Cascina Gilli started in 1983, when Gianni Vergnano had the intuition to invest in the territory, believing in the potential of the land around Castelnuovo Don Bosco.
He believed not only in the unique context of the land of the Monferrato, but in the entire panorama of winemaking in the Piedmont.
The very first bottles to be released, in 1985, received favourable mention in the first edition of the Gambero Rosso ‘‘Vini d’Italia“ wine guide. From then on the company never stopped believing in the potential of indigenous grapes.
This brief sequence, collects the notes gathered through time by Gianni Vergnano and draws the story that allowed the company to identify itself among the most influential wineries connected to the enhancement of these great autochthonous varietals.
Cascina Gilli has always believed in the strong identity of Freisa as a noble grape from which obtaining great wines. This was confirmed with the University researches published in 2002, when grapes of some different “cru” of the Castelnuovo Don Bosco area were analyzed under the polyphenolic profile to accurately evaluate their oenological potential. Results obtained underlined the amazing richness of these grapes, the need for an accurate vinification and maturation process to obtain wine of great structure and age-worthy characteristics.
Barbera is a grape widely cultivated throughout Piemonte region and which finds one of its greatest expressions in the province of Asti. In the area of Castelnuovo, it was cultivated marginally as the rainfall until the 90s was excessive for this thin-skinned grape. The reduction in rainfall over the past few decades has allowed the hills of Castelnuovo to become an exceptional territory for this type of vine.
The evolution of winemaking techniques, the work in the vineyards and researches have driven Cascina Gilli’s Barbera d’Asti to collecte the international interest thanks to a very distinctive character appreciated for its fruity, velvety texture , great freshness connected to the soil features, medium body and delicate tannins.
Malvasia di Schierano
Malvasia di Schierano, carries the distinctive signs of this wine district as well as being synonymous with the most authentic discovery of a local grape. The varietal selection of this type, with its unique and delicate aromatic character, distinguish from the more common one called Malvasia Nera Lunga, more intense and for this reason used for the production of the Malvasia di Castelnuovo Don Bosco. Over the years, an important collaboration project has been carried out with the Faculty of Agriculture of the University of Turin for the identification of the rare and authentic clones of the historic Malvasia di Schierano variety.
Bonarda grape, cultivated on these hills since the 19 century, had gradually become unpopular and lackly produced due to its high sensitivity to climatic and phytopathological issues. But in the memories of local producers it remained a loved wine, particularly long-lasting and rich in perfumes. That’s why we decided to invest in this native Piedmontese grape with we are a little in love, spread before the phylloxera and now on the danger of extinction; with the aim to promote it and preserve it in its authenticity.
Its beautiful berries are small, oval and very pruinose, with almost black blue colors. This variety origins a delicate wine with a wide bouquet of perfumes that satisfies the palate by wrapping it delicately. A not too high alcoholic degree and a moderate acidity allow to appreciate all the harmony of the fruit.
A few years ago the company decided to embrace a local appellation and be the interpreter of another grape variety that helps to create identity in our territory. The Albugnano DOC based on Nebbiolo grapes. In fact, not many know that among the many expressions of the oenological versatility of Monferrato, there is also the historical connection to the production of Nebbiolo, grown in this small area adjacent to the province of Turin. The denomination was born in 1997 and the disciplinary limits the production area in the Asti municipalities of Albugnano, Pino d’Asti, Castelnuovo don Bosco and Passerano Marmorito.
We are in front of a different expression of Nebbiolo. The altitude that these vineyards can reach is very particular, about 500 m above sea level, set on the highest side of Monferrato. A Nebbiolo that stands out from the more persuasive one of the Langa and from the typical austerity of the north, is perhaps a balance.
The vineyards are located in the heart of Asti province, in a valley composed of ‘‘Marne di Sant’ Agata“(white soil). This soil contains blue-grey clay-like rock, a limestone matrix ideally suited to viticulture, providing the grapes with great richness in body and aroma.
Besides the vineyards surrounding the Cascina, with south and southwestern exposure (including Freisa vines dating to 1948), further plots are found on the nearby Schierano hill.
In addition, Cascina Gilli has a somewhat special piece of land where the rows of vines are exposed to the Southeast and run up a hill flanked by a small church dating back to the 12th C.. The resulting wine takes its name from the chruch, Santa Maria di Corrnareto. It is of a concentrated Freisa wine, the basis for Freisa Superiore.
The wine Cellars
Our winemaking follows a conservative vision of this profession, i.e. respecting and celebrating the soil, following techniques refined over time, in order to extract the most from the grapes. All grapes are hand-picked and harvested only upon complete maturation so as to result in a rich and concentrated wine, reducing significantly the amount of sulphites that need to be added.
Our modern wine cellar is organised as a large open space. It was designed following modern functional needs, but without spoiling the surroundings. In it we find the grape crushing area, the destemming area and the following complete sequence of winemaking. This has been improved over time, new equipment has been added, and with the help of local artisans, technical solutions have been found to enhance the identity of each of the various products. Stong closed containers have been added for the production of sparkling wines.
For the vinification of the Freisa grape we have developed the technique of „svinacciolatura“, a process to remove the grape seeds during the déléstage stage, providing for greater softness in the wine, without compromising the freshness of the product. For Malvasia, long periods of maceration of the peel at cold temperatures make the product especially structured and intense, giving it a bright, intense colour.
Refinement of the wines at a pre-bottling stage, for Freisa in particular, is carried out in concrete containers, in order to give it greater micro-oxygenation. This process is carried on into the classic steel tanks. Over the years particular attention has been paid to the further maturation of the product by aging in oak barriques, for the second, third and fourth passages.
Founder Gianni Vergnano has been able over time to choose capable and passionate collaborators with whom he has been able to carry out research, experimentation and have positive interchange.
Gianni’s son Paolo Vergnano rises to his father’s challenge, shares his father’s vision and is today head of the team.
“In the vineyards” we find Giovanni Matteis, who superintends the growing and production of the grapes. In the winery he is supported by the oenologist Gianpiero Gerbi, who guides experimentation and evolution of the wines.
Alina Vergnano is by profession an artist, she designs the labels and organises all cultural events surrounding Cascina Gilli.
Louisa Raffaelli is an architect by profession, mother of Paolo and Alina, she has over time designed the physical structure of the winery, restored the Cascina itself, and is responsible for the maintenance of the artistic and architectural structures.
Besides Paolo, we have Katia Gazzola and Stefano Bollo in the offices. Young and passionate, both of these people have sommelier qualifications and have worked in the world of wines.