The term “Langhe” (Langa in Piedmontese) identifies a region located between the provinces of Cuneo and Asti, on the border with Monferrato and Roero; all these regions were inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage list in 2014. Made up of rolling hills delimited by some rivers, among which Tanaro (stage of the fights of the Resistance movement during the Second World Word), starting from the 1990s the Langhe, after a period of economic depression, underwent a great rebirth thanks to a rediscovered interest in the agricultural world, that led to the restoration (often carried out by foreigners) of farmsteads and castles, turned into holiday farms or ethnographic museum, to the investment in excellent agricultural products and to the development of a new cultural, wine and food tourism.
The territory id divided into Bassa Langa (between Tanaro to the North and Belbo to the South, usually below 600 m above sea level), mostly covered in vineyards; Alta Langa (on the border with Liguria, below 750 m, except for a peak of 896 m in the Monbarcaro); and Langa Astigiana (South of the province of Asti).
Alba is a city of ancient origin, rich in churches and other historic buildings; it is located in the Bassa Langa, halfway between Asti and Cuneo, in the province of the latter. It is renowned for white truffle, the wood, the cultivation of a refined variety of hazelnuts “Tonda Gentile delle Langhe” IGP (base of all Ferrero products), some DOP cheeses (among which Robiola di Roccaverano) and many great wines.
We suggest a visit to Aziende vitivinicole Ceretto: created in the 1930s, they comprise various vineyards and cellars that produce refined wines. The vineyards are cultivated following the principle of biological and, sometimes, biodynamic farming, combining landscape, contemporary architecture and environmental art.
The only company of the Geretto Group open to the public is Tenuta Monsordo Barnadina, where you can find, taste and buy the wines produced by the others. We include them anyway to know more about their activity and for your information since you will find them along the way. We also suggest some special nurseries and an arboretum that you can add to your itinerary in the area of Alba. It is a true botanical excellence to admire while you are in the neighbourhood.
Tenuta Monsordo Bernardina, strada Provinciale Alba/Barolo 34, Località San Cassiano, Alba (Cuneo): bought in 2000, the historic mansion Tenuta Monsordo Bernardina is now the centre of the Caretto wine companies and the only one open to the public. Many wines are produced here (white: Langhe Doc Arneis, Langhe Doc Bianco, Monsordo; red: Dolcetto d’Alba Doc, Barbera d’Alba Doc, Nebbiolo d’Alba Doc, Barbaresco Docg, Barolo Docg, Langhe Doc Rosso, Monsordo; dessert wines: Barolo Chinato) and you can taste and buy those from the other cellars of the group. The new space has a modern design dedicated to wine tasting and selling, the promotion of meetings, conferences and cultural events; it includes the avant-garde “Acino”, a building similar in shape to a grape, suspended on the vineyards, made of an innovative soft material similar to grape skin. The inside was designed by architect Giuseppe Blengini, inspired by the colours of vineyards and to their irregular geometry. Visits and tastings at Tenuta Monsordo Bernardina should be book in advance.
Within Tenuta Monsordo Bernardina there is a big vegetable garden where the three-time starred chef Enrico Crippa biologically produces vegetables, herbs and flowers, with the help of three gardeners/farmers (Enrico Costanza, Pietro Merlo e Nicola Borio). The produce is collected daily and used in his restaurant Piazza Duomo in Alba (definitely worth a visit!). Besides the most common vegetables, selected in ancient and local varieties, they produce also many other particular fruit trees.
Distance from other cellars: km 8 from Bricco Rocche – km 29 from I Vignaioli – km from 18 Bricco Asili.
The other cellars of the Ceretto group
Bricco Rocche, via Monforte 122, Castiglione Faretto (CN): located at the heart of Barolo D.O.C.G. and built in 1982, it produces only Barolo using grapes from the vineyards of La Morra, Serralunga, Castiglione Falletto and Barolo. In 2000 the building was expanded with the avant-garde “Cubo di Vetro” (Glass Cube), a glass structure without frame, with sharp edges and a solid base, created by Piedmontese artist Valerio Berruti: in plasma-cut corten steel, it is a structure designed to enclose and protect the vineyards.
