Cascina Gilli’s history starts in 1983 with Gianni Vergnano, who had the intuition to invest in this territory, believing in the potential of Castelnuovo Don Bosco district , for the uniqueness of its natural and architectural content not only with regard to Monferrato, but within all Piemonte wine making panorama.
First released bottles were put on the market in 1985, immediately deserving the mention on the first issue of Gambero Rosso “Vini d’Italia”wine guide, together with a small number of other producers.
From that moment the company has not stopped believing in the potential of the native vines of these hills, fully convinced that each terroir must express its specific vocation and each winegrower must be the guardian and innovator of the traditions of its own region.
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 and complex grape from which it is possible to obtain, with the right vinification and maturation, important wines. The beliefs about the very close connection between Freisa and Nebbiolo, are confirmed with the University researches published in 2002, during this year grapes of some different “crus” of the Castelnuovo Don Bosco area (including Cascina Gilli Cornareto vineyard) were analyzed under the polyphenolic profile, in order to be able to accurately evaluate their oenological potential. Results obtained showed a pleasant surprise, although they underlined difficulties often founded when vinifying Freisa. The wines show great polyphenolic concentration.
On one hand, this means that these wines are greatly structured and capable of long aging, but on the other, if they are not given adequate maturation and if great care is not paid to vinification, the risk is to obtain unbalanced wines.
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, indigenous variety from this corner of Piedmont, 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 characther, distinguish from the more common one called Malvasia Nera Lunga, more intense and for this reason used for the profuction of the Malvasia di Castelnuovo Don Bosco. Over the years, in fact, an important collaboration project has been carried out with the Faculty of Agriculture of the University of Turin and in particular with Prof. Schneider and Prof. Mannini for the identification of authentic clones of the historic Malvasia di Schierano variety.
At the same time, an important comparison with Castelnuovo Don Bosco winegrowers has been carried out to understand the secrets of this territory and these wines, a thing that only time and experience can reveal. The research has led to the plantation of selected vineyards in the field capable of producing quality, with the selection not of the most productive clones, but of those taken from vineyards that in the memory of the local producers gave rise to the most interesting wines
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 winery is set in the heart of the Asti area, on a valley that falls into the category of “white soils”. It is a land composed of blue-gray clayey rocks, a limestone matrix ideal for viticulture, which naturally gives origins to wines rich in body and aromas, with a great territorial identity.
Besides the vineyards surrounding the Cascina with south and south-west exposure, including old Freisa vines dating back to 1948, the vineyard park includes plots in the nearby Schierano hill (municipality of Passerano Marmorito).
Cascina Gilli also has its own selected vineyard, a pot where the rows facing south-east follow the profile of the hill and surround a 12th century Romanesque church. This “cru” takes its name from the religious building dedicated to Santa Maria di Cornareto, in the municipality of Castelnuovo Don Bosco. Here the ripe and concentrated Freisa grapes are produced, the basis for the Freisa Superiore.
The winemaking follows the same vision of work, the main purpose is always to enhance what the vintage and the territory have been able to express, following techniques refined over time to extract the most from the grapes. The raisins are hand picked and harvested only upon complete maturation to be rich and concentrated, reducing significantly the percentage of sulphites.
The modern cellar, designed following functional needs without affecting the unspoilt surrounding landscape, is organized as a large open space, where the various souls of production are set. Here is located the area of grape crushing , the destemming and the sequence of winemaking machinery. These equipments have been improved over time by local artisans, with technical solutions aimed to enhance the stylistic identity of each single product. In addition to these machines, the cellar hosts numerous autoclaves for the refermentation of sparkling wines.
Among the varios winemaking processes, for the Freisa grape has been developped the technique of “svinacciolatura”, which means the grape seeds removal during the délestage process, in order to add a greater softness to the wine without compromising its character of freshness and ageworthy potential. For Malvasia, long maceration of the skins obtained through cold technologies, make this product particularly structured and intense, with a very bright and intense colour.
The pre-bottle refinement, as well as in the classic steel tanks, is partly carried out in the historic concrete containers to let especially Freisa, a greater oxygenation. Over the years, an area dedicated to the wood aging has also been increased, which includes second, third and fourth passage barriques.
Assuming that wine cannot be a pure author’s gesture, nor the mere intuition of an individual, Gianni Vergnano has been able over time to choose valid and passionate collaborators with whom he has carried out research, experimentation and positive confrontation.
In the vineyard for more than thirty years Giovanni Matteis has supervised and taken care of all the grape cultivation. In the cellar, the oenologist Gianpiero Gerbi, son of the esteemed Prof. Vincenzo Gerbi, follows the experimentation and evolution of winemaking, while the young son Paolo Vergnano is responsible for marketing. Alina Vergnano, an established artist in Goteborg, Sweden, takes care of the design behind the labels and events with an artistic and international flavour. Luisa Raffaelli, architect and mother of Paolo and Alina, has overseen over time the design of the cellar and the restoration of the entire Cascina, carefully respecting the original structure.
In the offices, Stefano and Katia welcome customers together with Paolo Vergnano. Young and passionate, both qualified sommeliers, come from different experiences in the wine field. Each has its own job skill, but no one remains in its own desk for too long: curiosity and continuous participation in the varied activities connected to the winemaking activity, are the strength and source of growth of the team.