“There’s a red house over yonder,” sang Jimi Hendrix and, sure enough, there was. Vinnie and I were in Roero, a famous wine-producing area south of Turin. Less hilly than neighbouring Langhe but still with the slopes that provide perfect growing conditions for the vines, this is fertile territory for those seeking great wines at affordable prices. The red house in question, and it really is red, signals that we have found Cascina Ca’Rossa which translates as farmhouse red house.
Here we met Angelo Ferrio – a most engaging man with a wonderfully infectious laugh – who gave us a tour of this family winery. They now have an estate of 16 hectares of vines and an annual production of around 100,000 bottles of wine. The history of this winery starts in 1967 when Angelo’s father, Alfonso, bought the land. It was a time when many were deserting the country and heading for well-paid jobs in the cities. Alfonso decided to go against the tide, as did so many artisan winemakers, and this proved to be an inspired decision, albeit one that took a long time to come to fruition. Initially, his main focus was on the traditional crops of the area, peaches and hazelnuts, together with some grapes that were sold in bulk.
Angelo, however, had different ideas from his father and there was some conflict but, of course, in the end Angelo, with youth on his side, had his way and moved the business towards quality wines, estate bottled. Now, as you walk through the winery, you can see all the equipment, stainless steel temperature controlled vats, large Slovenian oak botti and the small 225l French oak barrique, that are the stock-in-trade of the modern Italian winemaker. Angelo now works with his son Stefano, who has a degree in oenology, and I am pleased to report that at the moment they are both singing from the same hymn sheet on the future of the business.
The wine that we were tracking down takes its name from the area and has the prized DOCG status. Unusually, it also comes in both red and white versions. We started the tasting with the white Roero Arneis 2019 that Angelo calls Merica. The Arneis grape originated in Piedmont and this is where it is almost exclusively grown, especially around Roero. The wine is fermented and matured in stainless steel before being bottled. The colour is pale straw, and on the nose there is melon and pineapple together with the characteristically buttery sensation that comes from the wine being left on the lees. On the palate there is acidity balanced with a certain salinity and the taste of Granny Smith cooking apples. I would pair this with stronger fish like swordfish and perhaps meat such as veal or pork.
The regulations governing the production of the red DOCG Roero state it has to be at least 95% Nebbiolo, the famous Piedmont grape, but Angelo prefers to keep it at 100%. We started with the Valmaggiore Audinaggio 2017, an intense and full-bodied wine. This is a single vineyard wine that has been aged in French barrique of different ages. This is important to avoid the flavours from the wood overwhelming the wine. A bright garnet colour with hints of ruby, the bouquet is packed with cherries, jam, dried flowers and oriental spices. On the palate it is full of cherries with soft tannins and a balancing acidity.
Next we tried the Le Coste 2016. Aged in Slovenian oak botti, this wine has a dark garnet colour with violets, leather and cherry on the nose and on the palate there are bitter cherries with a touch of salinity and acidity making for a good structure. The tannins are present but soft. This is a well-structured and well-balanced wine. I would suggest pairing it with ragu or perhaps mature cheese.
From the Mompissano vineyard comes Angelo’s Roero Riserva and we sampled the 2016. Aged again in the big Slovenian botti, the colour is a dark garnet with a bouquet of violets, raisins, and cherries with a hint of cinnamon. On the palate it fills the mouth with joy and warmth and what can only be described as the taste of a classic English Christmas pudding with its rich dried fruits and warming spices. It has mature, polished tannins and a good finish. Truly delightful – pair it with roasted meat or mature cheese.
I left with the feeling of having met a man in perfect balance with what he does, content with making wine the best way he knows how and happy that people appreciate it. If you get the chance to sample Angelo’s wines do not let it slip by.