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Delhi Wine Club
Banca delWine: Bank with a Difference

Posted: Monday, 23 May 2011 11:03

Banca delWine: Bank with a Difference

May 23: Ensconced in a corner of a beautiful building in Pollenzo, a small town at the foothills of Roero hills in Piedmont is Banca del Vino, a wine bank which has been created to help preserve the culture of fine ageing Italian wines by acting as a custodian for quality producers and giving an opportunity to the consumer to source aged wines, realizing their full potential, writes Subhash Arora who recently visited the unique bank near Alba.

The bank was formed in 2004 as a brainchild of Carlo Petrini, founder of the Slow Food movement in Italy in the early nineties. It stores over 100,000 bottles of varying vintages from over 300 producers. The wines must be long ageing-ruling out 95% of the production. They are mostly stored in wooden casks of 6 or 12 bottles in a temperature controlled cellar with proper humidity under very good storage conditions to ensure the longevity of wine.

The idea is quite simple- each producer who wants to be a part of the project gives 180 bottles a year at a pre-determined price (and basically forgetting about it). These are left to age for 3 years in the cellar. After 3 years, 40% of the wines are sold at the pre-determined price and the money paid to the producers. Another 40% are left with the bank which uses them for tasting at various programmes and public events conducted by the Slow Food association. It also conducts guided tours of the cellar at a nominal cost of €8-20, with 1-5 wines to taste, with wines coming from this portion.

The balance 20% wines are kept in the cellar to age and make a library of the age-worthy wines, according to the bubbly and chirpy young Francesca who showed me around and seemed to enjoy her job immensely. Although she could not visualize the quantity,  magnitude and the market value of the wines after say 30-40 years, with 36 bottles from each producer adding to the kitty and more and more producers joining the bank, the consumers can directly benefit from the sale after 3 years storage after the wines are received from the producers.

The producer has a lot to benefit for the investment of 60% of the bottles (less than half of which would be the real cost). The process gives immense exposure and publicity to the producer at these various tastings where the visual as well as sensory experience is showcased for the consumer groups.

Some of the wines are sold at the bank by the bottle but mostly one has to pick up a box of six, the details of available wines are on their website. The profits from the sale of the tastings and other events are also used to maintain the bank that doubles up as a museum, which Francesca says costs a lot.

Just to compare if one did get a good deal, I spotted a Magnum of 1998 Barolo La Rosa from Fontanafredda which I had visited a day earlier and found the 2007 vintage to be outstanding, selling in the Banca del Vino for € 75. It is available in the market (if at all) for € 99 (source: Most wines are available at 10-20% lower prices than at the enotecas, according to Francesca.

The bank deserves a dekho from any wine lover visiting Piedmont not only for an interesting visit to a destination with plenty of books and wines for sale and the possibility of picking up wines at a great price besides tasting several wines at competitive price, but also to visit the interesting and historical complex made in the neo gothic style, built by King Carlo Alberto of Savoy in 1938 as one of his many residences. The whole complex- called the Agenzia di Pollenzo is now a UNESCO heritage site.

A part of the cellar also has Roman ruins which were discovered while refurbishing the building when Slow Food association bought it on behalf of around 300 partners in the late nineties. Several tourists find this a highlight of the visit.

One can also visit the relatively new University of Gastronomic Sciences (one Indian is also a student for the 3-year course in Gastronomy taught in both English and Italian to a mixed student community of which 40% are foreigners). There is also a hotel-Albergo dell’Agencia and a Michelin starred-‘Ristorante Guido’ run by Chef Guido who also runs another Michelin single-starred restaurant Casa Vicina in the unique department store Eataly in Turin.

For more information on the workshops and guided tastings or how to become a member of the bank and get preferred deals, offer of the month and several other benefits, you may want to visit their website or write to

Subhash Arora

The trip to the Banca del Vino was part of several interesting wine and food related visits organized by the Piemonte Agency and ICE- the Italian Trade Commission, Torino (Turin)



Tike Says:

IMHO you've got the right asnewr!

Posted @ August 01, 2011 12:19


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