Cascina Ca’ Rossa & Slow Wine
The other week, Angelo Ferrio of Cascina Ca’ Rossa was in town from Roero, Piemonte for the Slow Wine Guide Publication Party, a tasting event that showcased 60+ of the 1,800 wineries that are included in the current guide. Following on the heels of the snail, the Slow Wine movement is an extension of Slow Food, with origins that lie with Gambero Rosso, with whom Slow Wine published Italian Wines for 20+ years, before parting ways in 2010. “When it first started, many years ago,” says Angelo, “it generated possibilities for people to learn about small wineries…it put small producers on the forefront, the guide, the tasting…but over time things change, and as a consequence the guide has changed.”
And while this division has “splintered” the wine organizations in Italy (within a short period, there are three Italian tastings in New York: Slow Wine, Gambero Rosso Tre Becchieri and Vinitaly, and none are free for the producers), the organizations can provide life-altering promotion for small/family run wineries.
In the 1970’s, says Angelo, Piemonte was very poor, and now it’s one of the wealthiest areas in the country. The only way for a farmer to survive back then, was to diversify his crops; grapes were sold to the local co-op and were only a part of the equation. When Angelo’s father, Alfonso, made wine for local consumption, it was not a priority. He did things when he got around to it, says Angelo; he racked wine when it rained, and when Angelo took over production and suggested that they bottle their wines, Alfonso was against it. His parents were traditional, and bottling wine was considered too expensive.
Stefano and Angelo in the vineyards
Back then, vineyard management was based on quantity and not quality. Angelo’s father would have considered it sacrilegious to cut grapes and leave them on the ground to rot. Nowadays, Angelo’s vineyards yield 50-60% fewer grapes than his father’s; Alfonso then yielded 10-15 tons/ha of Nebbiolo, while Angelo currently yields 4 tons/ha of their best quality grapes.
In 1993, Angelo started bottling white wines, and in 1996, he began bottling reds (using natural yeasts). In the early 1990’s, Angelo says it was his then best friend, Matteo Correggia, who saw the potential to put Roero on the map. He encouraged the local producers to start making wine for themselves, and then, adds Angelo, a lot of his customers (importers and distributors) came his way, because of his presence in the Italian Wines guide. Nowadays, there are 60-70 producers in the area, 20-30 of which make quality wines.
With most of his 13ha of vineyards on steep hillsides, it’s been easy to practice organic farming in the vineyard, and so Angelo has been doing so all along. Next year, he’ll earn certification. Here, you’ll find more sand in the soil than in the rest of Langhe, which yields more elegant wines. And while he hasn’t much altered his winemaking process since 1993-96, in 1999, Angelo started working with Beppe Ca’Viola, a local oenologist, who taught him how to taste and understand what to look for during the process, so that Angelo could better achieve the clean wines that he desires.
With his 20-year old son, Stefano, who is currently studying oenology, Angelo works the vineyards. And just as he inherited the vineyards from his parents, Angelo is happy to have the winery to pass along to his son.