Ruchè: The Autochthonous Piedmontese Grape Revived by a Local Priest From Near Extinction to Highest Italian Appellation

Ruchè is a native black grape indigenous to the area of Castagnole Monferrato in Piedmont which ran the risk of extinction if not for the foresight of the parish priest of the village. It was never given importance oenologically as it was only consumed as table grapes, or used in blending to refine wines because of its aromatic profile, or to produce sweet wine for family consumption. The story of its origin is uncertain but most probably it was imported from Burgundy by monks who planted it near the convent of San Rocco, which has long since been demolished.

However, what is verified is the story of its revival in the seventies. A native of Cisterna d’Asti, Don Giacomo Cauda assumed the position of taking charge of the church of Castagnole Monferrato. Upon his arrival at the church, he saw rows of Grignolino, Barbera and Ruchè in the property that were in a state of neglect. He became fascinated by Ruchè and studied the variety. He wanted to recover it not only for its organoleptic characteristics but most especially to promote it for its strong history with the local community. He therefore bought one hectare at his own expense by planting 4,000 Ruchè cuttings. Having worked in his family’s vineyards ever since he was a boy, he had the background so he cultivated, vinified, bottled and labeled it “Ruchè del Parroco.” The wine sold well for its excellent quality and the proceeds from the sales were used for the restoration work of the parish church and the oratory.

After the rebirth of Ruchè in the hands of Don Cauda, the phenomenon picked up in the eighties among the wine producers of Castagnole Monferrato. They too started to cultivate the grape and produce wine with it which resulted in its popularity and successive recognitions and qualitative achievements. Don Cauda’s “Ruché del Parroco” became “Vigna del Parroco”, when the patch of land was purchased by the producer Luca Ferraris in 2016 and it is the only cru recognized today. Thanks to the incredible dedication of Don Cauda, the winemakers of the town were encouraged to believe in the special qualities of the grapes growing in their soil thus becoming a product of excellence of the Piedmontese land.

The home of Ruchè is Castagnole Monferrato, a UNESCO world heritage viticulture landscape since 2011 where it found its ideal habitat. The village is perched on a ridge of about 200 meters high surrounded by hills of neatly-combed vineyards. The soil is rich in marine sediments mainly composed of marl rich in limestone, sandstone and silt. The vines are exclusively grown on the slopes facing west and southwest exposures. It is climatically temperate because of its position between the sea and the Alps, characterized by relatively mild winters.

How is Ruchè like?
It’s a medium-sized red grape rich in polyphenols, in particular tannins, and when ripe it shows a considerable accumulation of sugars generating texture and structure to the wine. The acidity is low but it retains a a good amount of malic acid that gives the wine freshness. It has a slightly aromatic flavor that is expressed well when vinified. Based on a research conducted in 2016 by CNR (Institute for the Sustainable Protection of Plants – Turin) consisting of Anna Schneider, Paola Ruffa, Stefano Raimondi, Paolo Boccacci and Simona Abbà, the parentage of Ruchè was finally determined: it’s an offspring of two local grapes: Malvasia Aromatica di Parma and Croatina. When vinified, it has a ruby red color with a unique and intense olfactory aromas of roses, violets and spices, mingled with berries like strawberries, raspberries and blackberries, Morello cherries and ripe plums and sometimes a hint of pepper. It has a dry, harmonious and pleasantly smooth taste, with good aromatic persistence.

From Associazione Produttori del Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato website

With what food can I pair Ruchè with?
Ruchè is a complex and versatile wine that makes it an ideal companion from fish dishes to highly aromatic food like truffles. Its aromaticity takes out its capacity to pair it with diverse food. Strong cheese that are aged as well as blue can work well with the palate and of course local Piedmontese dishes such as bagna cauda (hot dish of garlic and anchovies), finanziera (sweet and sour offal-based stew), and main courses featuring game. It’s also a great candidate to pair with Asian food for its use of spices and piquancy. Succulence, softness and olfactory depth make it easy to combine with highly aromatic and spicy foods such as ginger.

