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From 1467 to the bubbles of Piedmont: Tenuta Carretta winery, writing history

35 minutes read

Estimated reading time: 26 minutes

If the name Barolo makes you shudder in awe at the thought of one of the world’s greatest wines, then Piedmont is the “Holy Land” you must visit at least once in your life. A land you can’t really feel until you’re there. Whether you have tasted a variety of Barolo wines at hundreds of tastings or only heard of it, you know it’s a big deal. In fact, wine-wise, Piedmont is far from just Barolo. Arriving there, you may be amazed by the new wine universe that will open before your eyes. And the best way to start your journey is by combining the wine route with human history.

For us, the starting point, zero kilometer, the stable base from which we started this journey, was a few kilometers from Alba, in the village of Piobesi d’Alba . What better place to get to know the wine of Piedmont than a cellar that has been existing continuously since 1467. We arrive at Tenuta Carretta 

The Tenuta Carretta winery, its vineyards around and Piobesi d'Alba in the distance
The Tenuta Carretta winery, its vineyards around and Piobesi d’Alba in the distance
Tenuta Carretta winery, Piemonte, Italy
Tenuta Carretta winery, Piemonte, Italy

Tenuta Carretta is the Italian cellar of the family of Edoardo Miroglio, the owner of the winery of the same name near the village of Elenovo , Nova Zagora, Bulgaria Almost all of their Italian wines are also sold on the Bulgarian market, and many of the Bulgarian wines travel to Italy. The businesses of the Miroglio family have a great symbiosis with each other, they exchange experience and expertise continuously and this contributes to the even better quality of their wines and the other services and products they offer. During our visit, we were happy to meet Georgi, a student and promising future oenologist from Bulgaria, who was invited by Tenuta Caretta to study for 1 year in Piedmont. But let’s go back to the cellar.

555 years of history

It sounds incredible, but it’s true: the Tenuta Carretta winery has existed for more than 555 years, at the same place, with the same name and with the same purpose – growing vines and making wine. The winery’s official birthday is 28.11.1467, when in an official document the owner of the property, Andrea Damiano, Lord of Piobesi, gave the three Porini brothers the lands of “Cassina Careta” to cultivate and grow vineyards for 9 years. The document is extremely valuable and detailed, describing the specific activities for the maintenance of the vineyards that the brothers are obliged to carry out.

The document of 28.11.1467
The document of 28.11.1467

Under the agreement, the harvest is split in half, with the exception of the grapes from Podium Serrae vineyard. It is considered the best quality in the region and remains entirely for the property owner. Even today this vineyard is one of the most valuable and from it comes the Langhe DOC Nebbiolo wine. From the hill itself, the view is like a postcard. You can see the entire landscape of the Roero wine region and the unmistakable pyramid of Monte Viso, the highest in the Cottian Alps (3841 m).

Map from 1878 showing the outline of the cellar building
Map from 1878 showing the outline of the cellar building

In the 19th century the property changed ownership and passed into the hands of the Count of Roero, then in 1932 it was bought by the Velia family from Turin. Since 1985 it has been in the Miroglio family, bought by Franco Miroglio, Edoardo Miroglio’s father. After this change, the then-slightly dilapidated winery took on new life and today is one of the most exciting wineries in Piedmont.

The building of Tenuta Carretta seen from the air and the surrounding vineyards
The building of Tenuta Carretta seen from the air and the surrounding vineyards

Today’s main Tenuta Carretta building dates back to at least the 19th century when it was depicted on a map. It was an important stop on the ancient road between Alba and Turin. And today it remains a symbol of hospitality, housing a cozy hotel with a dozen rooms and a restaurant with one Michelin star . The beautiful red building with an arch in the middle proudly guards all the history and there is no better place to get acquainted with the wine world of Piedmont.

Tenuta Carretta Cellar
Tenuta Carretta Cellar

Albergo di Charme and the hospitality of Piedmont

We check into our cozy and spacious rooms. The ceilings are at least 6 meters high, the wooden roof brings a unique coziness and the feeling is like in an aristocratic home from at least 200 years ago. Looking through the balcony, we are stunned by the endless vineyards of Piedmont and we can’t wait to drive towards them. An adventure begins.

