I first heard of Ferraris Agricola while enjoying a Wine Scholar Guild seminar on the lesser-known varieties of Piedmont presented by Robin Kick, Master of Wine. As you know, my love for native rare varieties runs deep. I find them even more intriguing in a region like Piemonte where Barolo and Barbaresco reign supreme. Though the presentation wasn’t my first time bumping into Ruché.
We previously hit it off at an Associazone Italiana Sommelier (AIS) tasting event in Sardegna where she made a lasting impression. I was blown away by this red Italian variety’s enticing floral aromas, fragrant bouquet, and elegant palate. From that moment, I knew I had to explore more Ruché, yet two years passed before our paths crossed again. When my husband and I decided to spend five days in Piedmont on our way to Sardegna for 2021 summer vacation, I was determined to learn more about Ruché. Ferraris Agricola definitely delivered.
About Ferraris Agricola
Ferraris is a family-owned winery with deep roots in Castagnole Monferrato where the winery is located. They played a significant role in furthering the Ruché variety. Today, 4th generation Luca Ferraris leads the winery along with 34 hectares of vineyards planted predominantly to Ruché in the heart of Castagnole Monferrato. Luca’s entrepreneurial fortitude elevated the family business to new heights, but he and his wife Chiara, who so kindly hosted us for a visit, beautifully embrace and share the family’s history which culminated in the winery’s current success.
The first steps towards the family dream began in the 19th century when Luca’s great-grandfather emigrated to America during the gold rush. Luckily, he struck gold and sent his riches back to his wife, Teresa Bruno. She used the money to purchase a house in Via al Castello, which eventually became the location of the first Ferraris winery. Next, Luca’s grandfather, Martino, purchased 40,000 square meters of land known as il Casot. He planted vineyards and began making his own wine. Martino sold his wines to wholesalers in the area and even produced larger format wines for travelers heading back to Turin on horseback. Today, il Casot harbors one of Ferraris’ most representative vineyard sites known as Vigna del Casot.
Next, Luca’s father continued with the family passion for wine in a way that suited his lifestyle. At the time, there was an industrial boom thanks to Fiat in Turin, so he moved to the city. But he sustained the family vineyards and sold their grapes to the local cooperative in Castagnole Monferrato.
By 1999, armed with a degree in agriculture and a determination to elevate Ruché to a high-quality, revered variety, Luca joined the family business. He restored the old cellar at Via al Castello and began making wine from the family vineyards. From the seven municipalities cultivating Ruché, Luca was the first to thin his vineyards and control yields to improve quality. Ferraris found early success with an American importer. Yet when they closed shop, Luca began traveling to open doors in new markets with new customers. His efforts in enhancing quality in both the vineyards and winery, along with his entrepreneurial instincts, led to big growth for Ferraris. Production grew from 10,000 bottles in 2000 to 60,000 bottles produced in 2003.
Currently, Ferraris produces around 130,000 bottles annually, around 50,000 of which are Ruché. They opened a new winery location in 2009 on the main road between Asti and Castagnole Monferrato. If you’re visiting the area, you’re bound to drive by and you’d be remiss not to pop in for a tasting. The winery houses modern winemaking machinery along with a temperature and humidity-controlled cella, plus a quaint tasting room waiting to welcome you. After tasting Luca’s wines you’ll understand his respect for the vineyard and drive to honor the variety at hand, along with his determination for producing wines of the utmost quality.
Located in the province of Asti, Castagnole Monferrato is a short 14km from the city of Asti. The town rests at 230 meters above sea level, offering spectacular views of the surrounding amphitheater of lush hills covered in vineyards. The area was once a zone of cultivation for chestnuts, or castagne, hence the name. The town is also home to the largest antique wine press in Europe. If you visit Ferraris for tasting and stop to explore Castagnole Monferrato, I highly recommend lunch at Locando Antica Ricetta.
Ruché is a game-changing variety that put Castagnole Monferrato on the wine world’s map. There are a few origin stories behind the variety, one of which says Burgundian monks introduced the variety to the region. That’s since been disproved, as Ruché is indigenous to Castagnole Monferrato. Genetic testing further concludes two local grapes, Croatina and Malvasia Aromatic di Parma, are the parents of Ruché. This genetic lineage explains Ruché’s aromatic nature.