Disciplinary of Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato DOCG
With the support and help of the town mayor, Linda Bianco and a local teacher, Romana Valenzano, Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato received its first appellation, DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) in 1987. Then in 2010, it was elevated to DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita), the highest appellation level in the Italian system of wine. In 2020, the Riserva type was introduced, which provides for a refinement of 24 months before being marketed. The production of area that the disciplinary allows consists of 7 municipalities: Castagnole Monferrato, Grana, Montemagno, Portacomaro, Refrancore, Scurzolengo and Viarigi. The grapes that are admitted by the specification are 90% to 100% Ruchè with a maximum addtion of 10% Barbera and/or Brachetto. The minimum alcohol content is 12.5%.

Associazione Produttori del Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato DOCG
One big family with one million bottles. The Association of Producers of Ruchè di Castagnole Monferatto is composed of 21 wineries which represent about 90% of its entire denomination. The association was born in 2000, a fruit of a friendly meeting between a small group of producers with the aim to promote the denomination of Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato and its territory. It was formed informally in 2001 and officially in 2015. With the “These goals have been fundamental for us because they have led our wine to enter the Olympus of the best wines in Italy, or rather those recognized with the DOCG, top of the pyramid of quality in Italy. The Riserva type, a more recent result, allows those who wish to produce a more complex wine, capable of aging for a long time and acquiring value like the great Piedmontese brothers,” states Luca Ferraris, president of the Association.

Prediomagno Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato DOCG 2019
Emanuela Novello and her husband Giovanni entered the world of winemaking when they purchased a property that comprises a 19th-century villa on the rolling hills between Montemagno and Grana. Having long entrepreneurial experience, they built Prediomagno focusing on innovation, technology and vocation for excellence. The grapes are cultivated in calcareous clayey soil at an altitude of 250 meters asl. Fermentation takes place in temperature-controlled steel vats, ageing in steel vats then in the bottle. In the glass, it presents a bright ruby red color with a hint of garnet while the nose is intense and complex, which opens with violets, roses, dried spices, ripe red fruits and eucalyptus. In the mouth, it’s lively with soft tannins, well-balanced, round and ends with persistence.

Ferraris Clasìc Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato DOCG 2020
Winemaking was started by Luca Ferraris’ grandfather Martino, who produced bulk wine from his land of 4 hectares. When Luca graduated as an agriculturist, he started working at the family business and it was then when the winery experienced a turning point towards high quality production. Production was raised intensively from 10,000 to 130,000 bottles annually, 50,000 of which are Ruchè from 18 vineyards covering 25 hectares. It is now the largest family-owned agricultural company in the seven municipalities of the Ruchè-growing region. The grapes were cultivated in vineyards of 8 to 12 years old with clay and tuff at 250 meters asl, fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel rotofermenters for 10-15 days, aged in big oak barrels for 6 months and another 3 months in the bottle, unfiltered. In the glass it presents a limpid ruby red color while the olfactory profile has an intense complexity of aromas with the prevalence of roses and violets, ripe red berries, sweet spices and cherry jam. In the mouth there is a vibrant and balanced acidity that persists, floral notes, velvety tannins and elegant. A wonderful wine showing its splendid complex personality in youth.

Caldera Prevost Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato DOCG 2020
A family coat of arms that distinguishes itself in every bottle dates back to the 12th century. The first viticulture activity of the family dates back to the early 1900s with Prospero Caldera wherein he pioneered in selling and delivering to the client’s homes and to shops, as well as abroad. Fabrizia Caldera, along with her husband Roberto Rossi and their son Fabio represents the fourth and fifth generation of the family who continue the seal the bottles with the centuries old family’s coat of arms, an assurance of five generations of history and passion that totally respects tradition, territory and nature. Ruchè grapes cultivated in loamy soil with a high percentage of limestone. Maturation in steel tanks where malolactic fermentation occurs. Previous vintages have consistently received awards and recognition. In the glass it has a bright ruby red color with an intense nose of eucalyptus, candied violets and dried spices while in the mouth it is notably floral with hints of smoke, dried tea leaves, good acidity and velvety tannins that ends with persistence.

