind by the high rise of Ivrea’s Glacial Age morenic Serra.
In Agliè (whose fabulous 17th century castle deserves a visit) in the community of San Grato is the Winery Cieck, a newcomer to the Three Glasses club with its Erbaluce di Caluso Passito 2006. Erbaluce grapes, attentively selected, are hung on wooden frames for four months in order to have a certain aeration that avoids mold. In Piverone, we also advise tasting the Erbaluce di Caluso Le Chiusure 2011, produced by Cantina Favaro: “Erbaluce at its highest level,” as the Gambero Rosso guide describes it.
We’ve finished exploring the lower part of Canavese by tasting its whites; now it’s time to head north to discover the vineyards that cling to the rocks and produce Carema DOCG, born from Nebbiolo like its cousins Barolo and Barbaresco. The final stop of our trip is the Cantina of Nebbiolo Producers of Carema, which gathers over eighty producers who give their grapes to make wine, worked exclusively by hand. Before observing the extraordinary vineyards of this zone, we suggest a stop by Ivrea at the Ferrando estate, a winery of Carema that has been synonymous with high quality for over a century. The Gambero Rosso guide awards Three Glasses to their Carema Black Label (Etichetta Nera) 2008: “A magnificent structure characterized by pervasive tannins and a complex aroma of tobacco and gentian flower.” .
Ivrea alone deserves its own itinerary, but to continue the path of Three Glasses, head towards Carema for the last tasting. Arriving in this small town on the borders of Aosta Valley, let yourself be stunned by the vineyard architecture. The terracing that’s excavated into the rocks and defined by kilometers of stone wall, the vines supported by the pergole, or the trellis system, of wooden dovetails on pillars of rough-hewn stone, steps, and little lanes – these are elements that come together in an entirely unique way. In these parts, Nebbiolo, called picutendro in Patois dialect, is a precious vine for how rare it is. Only 20 cultivated hectares remain around Carema, and are unfortunately abandoned little by little as the years pass.
To taste a wine from the Cantina of Producers is a double pleasure – it won’t be just a taste that helps you appreciate the territory, but the Carema White Label (Etichetta Bianca) Riserva 2008 is an “unmissable” Three Glasses, highly recommended for passionate Nebbiolo fans. What’s more, you can carry a bottle home for less than 15 euros.