The traditions in wine and wine in traditions

Continuity. A strong relationship between generations. Building on what was started. Continuous pursuit of improvement and perfection. This is the recipe for success of the Tenuta Carretta winery today. The winery’s uncompromising policy is to produce wine only from its own vineyards, which are around 80 hectares located in the Langhe, Roero and Monferrato regions of southern Piedmont. They produce 700-800,000 bottles a year, covering a wonderful variety of vineyards and styles. They produce over 30 different wines, maybe more. From the legendary Barolo in several variants, through another legend – Barbaresco, the traditional Barbera, to the surprising experiments with Riesling and sparkling wines.

Continuity and aspiration towards the future are also present in the people we meet during our three days in the cellars of Edoardo Miroglio. The team is dotted with talented young enologists working alongside legends such as Tenuta Carretta CEO Giovanni Minetti. Mr. Minetti is one of the founding fathers of Piedmont’s sparkling wines and Piedmont’s Riesling. We will tell you about them later in the story. Sharing a common passion for land, wine and quality living, they continue to make history at Tenuta Carretta. And we – we take another sip of wine and thank for being right here.

The locations of Tenuta Caretta

The Roero-Langhe-Monferrato landscape is a UNESCO World Heritage site because of the extraordinary way in which man and nature have worked together to create wine for centuries here, but also because of the way in which wine culture forms the basis of the entire local economy. This is where the Nebbiolo variety grows best and reveals its multiple faces. The vineyards of Tenuta Carretta are located precisely in this area and recreate in an extremely authentic way the spirit of Piedmont.

Vineyards in Piedmont, Italy
Vineyards in Piedmont, Italy
A Nebbiolo vine on Canubi Hill, Barolo
A Nebbiolo vine on Canubi Hill, Barolo

Barolo, the king of wines, of course. Tenutta Carretta owns vineyards in the most precious location in the region – Cannubi Hill, near the village of Barolo. Barbaresco – a wine nicknamed “The Queen of Wines”. We have already mentioned the Langhe DOC Nebbiolo from the historic Podio hill. Neither forgotten nor underestimated are the wonderful affordable wines of the more mainstream and traditional Barbera and Arneis varieties, which are excellent company at the table every day.

Barolo and Canubi Hill

For some Barolo is the promised land, others are still struggling to understand the character of this wine. One thing is certain – you cannot remain indifferent to Barolo wine and you will think about it long after each sip. We willmention it briefly here, because we already have a whole separate article about Barolo.

Barolo and Canubi Hill
Barolo and Canubi Hill
The vineyards of Cannubi, Barolo, in spring
The vineyards of Cannubi, Barolo, in spring

The most prestigious location for Barolo is the Canubi hill, located just next to the village of Barolo itself. As early as 1700, the vineyards of Cannubi were mentioned in documents as first class. The oldest known bottle of Barolo to date is only labeled Cannubi 1752. And today, Cannubi is the most prestigious location in Barolo. Owning a vineyard here is the dream of hundreds of winemakers, but only twenty wineries can boast of one.

The Tenuta Carretta winery has a long history and strong ties to Cannubi Hill. The winery has been growing vines here for over 60 years. And at the top of the hill is the wonderful restaurant with a breathtaking view, Locanda in Cannubi , which is owned by Terre Miroglio . This is definitely an extremely good place to enjoy the sunset and a bottle of Barolo from Cannubi. Tenuta Carretta’s vineyards start right below the restaurant and you can literally touch the sacred vines that produce one of the most appreciated wines in the world.

Barolo Cannubi Riserva of Tenuta Carretta
Barolo Cannubi Riserva of Tenuta Carretta

Barbaresco

In the eastern part of the Langhe region is the Barbaresco area, where Piedmont’s second signature wine comes from. It is again 100% Nebbiolo , but significantly different from the well-known Barolo. Here the climate is cooler, the rainfall is less and the soils are deeper and more fertile. The wines have natural elegance and power. And although the distance from the Barolo territory is only a few kilometers, the differences are palpable.

Tenuta Carretta's Barbaresco
Tenuta Carretta’s Barbaresco

The grapes in Barbaresco ripen earlier, the tannins are not as strong and mellow more quickly, and generally the wine reaches its perfect form sooner, compared to Barolo. For this reason, Barbaresco matures 1 year less than Barolo and we can enjoy a great harvest much earlier.

Villa Garassino and the surrounding vineyards
Villa Garassino and the surrounding vineyards

To make the most of Barbaresco, we head to Villa Garassino outside the village of Treiso – an exciting hilltop estate with great views of the vineyards below. The villa is also owned by the Miroglio family and has a great little restaurant and several guest rooms. Because once you try their wine, you won’t be able to leave easily.

