The sparkling secrets in Casa Contratto's wine cellars.
The atmosphere described by Cesare Pavese in his famous novels set in Langhe, still lingers in the streets of Canelli, one of the most enchanting towns in the province of Asti.
Boasting a centuries old culture of wine making, today, Canelli is responsible for the production and exportation of eight highly acclaimed D.O.C wines and two of Italy's best-selling sparkling D.O.C.G wines: the Moscato d'Asti and Asti Spumante.
Gancia museum and cellars
It was in Canelli, in the mid 19th century, that Carlo Gancia produced the first Italian spumante.
It is no coincidence that one of the city's best known landmarks is the manor house purchased in 1929 by Casa Gancia, one of
Piedmont's most prestigious historic wineries, and which now houses the company's museum, recounting the history of the celebrated brand.
"Underground cathedrals". It would be hard to find a more fitting description for Canelli's cellars, veritable architectural masterpieces dug deep into the tuff on which the town was constructed. Here the region's great wines are conserved at a constant temperature of 12-14 degrees.
The uniqueness of the cellars is the motivation behind Canelli town council's recent application for UNESCO world heritage status
Casa Contratto museum gallery
Casa Contratto, in the center of Canelli, is another of the town's historic wineries, a visit to which is an absolute must for both wine lovers and historians.
In an elegant edifice built in Italian Liberty-style, with impressive wrought iron gates and an enchanting cobblestoned courtyard, the Casa Contatto winery has a museum-gallery.
Here there are documents and photos recording the history of the company and, in the "sack room" (where, in the past, the Dutch bags used to filter the Moscato were left to dry), there is a fascinating collection of ancient instruments once used for vinification.
The highlight of the visit are the 32 meter deep cellars where, for 130 years, bottles of wine produced with the Chardonnay and Pino Nero grapes have been stored
The art of aging gracefully=
The first stage of aging, when the bottles are laid down in stacks, is known as the "presa di spuma", period when the wine acquires its "perlage" and aromatic complexity.
In the final phase, the bottles are transferred on to the "puprites", the wooden racks which have become the symbol of the Classic Method.
Here each day the cellar master rotates each bottle by a quarter turn and inclines it slightly towards the ceiling so that the sediment is deposited in the neck.
The laborious process continues with the "degorgement", during which the cork of the bottle is delicately removed and the sediment released. In the last phase the "liquer d'expedition" is added: a secret dose of wines, cane sugar and other ingredients such as aquavite and brandy, which give Casa Contratto's spumantes their unique taste.
Casa Contratto does not only produce bubbles: the winery is responsible for the creation of a number of excellent Barolo, Barbaresco, Barbara d'Asto and Chardonnay wines too!
Cantine Casa Contratto
via G.B. Giuliani, 56
Tel. + 39 0141/82.33.49
Opening hours: from January to September everyday by prior arrangement (booking accepted by phone or email).
From October to December: Thursday-Monday: 10.00-12.00; 15.00-18.00