Cantine Sant’Agata Pro-Noblis Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato DOCG 2018
Ruchè is an important vine to the story of Cantina Sant’Agata and it firmly represents the winery’s main core. Founded by Giuseppe Cavallero, his family has been making wine for over a century on the hills surrounded by woods and vineyards in Scurzolengo in Monferrato Astigiano. Today, the helm controlled by his sons Claudio and Franco who continue to focus on what their father has believed on. Obtained from a selection of grapes harvested from the historic vineyard of 20 years which are vinified immediately in small wooden barrels providing a must that’s exceptionally rich in aromatic substance, malolactic fermentation took place in steel tanks, aged for 12 months in large oak barrels then in the bottle for about 4 months. This is the flag carrier of the winery. In the glass, it has a bright ruby red color with an intensely aromatic olfactory profile of underlined floral notes, spices and mature dark stone fruits. The mouth is vibrant with a gripping ripe dark stone fruit and sweet dried spices, soft, harmonious and persistent in the end. Can go well with Asian spiced dishes.

Cantine Sant’Agata ‘Na Volta Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato DOCG 2020
Produced from grapes harvested from four vineyards with different characteristics. Fermentation in contact with the skins for 14/16 days at a temperature of 28-30°C, then undergoes malolactic fermentation in stainless steel tanks. Brilliant ruby red color with an intense nose opening to floral aromas of violets and roses, red cherry jam and pepper. Equilibrated in the mouth, amplifying the floral aromatics, sapid, round and persistent as its floral note lingers in the end. Elegant and harmonious showing the great capacity of Ruchè.

Cantine Sant’Agata Genesis Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato Riserva DOCG 2016
The third label of Cantine Sant’Agata with a totally different approach to vinification by using partially dried grapes resulting with an alcohol content of 15%. The grapes are dried for 4 months in trays after harvesting then aged in large oak barrels for 3 years. The result is a muscular version of Ruchè with more organoleptic complexities and concentration. In the glass, it presents a ruby red color with highlights of garnet while the nose is intense and complex with references to ample aromas of vanilla, mature dark plums, ripe red fruits, tobacco leaves, eucalyptus, pepper and dried aromatic spices. The mouth is warm, enveloping and rich, fresh, well-balanced, finishes long and closes with a slight bitterness.

Garrone Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato DOCG 2020
Garrone Evasio & Figlio Winery is a family-owned winery run by Dante and Marco Garrone with the help of Cinzia, Marco’s wife. The estate has 12 hectares of vineyards located on the hills of Monferrato Astigiano, in the villages of Grana, Montemagno and Castagnole Monferrato. The majority of the vineyards were planted back in 1980 to 1995. The Ruchè grapes are cultivated in two vineyards located in Grana and Castagnole Monferrato which comprise about 10% of the total land. Harvest is stightly late by a few days then vinification takes place in stainless steel tanks. Ruby red color with aromas of roses and violets, ripe red berries, menthol and dried sweet spices. The palate opens with balsamic note, evident acidity, ripe red fruits, with a light bitter aftertaste.

Esse Erre Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato DOCG 2020
A small company founded in 1920 dedicated to the production of local wines with 4 hectares of vineyards dedicated to Barbera, Ruchè, Grignolino and Riesling that was taken over by Giulia Montina, Edoardo Rossi and Simone Serra. The first vintage of Esse Erre with a limited production of 3,000 bottles as from a selection of four different exposures. Limpid ruby red in color with an intense and complex nose of roses, violets, ripe red cherries, pepper and menthol. In the mouth, the floral notes open up first followed by the freshness, velvety tannins, round and persistent. An excellent wine that continues to grow with delicate confidence in the glass, exhibiting elegance and harmony.

Bersano San Pietro Realto Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato DOCG 2020
The story of Bersano began in 1907 in Nizza Monferrato, the heart of the Barbera d’Asti area. In 1935, Arturo Bersano started to run the company with great success. In over thirty years, the Massimelli and Soave families, owners of the Casa Vinicola, have consolidated an impressive reality of farms where, without forgetting the strength of the traditions, quality grapes are produced making Bersano one of the most important wineries in Piedmont. Obtained from Ruchè cultivated in vineyards with soil of clay and silt, vinified and refined in steel then a final 2 months in the bottle. Limpid ruby red color with a nose of sour cherries, freshness, ripe dark stone fruits, red berries, roses and herbal notes. In the palate it opens with acidity then widens to floral and fruit notes, ending with persistence.

