With the Marenco family

We packed our bags and were on the bus by 9.45am, Tim awarding maximum points for our promptness.  En route to the airport we were making one final visit, to, as Tim described it, his all time favourite wine family.

The Marenco sisters own and run the estate their father extended in the 1980s, buying vineyards from families moving to the towns for work,  bringing production in house rather than selling grapes to the local co-op.  They are probably the biggest family owned estate making Moscato d’Asti and a number of other wines under the local DOC/DOCGs around Strevi.

At the winery in Strevi we met Gian, husband of Michaela the oldest of the sisters, who leads the business. 

First he explained about the crest of Strevi, with its seven wine glasses, displayed on a paving stone in front of the winery.
Then we walked to ‘where it was all happening’ and stood beside the racks of Brachetto grapes drying in the sun, which would be pressed very gently to make Brachetto d’Acqui sweet wine. 
Gian described the process of making Moscato d’Asti, and how their conversion to organic production has made this even more complex, as the pressed grape must is clarified entirely by chilling and settling and filtration.  This must is kept at -1dec C until a batch of Moscato d’Asti is made, in order to ensure maximum freshness and fruit character.  The fermenting must is then chilled again, and a very fine filter removes all yeast before bottling, so that the residual sugar that gives Moscato its sweetness cannot referment in the bottle.
Andrea, Michaela and Gian’s son, said hello at the winery and spent more time with us at the vineyard where we went next.

The countryside opened out as we ascended from Strevi through wooded hills, to a glorious patchwork of hills, vineyards, woods and the occasional building.  Despite some haze, the white buildings of Alessandria could be seen to the north, and the Appenines to the south.  Our driver, Fabrizio, had brought the group who came in June, so knew to reverse down the track to the farmhouse, where we received the full Michaela welcome.  Tim has been visiting Marenco since 2006, and their hospitality is legend. 

Doretta, the second of the sisters took over and walked us to the beautiful view point, talking about the 30 people who work on the estate, including Patrizia, the youngest of the sisters who was one of the first woman to study oenology in Piemonte, and now leads winemaking.  Doretta explained that the Alto Monferrato hills that lead to the Appenines are low and allow cool maritime breezes to reach the area, allowing grapes to retain freshness.  They have a variety of soil types on the old sea bed, including the red and white soils we had already met in Gavi and Barolo. Across their 80ha hey grow seven varieties of grapes, and we tasted a number of them with our delicious lunch under the walnut trees. 

Moscato d’Asti of course to start, with homemade focaccia straight out of the oven, then a white made from the Caricalasino grape variety with lovely herbaceous mineral flavours and a hint of oak.  A Barbera d’Asti was followed by an Albarossa, a cross between Barbera and Nebbiolo that is only grown by about 50 producers.  Deep in colour with hints of earth and spice it was a great contrast to what we had previously tried of either variety.  And to finish a Brachetto d’Acqui – strawberry jam and Turkish Delight with foamy bubbles in a glass.

Time passed too quickly, we said our thanks and goodbyes, and really did not want to leave, but a flight home (or further travels) loomed and we were back on the bus and at Milan Malpensa in a couple of hours.  It has been a wonderful few days of wine, food, countryside and people, and Piemonte will lure us back before too long.