The Monferrato hills surrounding Asti shelter a “hidden Piemonte” — a land of Barbera and Moscato vineyards, but also home of the kinkier, characterful grape varieties Grignolino and Ruchè. Grignolino is mentioned in local church documents dating back to the 13th century. Luca Ferraris’s village of Castagnole Monferrato is Ruchè’s probable birthplace and still the cradle of its finest examples, as the DOCG (appellation) name “Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato” attests. Luca’s grandfather Martino first planted vineyards in the 1920s and gave birth to the family winery that Luca and his wife, Chiara, now tend with equal care and passion. These are wines ready to delight palates both naive and jaded, with aromatic distinctiveness and an ability to play well with many cuisines. Total production for the winery is 10,000 cases, from 18 hectares of planted vineyards.
Castagnole Monferrato is 15 kilometers northeast of Asti and 70 kilometers east of Turin, in southeast Piemonte.
Tasting (and drinking) Grignolino and Ruchè
Always pour Grignolino before Ruchè, since Grignolino is so much lighter in body. A chill benefits the Grignolino – anywhere from Beaujolais to rosé temperature. And of course Ruchè, like all reds, should be poured on the cool side. Because these are aromatic reds, we often pour them – especially the Ruchè – after other, non-aromatic reds. But feel free to experiment.
One of the many appealing things about these wines is that they both surprise between nose and mouth. The Grignolino is lightly aromatic and almost delicate on the nose. These qualities and the very light color suggest that the wine is going to be light in structure. Then you put the wine in your mouth, and you get that little tannic kick. It’s not overpowering, but it is surprising, in an entirely pleasant way (to us, anyway!). Ruchè is even more aromatic, with a resemblance to the aromas of Lacrima di Morro d’Alba or Brachetto. The first surprise is when a really aromatic red turns out to be dry rather than sweet. The second surprise is how Ruchè’s floral quality is less intense on the palate than on the nose. Really aromatic reds can be beguiling to smell but overbearing to drink; one always worries that they’re going to be like swallowing perfume or getting locked in an over-stuffed flower shop. But in the mouth, Ruchè’s floral notes are nicely framed by herbal, fruit, and earth notes that keep the floweriness from getting out of hand. So you get that kinky, floral nose followed by a layered, complex, and completely drinkable palate.