According to the news reported to us by Prof. Attilio Scienza, who, with Donato Lanati, helped us at the beginning of our enterprise, the vine cultivation on Lake Orta has been present since ancient times: “Plinio, in his Naturalis Historia XVI book, talks of the wines of Verbania and Lake Orta, calling them “asprigni” because the vines were planted high up (on the trees, with a great growth) …
In 1300, a vine called “Belna”, the Roman name for Beaune, is mentioned, perhaps the Pinot Noir or Gamay, of the Varenca, a typical grape of Lake Orta, of Pignoli and of the Neretto”. Some scrolls of the Basilica of San Giulio also show the same. With the first Vualperto of Ambrogione of Pittinasco (10th October, 892), confirms the legacy of two lands, comprising vineyards and chestnut woods, given to Immelda his mother by his father.
Below is a parchment (22nd January, 1181), in which Ardicione of Lombardo sold a fenced vineyard in Pitinasco (ubi dicitur ad Novella) to Giacomo Morro, for three pieces of imperial silver, with the obligation to give one coin to the church of San Giulio and to the gentlemen of Casaleggio, under whose direct rule the land is situated. In another document of the following century (26th June, 1259), the provost of San Giulio assigns Ardicione of Manfredo with a land between Crabia and Pitenasco (ubi dicitur ad Rancum).
More recently, from Angelo Marzi’s research at the State Archives of Turin, it was found that in Maria Teresa’s Cadastre of 1723, some land was already planted with vines (pf n. 151). Besides, in the Rabbini’ Cadastre of 1864, most of the land around the farmstead buildings was planted with vines (T. n. 115, Sommarione: fasc. N. 78).
In a word, wine has existed here for a long time. Still today it isn’t rare to find small plots of land along the shores of the lake, where vines are cultivated (American grapes and some Nebbiolo) and where people produce a little wine for family consumption. But no one had ever attempted to produce a wine of excellent quality in a professional way.
Our intention was to make a qualifying action for the lake area in terms of architecture and eco-system, while also addressing the principles in-force in relation to the redevelopment of the agriculture of hill and mountain land. We were aware of operating in unconventional climatic and soil conditions (sandy soils with acid pH and particularly abundant rainfalls), but also of being on the slopes of a mountain, the Mottarone, made of granite and gneiss that would have contributed to the amazing character of our wines. Encouraged by Luigi Veronelli, after some first contacts with the winemaker Donato Lanati, and later with Nicolas Joly, the French vine-grower, proponent of natural wines, in 2001 we decided to join the cause of biodynamic under the guidance of Jacques Mell, with the aim of producing wines of the highest quality offered by the terroir of Lake Orta.
With the architectural design of Alessandro and Francesco Mendini, Eugenia Farmstead was restored becoming our residence and the farm buildings have been restored to their original functions. Inside the new farm we have planned and organized the complete cycle of wine production. The wines: a Pinot Noir, a Chardonnay and a wine of overripe grapes (with their grappas) which will be available from May 2014, and a sparkling pas dosé that will be ready in 2015.
Alberto Alessi and Laura Pessina