24 Mar ViCaRa Winemakers
Wine and stone are a couple of things which, at first sight, do not have much in common. But following the path of the Pietra da Cantoni we met ViCaRa and Domenico Ravizza, we discovered the relationship between Pietra da Cantoni stone and wine and visited a church with a secret altar.
ViCaRa was born from the union of three wine farms whose vineyards have been active for more than 70 years. The three stories merge in 1992, with a commitment to high-quality production and focus on Grignolino. “It is difficult vine to grow, but I’ve always loved it” says Domenico Ravizza, one of the three owners of ViCaRa. “In the ’70s Grignolino had a bad reputation, also because of some incorrect processing and a quantity-based focus. Nowadays all the producers have understood the importance of focus on excellent wine and have inverted the trend“.
ViCaRa is doing its best to rehabilitate a wine now increasingly asked for. “Six years ago, we started research with an aim to produce historical Grignolino“, the same Grignolino which, at the beginning of ‘900, was considered one of the finest wines of Monferrato. When they started, they were only 4 producers. After few years of works, there are now 25 wine farmers which believe in it. They developed common procedures to guarantee the quality of the Grignolino and they are trying to change the specification of the DOP to make a Grignolino Riserva: 30 months of ageing in wood barrels.
But what does ViCaRa have in common with Pietra da Cantoni? Domenico smiles: “We have at least 3 things in common“. The first is the simplest. Domenico takes us to visit the winery and we pass the modern tanks, arriving at the historic cellar, all carved into Pietra da Cantoni, which is still used to store the wine after the harvest.
To help him explain the second reason to us, Domenico opens some doors to a building near the farm. We find ourselves in a small church, former a Franciscan monastery built in the XVII century and dedicated to the Madonna delle Grazie. The church has been restored and shines like a gem. But it is hiding more: going down from a small door near the curia, we descend into a secret Infernot, built in 1897. “The old pastor here, a family friend who served in this church, called it his main altar. Yeah, he liked to drink wine a lot!”
And the last thing in common? “It is just a personal memory“: Domenico’s grandfather was a quarryman when the mines of Pietra da Cantoni were still open. He remembers, once, as a child, trying to break up a Pietra da Cantoni stone to emulate him. He was hitting it and he was getting only small splinters. Then his grandfather gave a light and precise blow and split the stone into two pieces. “Then he said to me: “You don’t need brute force, you just need cunisiun (the local dialect word for acquaintance). That’s why I fell in love with wine: it’s all about cunisiun”.
You can visit Vicara, taste its wines and visit the church and the Infernot by appointment:
Azienda Agricola ViCaRa
Written by Tommaso Zavattaro | Edited by Fiona Scull | Photography by Monica Marescalchi.