Azienda Agricola CASALONE

Location: Lu di Monferrato, Alessandria, Piedmont Italy
Vineyards extension:  25 acres on three Bricchi (hills)
Vine growing:  Sustainable Agriculture (EISA)
Wine making:  Non interventionist
Grapes grown:  Monemvasia (Malvasia Greca or Malvasia Moscata), Cortese, Grignolino, Barbera, Bracchetto, Freisa, Pinot Noir, Merlot
People at the winery:  Arnest (Ernesto), Paolo, Pierangelo Casalone, Simone Berra.  Giovanni Bailo consultant.

"Our family is making wines here since 1700... Myself I worked since 1940's.  We grow in our three bricchi (hills Bricco Santa Maria, Bricco Morlantino and Bricco San Benedetto) local varieties... some of them almost totally disappeared as is the Monemvasia bianca that our  ancestors first brought and that I work for over 50 years.  It is a grape that makes outstanding wines but no one wanted to grow it anymore... just too much work and you cannot blend it with anything, so people took the easy way!"
L'Arnest (aka Ernesto Casalone).
One of the oldest wineries in Monferrato, Casalone started operations officially in 1734. The first bottles of wine were sold in the market in 1776!  Land and vineyards extension are pretty much the same from then and the family still controls completely their production.   This makes them one of the top wine experts in dealing with local grape varieties from Piedmont such as Cortese, Barbera, Freisa, Grignolino and international varieties such as Pinot Noir, which was brought in Piedmont by French winemakers over two centuries ago.
They also are famous in Italy for growing Monemvasia, an old clone of the Greek malvasia, imported by the Venetians in XIII Century in Italy. They have been the true savior of this forgotten variety (for over two generations they were the only one growing it), that seem to have picked up the interest it deserves.  Of this variety Casalone makes a classic method (sparkling) a still version and the passito (dessert) as well.  

Casalone winery complete presentation and website

Monemvasia is a rare grape.  It is an ancient clone of Greek white malvasia brought in XIII century to Italy by Venetians. It was quite popular until the 1700, then it faded (as it is both fragile and not high yields producing, despite the great quality).  For many years, at least over 50, Casalone has been the ONLY producer growing this grape not only in Italy but in the world.  Also this grape is a daunting task for winemakers; it is basically impossible to blend it with other varieties.   Casalone makes a unique sparkling as classic method  brut pas dose'. The wine stays on fine lees in the bottle for 36 months (previous versions were 18 then 24 months) before the degorgement.
On the nose delivers an interesting intense scent of rose petals, sage and the typical crust of bread (pan brioche); In then is counterweighted by the minerality in the mouth with vibrant acidity.
Pairing suggestion: Asian food (anything umami really). Try it with Vietnamese, Thai, a great Ramen, Tempura Sushi.

La CAPLETTA - Grignolino
La Capletta means the little church in local slang, as on the top of San Benedetto vineyard hill there is a little church surrounded by grignolino.  Grignolino is a Piedmontese grape variety, which origin is of Monferrato; the name refers to the word grignole, which in their dialect means a grape with a lot of pips (hence you will grin your teeth if not ripe).  When pips are ripe though Grignolino is not just a light color high acidity wine used to shove down cheese and charcuterie as unfortunately has been considered for too long.  As a matter of facts, historically Grignolino was considered THE greatest red variety of Piemonte for the complexity and fine flavors.  La Capletta is one of those:  a pale red color welcomes a delicate nose, with notes of fruit and brushwood often accompanied by characteristic scents of white pepper.  It is austere and refined on the palate, dry with a characteristic presence of ripe tannins and vibrant acidity; red berries, thyme, licorice and a pleasant aftertaste.  Gambero Rosso Guide defines Casalone Grignolino  "a masterpiece of balance".  Pairing suggestion: first courses, or main courses with white meat or grilled fish.

BRICCO SANTA MARIA - Barbera Monferrato
Monferrato and Asti are the heart of barbera and Casalone is one of the most pristine producers of this variety.   Initially this barbera was made from the slopes of Bricco Morlantino.  More recently Casalone family decided to use Bricco Santa Maria hill instead.  Casalone wants to express the fruitiness and freshness in this wine, which is fermented and aged in stone vats.   The result is a wine that exalts the purity flavor of barbera; an intense nose of raspberries welcomes you. The taste is dry but refreshing of strawberries and raspberries.  Pairing suggestion:  first or main dishes, particularly with mild cow milk cheeses,  mushrooms risotto or agnolotti.

BRICCO MORLANTINO - Barbera Superiore Monferrato
Bricco (top of the hill in piedmontese slang)  Morlantino is where this barbera is grown.  The soil is a mix of clay with some chalky areas. Again traditional practices prevail. Grapes are manually selected and harvested and after pressing they stay macerating for a minimum of  2 weeks.  After fermentation the wine is moved to age for a minimum of 12 months in 25Hl (660G)  casks not fire toasted.   This Barbera del Monferrato is perfectly balanced being delicate but deep in flavor with red fruits flavors and spices with a smooth finish.  It is the wild card for every elaborate Italian dish or with meat pairings.
RUBERMILLO - Barbera di Asti Superiore
Rubermillo's barbera comes  from the heart of Bricco Santa Maria where there are soils with chalk and clay (btw Asti is an appellation inside Monferrato.  All wines from Casalone could be Asti as well).  The best grapes are selected and hand picked.  After 2 weeks of maceration wine goes through fermentation and stays at least one year in French oak tonneaux after malolactic has completed. the wine is finally bottled. Rubermillo has a deep ruby red color, it is spicy with hints of wild berries.  Deeper and fuller compared to the other two this barbera pairs with main courses and fuller dishes particularly with meet, mushrooms dishes, truffles.
FANDAMAT - Pinot Noir
Fandamat in Piedmontese slang is a mischievous, naughty child, a double trouble!  And that is in fact the Pinot Noir grape.  Grown in clayey- calcareous soils of Bricco Santa Maria vineyard this pinot  noir gets a special treatment on the vines as well in the vineyard.  The maceration is on skins for about two weeks; the cold cellar temperature preserves the delicate pinot noir fragrances. Ageing is for 15 months in casks.   The wine has a delicate and persistent   flavor, with traces of black currant, sweet violet, tobacco and licorice.   Perfect match is with roasted meat, braised mushrooms and seasoned cheeses.  In certain vintages this pinot noir gets a longer ageing and is bottled in magnums only. The wine gets the name Arnest in honor of Ernesto Casalone
RUS - Monferrato Rosso
Rus is a blend of Barbera 40%, Merlot 30%, Pinot Noir 30% .  The three varieties are oak aged separately for 15 months before being assembled. The wine has a fine structure with black fruits and spices in a long classy finish.  It can be enjoyed by itself as well as with dishes such as a truffle risotto, a good steak or seasoned cheeses.
Mariposa wine is made of Bracchetto grape.  The winery has always grown this variety but they cannot legally name the wine as bracchetto not even birbet. All towns not far from Aqui are prohibited not only to call their wines bracchetto, but also forbidden to call it birbet (the ones far away can.).  Politics.  The beauty of this wine is that it is made in the old fashion way and preserves an elegance that is not found otherwise easily.  There is sweetness for sure in this wine but a bright acidity too.  Its distinctive rose leaf color is completed by a delicate but vivid taste of wild rose (in Italian rosa canina) and raspberries.  Moreover it is excellent with chocolate desserts but there is much more; fantastic companion for salads or as a refreshing appetizer wine with charcuteries.