The cozy restaurant of Villa Garasino and our pleasant company in it
The cozy restaurant of Villa Garasino and our pleasant company in it

The Treiso area is known for producing the most elegant wines in the entire Barbaresco area.

The Tenuta Caretta winery owns several different vineyards in the Barbaresco area, all around the village of Treiso. We tasted the 2017, 2018 and 2019 vintages, and while all three were more than wonderful, we can’t help but note that the Barbaresco wine also gets better with age. 

Arneis (Arneis) – the white treasure of Piedmont

The legends of Barolo and Barbaresco may be among the most famous worldwide, but they are only the tip of the iceberg of Piedmont’s vast wine universe, filled with exciting grape varieties, unique terroirs and magical wines. And this universe is not only in red color.

The Arneis vineyards are located around the Tenuta Carretta cellar itself
The Arneis vineyards are located around the Tenuta Carretta cellar itself

One of Piedmont’s legendary grape varieties, probably as old as Nebbiolo itself, is Arneis. It is the most common white variety in Piedmont and its cultivation has deep roots in history. About a century ago, it was also known as the “white nebbiolo”. Not because it has a proven relationship with Nebbiolo, but because it was often planted between Nebbiolo vines. Arneis is an early-ripening white variety, the grapes are aromatic and very sweet, and were used to lure insects and other pests to protect the nebbiolo vines next door. In the past, white grapes were fermented together with Nebbiolo for another reason – to soften the powerful tannins of the red variety.

The different faces of Arneis

Around the middle of the 20th century, Arneis lost its popularity, but in recent decades it has undergone a revival. And we can only rejoice – the wines are colourful, fresh, aromatic and loved by everyone. A curious fact is that although the Tenuta Carretta winery produces more than 30 labels of wine a year, the Cayega Arneis white wine is the most widely sold. More than 200,000 bottles are produced every year. And although we don’t like to talk about prices, we really want to mention here that its price is extremely good. If you come across it and wonder what it is, order.

Cayega ROERO ARNEIS DOCG is a great and affordable wine
Cayega ROERO ARNEIS DOCG is a great and affordable wine

But Arneis is not just a grape for light and easy-going white wine and Tenuta Carretta is one of the places where it is truly appreciated. In keeping with its concept of continuity between tradition and the future, the cellar produces two more exciting Arneis wines. One is the Alteno della Fontana Roero Arneis Riserva – a selected Arneis wine aged on the fine lees for two years and another 2 years in bottle. An absolute hit – elegant, noble, exciting with its fresh flavours and aromas and an aristocratic feeling. Arneis, fermented in small oak barrels, is the other version – Canorei. Which again proves that the white variety deserves a special place Piedmont’s wine list and on every table.

The Arneis vineyards are located around the Tenuta Carretta winery itself in Piobesi D’Alba, within the former 15th century estate. Right in front of the cellar, you can take a closer look at one of the older vineyards existing today, planted as early as the 1960s.

The new world of Piedmontese wine – Malgra winery

During our trip around Piedmont, we were strongly impressed that the local wine industry is very open to innovation, change and is looking towards the future. Traditions and regulations for legendary wines such as Barolo and Barbaresco are zealously respected, but both producers and regulators seem open to innovation and experimentation, aiming to produce better and better Piedmontese wine. In recent years, numerous new appellations have been created to respond to the latest good practices in grape growing. Among them there are both denominations for traditional varieties such as Barbera, as well as completely new wine regions such as Alta Langa, in which the novelties are absolutely literally raging.

Malgra is Extraordinary Everyday. Because everyone deserves to drink exceptional wine every day.
Malgra is Extraordinary Everyday. Because everyone deserves to drink exceptional wine every day.

The traditions and experience of Tenuta Carretta and the Miroglio family also evolve in this direction. A few years ago, the family acquired a new cellar – Malgra, which is located in the Monferrato region, near Asti. This region is particularly popular for the extensive production of the Barbera variety. About the Barbera, you may hear that it is the everyday wine in Piedmont. It may once have been, but today the wines from Barbera, or at least those produced by the cellars of Terre Miroglio, are anything but ordinary. In fact, the motto of the Malgra winery is Extraordinary Everyday. Because everyone deserves to drink exceptional wine every day.

