If I were to paraphrase the famous David Bowie song ‘Life on Mars’ by asking ‘Is there life on Canavese?, I could now answer the question this way: ‘Of course there is! Definitely yes! There is plenty of new wine life.’
Alongside the historic producers like Ferrando (one of my personal favourites), Cieck, Giacometto, Favaro and the Cantina dei Produttori di Carema, a brand new generation of wine producers has emerged on the scene. The Giovani Vignaioli Canavesani (‘Young Winemakers of Canavese’) is a group of young, passionate, talented and enthusiastic winemakers that is breathing new life and energy into the Canavese denominations (Carema DOC, Erbaluce di Caluso DOCG and Canavese DOC).
An association of 20 young producers led by the talented Vittorio Garda (of the SorPasso estate) has a mission to broadcast the uniqueness of the Canavese territory – rich in history and tradition – through its red and white, sparkling, dry and sweet wines. In order to help further its cause, the group has also organized and launched ReWine, the first event dedicated to the Canavese wines.
Carema, located in northern Piedmont on the border with the Valle d’Aosta, Italy’s smallest region, is an unbelievably beautiful wine country destination, where splendid vineyards are carved high into the mountain. Undoubtedly, the remarkable panoramas can act as a tow to their movement, but more importantly, Carema is an extremely age-worthy, cool-climate wine, made predominantly from the Nebbiolo grape, that combines the power of Barolo with the gracefulness of Gattinara and other northern Piedmont wines.
A walk in Carema’s vineyards will explain more than a thousand words ever could why the wines of this mountain area are so unique and remarkable. The steep mountain hillsides require an incredible amount of work and effort, both to tend the vines and build the terraces that allow people to stand in the vineyards, never mind pick grapes. The vineyards are small in size, most of them difficult to reach, and the slopes challenging: here, the expression ‘heroic viticulture’ is more than adequate to describe the work of these artisans. Whoever wrote ‘wine is like dreams, it is born everywhere and overcomes all barriers,’ was right, and had most likely visited these vineyards. This is the spirit that animates the Giovani Vignaioli Canavesani.
I have visited Carema numerous times in my life and I can guarantee that the view offered by the Carema vineyards is simply an amazing spectacle, one that showcases the ingenuity, the skills and the tenacity of these winemakers and the passion they have for their territory. I recently had the pleasure of meeting some of them, and of tasting their Carema wines. My favourite estates among those I have visited are:
SorPasso (Martina and Vittorio Garda): Both were born and grew up in the Canavese. In Carema, they decided to devote their future to producing wines. The pair personally follows each phase in the viticultural and winemaking process, from the care of the vineyards to bottling. Their dream became reality in 2012, with the first rented vineyard in the commune of Carema. The wines they make are an authentic expression of this terroir: their Carema is a blend of 90% Nebbiolo (here called Picotener) and two others native Canavese grapes, Ner d’Ala and Neretto di Bairo.
Monte Maletto (Gian Marco Viano): Born in 1986, Gian Marco would never have imagined becoming a winemaker, or that within just a few years of starting out he would be nominated by the World’s 50 Best and the Basque Culinary Center as one of the 50 ‘Game-Changing Producers’ (young people under 35 who are considered future leaders of change in the world of food and wine). After a few years of experience as a sommelier at Gordon Ramsay’s Murano in London, Antonino Cannavacciuolo’s Villa Crespi, the Hotel Bellevue in Cogne and then in Milan at the Symposium, he decided to approach wine production. In 2014, after some experience in Barolo (with GD Vajra), he decided to take the plunge and buy a vineyard in Carema (called Monte Maletto). A self-taught artisan, he hit the ground running and his wines have met with accolades since the first vintage. He produces two Carema wines: Carema La Costa (a single vineyard, made only in the best vintages) and the Carema Sole e Roccia (Sun and Rocks). The former, more complex and deep, is an incredibly refined wine; the latter perfectly reflects its name: sun and rocks in the glass.
Muraje (Deborah and Federico Fantini): It was the burning passion for the world of wine that led this husband and wife team to undertake the difficult path of becoming winemakers in Carema. The on-going abandonment of Carema’s beautiful vineyards clinging to centuries-old stone terraces literally made their hearts cry. Muraje – ‘the walls’ in Piedmontese dialect – indicates the stone terraces that frame the heroic vineyards of Carema (and help increase the ambient temperature of these cool-climate vineyards, given that the stones capture heat during the day and release it at night). Beginning with the 2017 harvest, Deborah and Federico produced a Carema DOC wine; the name Sumié for their Carema wine comes from the local term for the horizontal wooden beam supporting the pergola structure of the vine training system.
Chiussuma (Matteo Ravera Chion, Alessandra Perona and Rudy Rovano): Founded in 2016 with the goal of producing high quality Carema wine in harmony with the territory (through severe pruning and lowering yields, through the recovery of ancient abandoned vineyards and the preservation of the local terraced landscape), while reducing the use of pesticides and eliminating the use of herbicides. Their Carema wine is a classic interpretation of the Carema Nebbiolo.
Achille Milanesio: The ‘least young’ of these talented producers, but with the same name as the Homeric hero of the Iliad, he could only devote himself to heroic viticulture. Achille was the first one to produce an outstanding Carema Riserva.