Distance from other cellars: km 34 from I Vignaioli – km 26 from Bricco Asili – km 8 from Monsordo Bernardina.
Bricco Asili, Barbaresco (CN): it as a small chateau-cellar within the vineyard above the Asili hill, that produces only two Barbaresco, Asili in Barbaresco and Bernadot in Treiso. Distance from other cellars: km 18 from Monsordo Bernardina – km 17 from I Vignaioli – km 26 from Bricco Rocche.
I Vignaioli di Santo Stefano, loc. Marini 26, Santo Stefano Belbo (CN): established in 1976 by a group of producers (the Scavino and the Ceretto family) with the aim to produce high quality Moscato wines, it is made up of 16 hectares of land between Santo Stefano Belbo, Canelli e Calosso and the prestigious mansion San Maurizio, owned by Count Vittorio Incisa Beccaria, with an area of 25 hectares of land in the Municipality of Santo Stefano Belbo; 41 hectares in all.
Distance from other cellars: km 17 from Bricco Asili – km 29 from Cantine Ceretto – km 34 from Bricco Rocche.
Nurseries, arboretums, small gardens and other botanical curiosities in the area
The Bassa Langa is very rich in natural beauties, gardens and nurseries above all. Here are some of them, divided in the two provinces in which the terrirory is divided. You can find many other here: luoghi.italianbotanicaltrips.com/piemonte/
In the province of Asti
Azienda agricola Fiorella Gilli, Villanova d’Asti: nursery-garden-B&B, here are three reason to visit Fiorella Gilli’s company (doctor in Arboriculture, nurseryman, gardener and garden designer). Over time, Fiorella selected the species and cultivar more fit for the typically continental climate and for the unfavourable clayey ground, among trees, shrubs and vine, rare and unusual, with collections of horse chestnuts, witch hazel, chokeberries, lilies, Clematis, Ceanothus, Cornus, Cotoneaster, Cotinus, Euonymus, mock-oranges, hortensias, roses, some perennial and acid-loving herbs. The garden is truly pleasant.
Azienda agricola Val Mundoni, Castelnuovo Don Bosco (AT): Silvana Riccaboni’s nursery specialises in the cultivation of Canna indica (Canna x hybrida, Canna x generalis), with more than 35 varieties (dwarf, giant, medium, aquatic, flowering, gladiolus, orchids, with giant, small or ornamental flowers). Of tropical origins, Indian shots, after conquering European gardens in the 19th Century and until the 1950s, are now appreciated once more for their exotic foliage with exuberant flowers that gives an irresistible tropical touch to gardens and balconies.
Bialbero di Casorzo: in a field along the road connecting Casorzo and Grana (Asti), you will find a very strange tree! It is a “doble-tree” made up of a big mulberry (Morus sp.) with a partly hollow trunk. Within it grew a wild cherry tree (Prunus avium), probably born out of a seed dropped by a bird. Both plants are thriving. Pay attention to it, if you are in that area.
In the province of Cuneo
Arboreto Prandi, Sale di San Giovanni (CN): owned by the Prandi-Garrone family, it guards several local and exotic tree species, very valuable shrubs and herbs from a botanical, environmental and landscape point of view.
Azienda agricola il Bolfone, Cherasco (CN): it is a highly specialised nursery with a botanical collection of rosemary. Different for dimension, colour and dimension of leaves and flowers, all with a wonderful smell. The rosemary is fit for poor and stony soils; they don’t require much water because their strong roots go deep in the ground looking for it and can be put in pots.
Alpi Vivai, Borgo San Dalmazzo (CN): this family-run nursery produces grafted chestnuts, bare root and potted, and small fruits for more than 30 different varieties (raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, currants and gooseberries) and about 100 fruit-bearing plants in pots.
Azienda agricola Jshandhoor, this tiny pleasant company owned by Susanna Aimone produces flowers and plants from seed or plant cutting with the aim to recover old traditional varieties now quite forgotten and to research new ones. Among those: Ageratum, Tagetes, Zinnia, Eschscholzia, Ipomoea, Cosmos bipinnatus, Antirrhinum majus, Tropaeolum majus, Cleome, wildflowers, Lathyrus odoratus, Lathyrus, wild species and particular perennials.