Barbera from Nizza

Nizza DOCG is one of the newest appellations in Piedmont – it was created in 2014. The wines with the Nizza label come from the region of the village of the same name, which is located near Asti. Nizza is said to be the best place to grow Barbera in Piedmont. Barbera’s relationship with Nizza is like Nebiolo’s with Barolo. If you come across a wine labeled Nizza DOCG, you can be sure that it comes from there, is made from 100% Barbera and has been aged for at least 18 months. From Barbera you can expect fruity and easily drinkable wines, with tempting freshness and moderate tannins. The only “everyday” thing about Barbera wines is their excellent price. Barbera wines, slightly chilled, are also the perfect fit for a warm summer evening.

How to read the label: "Mora di Sassi" is a Berbera reserve and DOCG wine from the Nizza region of the Malgra winery, vintage 2018.
How to read the label: “Mora di Sassi” is a Berbera reserve and DOCG wine from the Nizza region of the Malgra winery, vintage 2018.

Malgra Cellar produces several different Barbera wines, with our current favourites being Gaiana Nizza and More di Sassi. Another good news is that they are also imported to Bulgaria.

Cissone village in Alta Langa
Cissone village in Alta Langa

Alta Langa and the bubble revolution

What do you do when the market loves sparkling wine, imports from France are scarce and quite expensive, and you live in one of the world’s best wine-making regions? You start looking for ways to make high-quality sparkling wine at home, of course! Until the 1980s, the hills around the villages of Serralunga D’Alba and Cissone were pastures and here and there potatoes were grown. The winemakers of Piedmont, however, believed in the potential of their terroir and started research on whether and where in Piedmont sparkling wines can be made, following the example of Champagne in France.

The vineyards near the village of Cissone and the hazelnut groves of Piedmont.
The vineyards near the village of Cissone and the hazelnut groves of Piedmont.

This story itself is great, but it’s even more exciting to hear it directly from one of the people personally involved in this sparkling revolution. The CEO of the Tenuta Carretta winery, Giovanni Minetti, is a legend in Piedmont and an exceptional specialist. It was him who suggested that the sparkling history of Piedmont begins in Alta Langa.

Mr. Giovanni Minetti (left) and Tenuta Carretta's agronomist
Mr. Giovanni Minetti (left) and Tenuta Carretta’s agronomist

The decision came in 1990. The first vintage of sparkling wines from Alta Langa was released in 1996. At that time, there were only 7 producers who dared to take the new path. Predictably, it took years before new wines were officially recognised and included in Piedmont’s DOC and DOCG appellations. In 2000, the Alta Langa DOC appellation was created. In 2010, wines from the region earned their DOCG appellation. Today, there are 101 producers of Alta Langa DOVG wines, most of them small and family-owned businesses.

Tenuta Carretta currently has two sparkling wines – Airali Brut ALTA LANGA DOCG and Airali Pas Dosé ALTA LANGA DOCG. More labels are yet to come.

Rhine Riesling in Piedmont

Giovanni Minetti is an absolutely charming man and we can listen to him in awe for hours. He brings such inspiration that we can only dream of becoming like him one day. The emotion with which he told us about Riesling is irreparable – a completely alien wine for Piedmont, which seems to have found its second home.

Mr. Minetti said he researched the Riesling variety back in the 1980s and the options for growing it in Piedmont. Today, he has realised his dream with the new vineyards near the village of Cissone, which produce a mind-blowingly fresh, light Riesling, with exciting minerality, petroleum notes and green apple. A wine that we loved from the first sip.

Riesling, which is only the second vintage and is yet to take over the market
Riesling, which is only the second vintage and is yet to take over the market

To Piedmont and back

Paying homage to the magical vineyards of Piedmont and drinking a bottle of Cannubi is a worth trip. And Piedmont is not hard to reach. We landed in Milan (actually Bergamo airport ), rented a car and after a 2-3 hour drive we found ourselves in front of Tenuta Caretta. Other close airports are Turin and Genoa.

Restaurant "21.9" by chef Flavio Costa in the building of Tenuta Carretta,. The restaurant had one Michelin star when we visited in 2023.
Restaurant “21.9” by chef Flavio Costa in the building of Tenuta Carretta,. The restaurant had one Michelin star when we visited in 2023.

The charming chef Flavio Costa, about whom we will tell you in a separate article
The charming chef Flavio Costa, about whom we will tell you in a separate article

Sunset in front of Tenuta Caretta
Sunset in front of Tenuta Caretta

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