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Posted: Friday, November 13 2009. 15:00

Uvalino Wine: Cascina Castlet Sole Producer

Piemonte is fortunate to have innumerable indigenous grapes that are diverse and unique although many producers debunk their worth, Uvalino is an almost extinct variety grown only by Cascina Castlet in Costigliole, near Alba and Asti, reports Subhash Arora who visited the winery recently and met its dynamic lady owner.

Mariuccia Borio and the bunch of Uvalino grapes

Mariuccia Borio, the owner of Cascina Castlet Costigliole (CCC) was showing me her vineyards when she stopped at a row of vines and said,’ this is Uvalino- a local red variety in this region and we are the only ones in the world growing it now.’ ‘Time out!’ I shrieked with excitement. ‘Are you saying that you are the only producer in the world growing this variety? That would be news to me and our readers!’

Yes, it is. Uvalino is a grape variety found in records since 1800s. It was grown around Asti and used in the blend or in making light summer wines till a few decades ago. Not a spectacular variety, it has been on the way to extinction, she explained. Due to its high levels of resveratrol, it had been recommended as a medicinal product and never took off as a fun drink it was meant to be.

In 1990, twenty years after she had inherited from her father, she decided to do some research with the University of Torino/Milano. The results indicated that this was in fact the only varietal that was being grown in Piemonte. Since this was the only region, where the grape was being grown earlier, it is reasonable to assume that she is the only producer growing the varietal.

Ironically, the strict Italian laws meant that it could not be classified as a DOC wine. Since Piemonte does not have IGT wines, it had to contend with a table wine status. In 2006, after a lot of efforts on her part, she said, the Monferrato Rosso DOC status was give to the wine- the laws do not allow the mentioning of grape varietal on the bottle.

So how does one know that the bottle has Uvalino grapes? The label has several pictures of her, the family, winemaker and description the label which is actually  self-explanatory-even though not conventional..

Mariuccia is a woman of substance, who has converted the winery built in 1700s into a very modern winery with an extension that I connected through an underground tunnel.. She is Piedmont’s regional delegate for the Donne del Wino, the National Association of the Women of Wine, which has about 700 women members nationwide around 150 of whom are from Piemonte alone.

Wah Taj! A Taj

Mariuccia also produces Barbera d’Asti, Moscato d’Asti, Passito and a few other wines- all with contemporary, attractive labels. An interesting wine that caught my eyes was a Chardonnay-labelled as A Taj.

It has a round label with A Taj boldly printed in the middle. Around it are a few other titles printed in softer colour but legible. She says they organised a contest to suggest names for the label. She decided to keep about 100 odd suggestions received and use them around A Taj which in Piemontese is used when an event or something reaches the right moment

CCC in a Restaurant

I had dinner that night at Osteria Porta di Po on Piazza Vittorio Veneto in Torino, where the food is simple but delicious and the service is warm. The owner manager Antonio Torre seems to know his clients, greets and  interacts with each customer, the prices are reasonable and the wine list attractive. The artichokes Tajarin with Salciccia Bra (Piemontese egg noodles with artichokes and sausage from Bra) and the pumpkin and leak and potato soup was simply delicious- a great combination with a glass of white Erbaluce. My eyes caught the attention of the attractively labelled CCC wine from a distance-vertically stacked a few bottles away from the unmistakable Gaja from Ca’marcanda in Bolgheri, Tuscany.

What did he think of Cascina Castlet wines (incidentally cascina means farm in Piemonte)? ‘I like the wines-they are good quality and do well with us’, he said. But I don’t see the Uvalino- the Monferrato DOC red wine? ‘ ‘oh that- we don’t keep it. I don’t like the label-it reminds me too much of ancient people- I like vibrant looking labels on a bottle.’

Maybe Mariuccia is listening? Although the small quantities she produces in half-bottles, from the unique grapes in the 2 hAs area find a ready market and though it is quite tannic and has high alcohol content of 14.5%, the medium bodied, age-worthy wine with a slightly spicy mouthfeel is a good food wine and has a fantastic uniqueness factor that should make it a collector’s item.

For more information visit www.cascinacastlet.com

Subhash Arora

       

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