Goggiano Furin Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato DOCG 2020
A small family-run winery near Asti established by Giuseppe Goggiano whose aim is to constantly improve the quality of his wines. Presently Michelangelo, Giuseppe’s son, he continues what his father has started with clear focus on quality and the development of the winery. Aged in vitrified cement vats for 6 months where the malolactic fermentation takes place and naturally clears up then 3 months in the bottle. In the glass, it displays a limpid ruby red color, an intense nose of candied violets, preserved dark plums, sweet spices and menthol. The mouth opens to a more interesting aspect of the wine with well-balanced freshness, roundness and and finishes long with its floral aromatics.

Bava Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato DOCG 2019
The history of the Bava family started in the village of Cocconato, on the steep hillsides of Monferrato Astigiano. They have been cultivating grapes since 1600 but not until 1911 did the family built their first wine cellar in the same area. Six generations later, the estate has extended to Monferrato and Langa, with 50 hectares of vineyards and 20 hectares of natural fields and woods creating biodiversity. The family has maintained the same care and attention that they have been practicing from the olden times to safeguard the territory. Vinification and refinement in steel then bottle where it fully develops its floral bouquet. Limpid ruby red in the glass with intense aromas of roses and violets, white pepper and ripe dark stone fruits. Palate is fresh which opens to its floral notes, well-balanced, soft, round and persistent.

Montalbera Laccento Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato DOCG 2020
Montalbera Winery was founded at the beginning of the 20th century in an area located in Grana, Castagnole Monferrato, and Montemagno. Presently managed by the third generation of the family, the property has since expanded to over 110 hectares in two of Piedmont’s most important winemaking zones: Monferrato and Langhe planting grapevines prevalently Ruchè. The Ruché di Castagnole Monferrato Laccento is obtained from 80% of the ripest grapes and 20% that are slightly overripe, cultivated in the vineyards on the Montalbera hill that receives the best exposure to the sun. Aged in steel tanks then in the bottle at a horizontal position at a controlled temperature for about 6 months. Ruby red in color with hints of purple with an intense nose that opens with floral aromas of roses and geranium, preserved dark berries and menthol while the mouth is round, silky, fresh, soft tannins, floral, leaving a trace of saltiness and ends with persistence. It’s an elegant wine that has both power and delicacy giving your palate a delicious voyage from varietal to territory and will become interesting as it evolves with age.

Vigna del Parroco Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato DOCG 2019
This is the second label of Luca Ferraris dedicated to Ruchè which takes its name from the small vineyard near the Church of Castagnole Monferrato planted by Don Giacomo Cauda in 1964, the local parish priest who was the first to believe in the potential of Ruchè to be vinified and bottled in purity. Obtained from the grapes coming from the first and oldest vineyard planted entirely with Ruchè. It is therefore the only cru existing in the DOCG Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato denomination. In 2016, Luca Ferraris was chosen take the responsibility of taking over this important vineyard thus making the Vigna del Parroco the flagship wine of the company and that of the whole world of Ruchè. In the glass it presents a bright ruby red color with hints of purple, an olfactory profile that openes immediately floral aromas of candied roses and violets, ripe sour cherries, red berries, lingering eucalyptus and ending with a touch of sapidity. A great wine that lives up excellently to its historical importance.

Poggio Ridente San Marziano Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato DOCG 2019
Founded by Cecilia Zucca, this 20-hectare organic wine estate at an altitude of 491 meters asl in Cocconato is composed of 13 vineyards and surrounded by woods. In the Viarigi d’Asti vineyards, which surrounds the little Romanesque San Marziano Church, which it takes its name from, Ruchè grapes are cultivated biologically (ICEA certification). After a selective manual harvest of the perfectly patured grapes, it follows a traditional vinification with a maceration between 8 to 10 days then a break for some months in steel tanks. In the glass, it presents a bright ruby red color with an intense nose with a sweet note, opening to wild strawberries and roses, with hints of violets, and mint while the mouth is fresh, moderately tannic and becomes rounder and more equilibrated over time in the glass.

