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Castello di Masino: the vineyards, the wine press, the cellars and Nebbiolo

Since 2018, FAI has been recovering the ancient vineyards surrounding Castello di Masino in Piedmont: it will soon start producing Nebbiolo and Erbaluce, among the most important native vines of the area.

 

As well as being the sumptuous home of one of Piedmont’s most illustrious families, Castello di Masino was also an important administrative centre for agricultural production. FAI has recovered the ancient vineyard and will soon begin production of Nebbiolo, one of the most important indigenous grape varieties in the area.

The Castello e Parco di Masino (TO) – an asset owned by FAI since 1988 – dominates the morainic amphitheatre of Ivrea from a hilltop: on a clear day, the view extends as far as Turin and the entrance to the Valle d’Aosta.

Its elevated position, of unquestionable charm, was of great strategic importance in the past for political and economic reasons, because Masino was at a junction of the communication routes close to the Alpine arc. In fact, it was the beating heart of the fiefdom that belonged to one of the most illustrious branches of the Valperga family and, until the mid-20th century, it also played a crucial role as an administrative centre for agricultural production. In fact, the castle was responsible for the “agencies”, real farms in the territory, where wheat, hemp, rice – towards the Vercelli area – and vines were cultivated on the hills surrounding the castle and in the territory of Caluso.

An ancient Canavese proverb that attests to the fame of the wine cellars (crote) of Castello di Masino, so large as to seem endless.

The vineyards located near the Castello are mentioned in numerous archive documents. The first information, attesting to the presence of plantings along the western slope near the Allea grande, can already be found in the Inventories of 1567. In these documents, the rooms of the flats in the western wing are described as ‘rooms towards the vineyards’.

From the end of the seventeenth century, archive documents testify to the transformation of the manor from a military fortress to the favourite residence of the feudal lord: some of the rooms, which had belonged to the primitive fortified settlements now located on the first and second basement floors, were transformed into storage areas and cellars. The entire harvest of the Masino fief was brought here for pressing.

Wines were stored in these large spaces (about 700 square metres): the Donie cellar, the Grande cellar and the Pozzo cellar bear witness to the intense wine-making activity in the Masino area. In the rooms of the first basement there is also a large “lever” wine press, quite common in the Piedmont area: the structure dates back to the 18th century, is made of oak wood, measures about 7 metres and is still in a good state of preservation.

RESTORATION OF THE HISTORIC VINEYARD

In 2018 FAI, during the landscape restoration of the Castello woodland, discovered the ancient vineyard of the Counts Valperga buried by vegetation, thanks also to the sources preserved in the Archives. It is one hectare of terrain in terraces, adjacent to the walls, located within a sort of basin under which the panoramic view of Vestignè opens up, a sunny spot facing south-west, towards Turin. This is how the project to restore the historic vineyard began, with the restoration of the cultivated terraces: with the help of the experience of the La Campore farm, the chestnut stakes were repositioned, as they were in use at the time of the counts, maintaining various plants in the woods so as not to compromise the hold of the crags, all with mainly manual work. Three specimens of Quercus Suber were found in the vineyard, a finding that leads one to believe that the bark of these plants was used to produce the cork necessary for bottling the wines produced by the family.

NEBBIOLO AND ERBALUCE PRODUCTION

The first fruits of the historic vineyard arrived last October, and it is likely that the vines will produce their first grapes for winemaking as early as next autumn. The Nebbiolo of Castello di Masino is coming!

The vineyard recovery project will continue with the restoration of another vineyard that belonged to the Valperga family, located on the side facing Monviso: there Erbaluce, the other native of Canavese, will be produced.

TASTINGS

The activities and events hosted at Castello di Masino during the year will also contribute to enhance the value of the challenging work of restoring the vineyard. From March, Castello di Masino will host “Territori da gustare” (Tasting the Territories): a series of meetings that will run throughout the year, held in collaboration with the Giovani Vignaioli Canavesani (Young Canavese Winegrowers). Visitors will be able to enjoy special wine-tasting sessions to discover the vines and typical foods of the Canavese area and thus discover the food and wine excellence of the ancient Savoy territories.

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