This portion of our adventure began with our lunch at La Buta Enoteca in Asti (see the post on Asti). We asked our server, Antonio, what his favorite wine was, and, after some thought, he said, “Ruchè.” I had never heard of Ruchè before, so some education was in order. Antonio told us that Ruchè is an indigenous grape of the Piemonte with very small production that produces a unique wine that he was sure we would enjoy. He told us that while it is lighter and easier to drink than many of the Barolos of the region, it still had significant complexity. Antonio thought the Association of Ruchè di Castagnole Producers was having its annual festival the following day in Castagnole Monferatto. After a short call to one of his winemaker friends, he confirmed the festival hours for us and gave us directions.
We had already planned to go to Milano the following morning (see the post, Sunday in Milano), and a quick look at a map showed that Castagnole Monferrato was about half way between Milano and where we were staying in Montegrosso d’Asti. So, we decided to stop by the festival on our way back from Milano.
Castagnole Monferato is a small village in the hills northeast of Asti. Like much of Piemonte, the landscape is rolling hills. The Italian Nobel Laureate poet and writer Giosuè Carducci described the land as Tuscany without the cypresses.”
The origin of the Ruchè grape is uncertain. Most believe it is a variety indigenous to Piemonte, while others think it may have been brought to the area hundreds of years ago from Burgundy. Regardless, it has been cultivated in the region for centuries. For most of that time, the wine was produced as a relatively sweet, red wine. In the 1960s, the local parish priest priest, Giacomo Cauda, worked to modernize the parish vineyards and winemaking techniques in an effort to produce a wine that showcased Ruchè and would provide economic opportunity for the village.
Through the efforts of Father Cauda, Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato received DOC status in 1987 and DOCG status in 2010. It is one of, if not the, smallest DOCG areas in Italy, comprising about 240 acres in 2015. The 30 or so producers made almost 66,000 cases in 2016. All of which makes Ruchè a rare treat.
Ruchè wine today is intriguing. It’s light, brilliant garnet/ruby color and soft, floral aromas belie the tannic punch and structure that come when you sip the wine. It bursts with red fruit flavors and spice. The wine is a great complement to salumi as well as most pork dishes.