Amelio Livio Primordio Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato DOCG 2020
Founded in the early 1900s by Livio’s grandfather Giuseppe and over the years, Giuseppe’s son Carlo continued working in the vineyards and began producing the first bottles of the winery. In was in 1984 when the company was passed to Carlo’s son, Livio that the company changed by significantly raising the quality of the wines and the future steps of the winery followed this path. Livio’s daughters, Daniela, a graduate of enotechnics and Arianna, a surveyor graduate, subsequently discovered a great passion for the vineyard. It is a winery run by the complete family, including Livio’s wife, Marisa. They maintain the old traditions of winemaking with modernized production techniques to obtain wines of good quality. The 7-hectare vinyards are located in the small village of Grana, one of the municipalities of the denomination of Ruché di Castagnole Monferrato. Vinification takes place in steel tanks at a controlled temperature of 25°C, during the second and third day of fermentation the delestage is carried out followed by maceration of about 10 days. The refinement occurs in steel tanks then in the bottle. In the glass, it has bright ruby red color, an intense flower-forward nose of roses and violets, dark berries, sweet note and sweet dried spices while in the palate parallels the olfactory profile, fresh, well-balanced, elegant, persistent and exiting with pronounced floral notes.

Tenuta dei Re Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato DOCG 2020
Tenuta dei Re Winery has an old history of viticulture and winemaking that started in 1870. It is located in Castagnole Monferrato in the province of Asti, one of the most important winegrowing areas in the north of Italy. Right in the demonination zone of Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato DOCG, the 10-hectare land of south-facing vineyards with sandy soils are cultivated with grapes of outstanding quality. Tenuta dei Re has been believing in the potential of their grapes most especially Ruchè which are planted. The grapes went through cold pre-fermentation maceration in steel tank and maturation in cement tanks for 10 months. It has a ruby red color with hints of purple, an intense floral nose of roses, violets and geranium, notes of preserved plums, and pepper while the mouth is full, velvety with soft tannins, fresh and persistent.

Bosco Oltrevalle Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato DOCG 2019
A young winery, having been founded in 2015 by Tommaso Bosco following the reorganization of the previous family agricultural activity which had been inactive for serveral years. He concentrates on the production of wines from Barbera, Grignolino and most importantly, Ruchè which is the flagship variety of Castagnole Monferrato. In its 22 hectares of land, 15 of which are dedicated to vines dividied to 5 hectares to Ruchè, 1.2 hectares divided among Grignolino and Barbera while the rest are cultivated by another prestigious product of Piedmont, the IGP Tonda Gentile hazelnut. Obtained from Ruchè grapes cultivated on a ridge with tuffaceous-clayey-calcareous soil with exposure from east to southwest. Ageing occurs in steel tanks for 5 months and another 3 months in the bottle. A bright ruby red color with red berry-forward nose of wild strawberries and strawberries, floral notes of roses and dried sweet spices as the aromas extend to the mouth, well-balanced, elegant, soft tannins, persistent and pronounced juicy strawberries in the closing. A very pleasant wine that boasts its varietal profile with harmony.

Tenuta Montemagno Nobilis Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato DOCG 2018
Nestled on the hills of Monferrato in Piedmont, Tenuta Montemagno is a producer of wines belonging to some of the acclaimed wines in Italy. Proprietor Tiziano Barea opened the winery and a relais in a restored 16th century farmhouse fitted with modern technology. Amidst the 100-hectare property, surrounded by rolling hills, hazelnut orchards, and sunflower fields, 17 hectares are dedicated to the cultivation of authochtonous varieties. Oenologist Gianfranco Cordero focuses on traditionality with strong characters of grapes indigenous to the area. Deep ruby red in color with an intense nose that opens to a marked floral bouquet of roses and violets, ripe red berries, mature dark plums and pepper while the mouth confirms the olfactory profile with elegance, velvety, juiciness, pronounced freshness, soft tannins and remarkable persistence. A commendable wine that represents the excellence of Ruchè.

Associazione Produttori del Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato DOCG

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