Passion for the unique local vines of North Piedmont!
The newest additions to our growing portfolio - of artisan wines made by family estates - are the 2 sparkling and 2 reds by Cascina Gilli.
The winery is located in the Monferrato hills, in the Asti province.
The area now known as Castelnuovo Don Bosco was originally called Castelnuovo d'Asti after the 'new' castle built before 1000 AD, but it was renamed in honour of a local 19th century Catholic priest, John Bosco, who was known simply as Don Bosco and then later Saint John Bosco.
So, where is Castelnuovo Don Bosco?
Check the map below to get a sense of where the Cascina Gilli vineyards are located in comparison to more well-known sites further south in Piedmont.
(Find the city of Turin, in the orange section, then look east at the top edge of the dark pink area.)
Cascina Gilli vines have the luxury of growing in a truly beautiful setting.
The ochre tower of the Cascina Gilli villa, dating back to 1700, is visible from Albugnano village. The vineyards surround the historic farmhouse.
The white soil hills are composed of Marne di Sant’Agata (common only to a limited number of terroir), that produce high quality wines notable for their intense bouquet and elegant body.
When Gianni Vergnano released his first wines in the early 1980s he focussed on local varieties of Freisa and Malvasia. He was passionate about sharing his love for these under-estimated wines that he felt deserved more attention from wine lovers.
As time went by and the winery grew to the 12 hectares it enjoys today, the range has also expanded to include other historically important grapes of the area, like Nebbiolo, Barbera and another little-known vine - Bonarda*.
* Psst! Don't mistake the Bonarda of Piedmont for the grape of the same name found in Argentina (aka Charbono or Douce Noir) often grown alongside Malbec, as these are genetically different vines.
WHICH WINE TO TRY?
Cascina Gilli's namesake wine is a celebration of the aromatic local vine Malvasia di Schierano, made as a slightly frizzante, slightly sweet, low alcohol, red wine.
If you enjoy a glass of Moscato d'Asti or perhaps a Lambrusco (which are both frizzante, slightly sweet, low alcohol styles) or wonder what a red Prosecco might taste like ... try popping a cork of GILLI.
Sip this red, slightly chilled, on a weekday afternoon (perfect reminder of WFH benefits). Or open GILLI as an aperitif in place of your usual bubbles when friends come for dinner. The colour is sure to be a fun surprise!
To showcase the full potential of rare grape Malvasia di Schierano, Cascina Gilli also make a pink bubbles called GILLI ROSATO.
This 12.5% extra dry, tank method* sparkling is light and vivacious with a hint of sweetness that's balanced by the grape's savoury notes.
In fact, after the initial sense of summer fruits the finish is slightly bitter ... in a way that keeps the palate fresh and interesting rather than the cloying sweetness you get from so many pink bubbles. It's rather like a wine that has the character of a cocktail (something made with Italian bitters for example). The bitter edge also offers more food pairing potential. Try with cold cuts and aged cheeses.
Super interesting, and way too easy to quaff! :)
* Tank method sparklers (aka Charmat or Martinotti method, as used for Prosecco) create the bubbles during 2nd fermentation in a large vessel, as opposed to the 'bottle method' (aka Traditional or Champagne method, called Metodo Classico in Italy).
RED WORTH REVIVING
In the past, Bonarda wines were often made as light or even semi sparkling styles, which no doubt accelerated their decline as consumers turned towards more 'serious' wine styles. But this grape has so much to offer and thankfully passionate winemakers like the team at Cascina Gilli won't let this little-known and little-grown vine slip away into obscurity.
SERNU has an opulent nose with ripe red fruit notes (plums, dark cherry) and hints of black fruit too. It's a distinctly juicy wine, with firm yet supple tannins! Think of it a little like a Barbera and Nebbiolo love child. There's something classically Piemonte in this glass, while still being fresh and ‘new'.
Enjoy at the start of the evening as the 'first red' or pair with comfort food. It's delicious with duck pancakes (although I can say that about so many wines) and goes really well with simple tomato pasta dishes.
A RED REVELATION
Arvelè, in Piemonte dialect, means “revelation” and this is the winery's premium Freisa* made with only the best selection.
ARVELE spends 8 months in 2nd passage small barrels for a slow oxidation and softening of the tannins. Expect notes of wild raspberry, hints of blackberry and rose petals plus vanilla and tobacco leaf. It is a crisp and fresh red with a velvety finish.
Like so many Italian grapes, this is a very food-friendly wine thanks to the balance of acidity and tannic structure. Try pairing ARVELE with umami flavours (like mushroom) or flame-grilled steak. :)
* Freisa is a relative of noble vine Nebbiolo, with a versatile character that can make a wide range of styles from sweet and frothy, to rich and complex. Try comparing the 2016 Freisa by Cascina Gilli, with the younger 2020 Freisa by Barolo-based winery Brezza. Both are delicious but suit different pairings ... can you guess how to pair the 2020 vintage?
Still not sure which wine to try next?
Don't hesitate to contact me for personal recommendations and advice.