Araldica is the trading name of the successful co-operative at Castelvero in Italy’s north-western Piedmont region. It is one of the most important producers of Barbera d'Asti and Barbera d’Alba, and also makes excellent Gavi, Moscato and Prosecco. Founded in 1954 by a small group of growers, headed by their parish priest, the co-op has evolved greatly from its simple origins and now it owns the largest winery in Piedmont.
It currently has around 200 members, cultivating 900 hectares of vines throughout the region, but in particular its vineyards in the Monferrato hills are celebrated for the quality of their barbera. As the business expanded in the latter half of the 20th century, the company also acquired a modern, temperature-controlled bottling plant and warehouse, with a large capacity to store its barrels made from the region’s traditionally favoured Slovenian oak.
While Italy is generally known for its sun-baked vineyards, Piedmont is actually as far north as Bordeaux, and the nearby Alps make a marked impact on the temperatures which are much more in line with classic French regions. The hot summers are followed by very cold, often snowy winters, and the melting snow is an excellent marker of vineyard quality: the best vineyards have the fastest-melting snow because they receive the most sunshine.
The co-op members mostly grow native grape varieties such as barbera, nebbiolo and dolcetto for the reds and cortese, arneis and moscato for the whites. They also grow lesser-known varieties like brachetto and freisa, as well as international varieties such as merlot, cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay. Vineyards are spread across the major areas of the Langhe, Monferrato, Roero and Gavi. Generally speaking, barbera is grown in more exposed, sunny areas, because it is one of the more hardy and adaptable varieties, whereas more delicate varieties are planted in sheltered areas. That said, the co-op owns some of the best barbera sites in the region.
Additional premium estates in the region have been added to the company’s portfolio since 1999. First, the co-op bought the 60-hectare Il Cascinone estate in the Monferrato hills in central-eastern Piedmont, and completely revamped the vineyards and cellars here. This is the site of some of its best barbera plantings.
It subsequently purchased La Battistina, a 30-hectare south-facing vineyard, and one of the best sites in Gavi. The excellent old vines here have an average age of 35 years. The unique, well-draining, mineral-rich limestone and chalk soils here are perfect for the high acidity levels of cortese, the official Gavi grape, and Araldica further enhances its character by ageing 20% of the blend in oak. This superb wine is the source for The Society’s Gavi.
The co-op is ably run by Claudio Manera, whose wife Lella is also an oenologist working in the laboratory. The winery is based at Castelvero: its oldest part was built in 1954, but over the years the traditional cement tanks have been replaced with stainless-steel ones, as well as wooden barrels for careful oak maturation where appropriate. Here, Claudio leads a team of four other winemakers, and their creations continue to win awards for being excellent examples of their kind.