On the Roero hills, the vine and wine are country culture, passion and pride. It’s always been this way, as proven by the archives, art and landscape, the architecture of country houses, and the tangible culture and everyday life of these hills.
The earliest mentions of nebiolio and moscatelli date back to 1303. Arneis appeared as a place name in the 1400s and Favorita was recorded, with indications of vinification as a single-grape wine, in 1676. But the Roero wine civilisation also includes prized productions of Barbera, Bonarda, Croatina and Brachetto (in the local, so-called “long bunch” variety, sold as Birbèt). There is also a small “island” of Moscato (in Santa Vittoria d’Alba).
The winegrowing landscape is particularly pretty: lots of little vineyards, all on the hills, like the pieces of a mosaic, drawing regular geometries with the slopes facing the sun. Humble ciabòt, interesting examples of spontaneous farming architecture, convey a fairy tale air to the vineyard landscape. And on the hilltops, superb castles and tall towers indicate the presence of a lively medieval history.
Past the hill of S. Frè, we find those that, with different and pleasant effects, extend as far as Asti, inhabited by people who industriously cultivate wines, full of gardens producing every sort of fruit, and vineyards that produce the finest wines drunk in Piedmont.
Mons. Agostino Della Chiesa, mid-17th century
Roero and Langhe are the two hill ranges around Alba. Sister hills, divided and united by the River Tanaro and by a proud territorial spirit. The keen eye will grasp all the differences: colours and monothematic landscapes in the Langhe (wine, hazelnuts and pastures), with variety as the main feature of the Roero.
A cluster of hills which, starting from the pretty fracture in the rocks, in a continuous sequence of ascents and descents, reach as far as the River Tanaro, proudly facing the sister hills of the Langhe, with a series of beautiful castles and superb vineyards. The variegated landscape rapidly alternates the wild beauty of the rocks with the tidy vineyards on the hillsides, the shadows of age-old chestnut copses and pretty blossoms in the orchards.
An aristocratic land in name, in that it is named after a noble family from Asti who played a leading role in local Medieval history, and in landscape, being rich in towers and castles.
It comprises 25 municipal districts, covering a total surface area of 420 square km, with over 75,000 inhabitants.
My Roero knows the art of seduction: it seduces but never gives itself completely. You have to chase it and reveal it piece by piece. My favourite way is by bike. And every time is a surprise. A cluster of hills, covered with vineyards, vegetable gardens and orchards.
But just around the bend you’ll find age-old chestnut copses, amongst the humours of the woods or in the middle of wildly steep rocks. A real Eden of flavours for the chef. Every season has its typical fruit. Every hill has a flavour to tell. Every farmhouse has the “real” traditional recipe.
Every cellar the finest wine.
My cycling trips, more than a hobby or a way of relaxing, are lessons about the territory. The sporting performance has to give way every time to the chef’s curiosity and to the charm of tasting fruit picked straight from the tree or a conversation with a truffle hunter.
Often with the excuse of needing a drink of water, I’ll climb the stairs to a barn and listen to an old farmer’s wife tell me about a recipe: I never come back without having stolen something to bring to the laboratory or the kitchen.