Well-documented history of the variety illustrates how a local priest named Don Giacomo Cauda saw massive potential in Ruché to become a remarkable Italian wine. He recovered one of his church’s local vineyards to cultivate Ruché. For many years, Ruché was used in blends to enhance aromatics. Yet the priest’s early efforts, along with other Ruché producers in Castagnole Monferrato, led to monovarietal wines and a distinguished DOC designation for the variety in 1987. In 2010, the Ruché di Castagnole Monferrato DOCG followed. Today, Ruché is the backbone of the Castagnole Monferrato economy and has helped the region garner international attention.
Characteristics of Ruché
Ruché is a vigorous variety that’s not necessarily easy to cultivate with just 150 hectares growing in Castagnole Monferrato. It requires cooler, but not cold, sites in order to retain acidity. Yet Ruché accumulates sugars rapidly, so careful attention must be paid around harvest, as the grapes can become overripe in a matter of three days. This early-ripening variety is resistant to vineyard disease and thrives in dry, limestone soils, which help enhance aromatics. Ruché also grows well in clay and sand soils.
For a variety rich in sugars, Ruché wines can reach up to 16% abv. Fermentation can stop naturally with high sugar levels, leaving some residual sugar behind. Wines are typically a medium-deep ruby color in the glass with purple reflections. Expect low to medium acidity and medium to high tannins. Ruché’s characteristic aromas include flowers like rose, violet, and lavender, plum, red licorice, black pepper, and mint. Once you taste Ruché, you’ll never forget it. Ferraris breaks down more on Ruché here.
Ruché di Castagnole Monferrato DOCG
The DOCG encompasses Ruché grown in the seven municipalities of Castagnole Monferrato, Grana, Montemagno, Portacomaro, Refrancore, Scurzolengo, and Viarigi. Wines must be made from a minimum of 90% Ruché and up to 10% can be Barbera or Brachetto. Vineyards must be planted at a minimum elevation of 120 meters above sea level and no higher than 400 meters above sea level. For the Riserva designation, if a vineyard is named, the wine must be aged for a minimum of 2 years with 1 year in barrel.
Ferraris is a must visit winery if you’re in the area on a trip to Piemonte. Chiara was an outstanding and very generous host who passionately shared the history of the family winery with us. We toured the winery and even had the opportunity to taste a few special aged Ruché wines. I’d request a tasting with her, if possible, though she’ll likely be at the winery anyway. You can taste at the new winery location or at the Ferraris winery museum at Via al Castello. If you taste at the new winery, be sure to pop into the museum anyway and check out the family’s ancient infernot—a hand dug cave used for storing wine. In Monferrato, these caves are designated as UNESCO world heritage sites.
Sensazioni Viognier 2020
- Vineyards planted in 2006—they wanted a white aromatic variety next to Ruché
- Making Viognier since 2012
- Very fresh, focused, and delicate
- Intense aromatics of white flowers, apricot, green juicy pear
Sant-Eufemia Ruché di Castagnole Monferrato DOCG 2020
- Pick early for harvest to retain acidity
- VERY aromatic: rose, violet, fragrant raspberry, clay, earth/mushroom
- Light bodied with delicate tannin and balanced acidity
Clásic Ruché di Castagnole Monferrato DOCG 2020
- Macerated in large automatic rotating fermentor tanks
- 6-9 months barrel aged
- Red fruit and earthy aromas, more subtle rose and violet aromas with soft tannins
Vigna del Parroco, Ruché di Castagnole Monferrato DOCG 2018
- From their oldest Ruché vineyard planted in 1964
- So aromatic with intense aromas of rose, orange peel, earth, balsamico/mint and wild herbs
- Round on the palate with mouth-coating flavors and a long, elegant finish
Ruché Riserva Opera Prima 2017
- More oak influence with red fruit and notes of tobacco
- For me, the oak covered too much of the beautiful varietal characteristic aromas
Clásic Ruché di Castagnole Monferrato DOCG 2010
- So complex and still with an unexpected amount of freshness
- Chocolate, toffee, coffee, balsamo
- Really interesting to see how Ruché ages so well, less floral but still aromatic
Clásic Ruché di Castagnole Monferrato DOCG 2011
- Luxurious palate with well-integrated tannins that dissolve on the palate
- Aromas of red florals, licorice, and sweet spices
Explore the full range of Ferraris wines here.