DAL ‘NEBIOLO’ DI NEIVE TO BARBARESCO
Manfredo Bongiovanni, Count of Castelborgo felt compelled to register the “Cassina di S. Stefano” in the Cabreo, a public register of property.
Santo Stefano was clearly venerated by the family, as their altar in the parish church was also dedicated to him.
The architect Giovanni Antonio Borgese, administrator of the Castelborgo estate, noted the following in his inventory:
“production of 536 brente (historic Piedmontese measure of volume equal to 50 litres) of ‘black wine’, of which 100 of "Nebioli” from the “Cassina di S. Stefano”.
The Castelborgo or their winemakers had already understood that the Nebbiolo of Santo Stefano was unique, and merited separate vinification and storage.
Birthdate of Camillo Bongiovanni of Castelborgo.
It was certainly Camillo Bongiovanni who established contact with the celebrated oenologist and wine merchant Louis Oudart. The story is itself well-documented, and is recounted in detail in the following book published by Slow Food Editore:
Louis Oudart e I Vini Nobili del Piemonte by Anna Riccardi-Candiani.
In this year, Louis Oudart arrived in Italy and began a partnership with the Tenimenti Reali in Pollenzo and with General Paolo Francesco Staglieno, himself considered a talented oenologist.
Louis Oudart produced a “Nebiolo di Neive 1857” in the Castello cellars winning a gold medal at the National Exhibition of Florence, the fair commissioned by Italian politician Quintino Sella at the Stazione Leopolda in 1861. The exhibition was inaugurated by King Victor Emmanuel II on September 15th, 1861 and continued until December 8th of the same year.
Louis Oudart obtained the gold medal for an 1858 Nebiolo from Neive at the International Exhibition of London of 1858, thus cementing his position. Unfortunately, Camillo di Castelborgo died the same year and his second wife Luigia Candiani di Olivola, along with his daughter Eleonora inherited the estate. Management of the estate was taken over by external administrators.
The Contessa Eleonora d’Harcourt Castelborgo, daughter of Camillo di Castelborgo and his second wife, Luigia Candiani di Olivola, produced the bottle of Pinot di Neive still jealously guarded in the company cellars at the Castello di Neive.
The same Contessa d’Harcourt-Castelborgo also produced the “Nebiolo” di Neive currently stored in the cellar.
The production zone of Barbaresco was enlarged to include the Neive vineyards. This action was vehemently opposed by the inhabitants of Barbaresco and Treiso, which at the time, formed the single municipality of Barbaresco.
The Consortium for the fine wines of “Barolo and Barbaresco” was established; today it is part of the Consortium to safeguard Barolo, Barbaresco, Alba Langhe and Dogliani. The first president was the Count Gastone di Mirafiori Guerrieri, with vice-presidents Giuseppe Cappellano and Guido Riccardi-Candiani acting on behalf of the estates as well as the territory.
The first bottle with the Barbaresco label was made in 1937 and is stored in the cellar today.
Giacomo Stupino and his brother Domenico purchased the Castello and a portion of its domain.
The Marcorino, Gallina, Basarin and “I Cortini” vineyards were added to the family’s existing vineyards in addition to the Santo Stefano vineyard, the jewel in the crown of the estate.
On the first bottle to be labelled «Castello di Neive» by the Stupino family, «Cru Santo Stefano» already appeared, along with the decorative border surrounding the stylised Castello.
The search for new clones of Arneis began.
The successful clone selection and qualitative improvements to the Arneis variety are owed to Italo Stupino, his love for his wife and his predilection for white wines.
While Arneis was still under development, Castello di Neive Barbaresco was already being sold in California; the mature market of the United States was ready for the great Italian wines. For many years, both La Almaden, under the brand Charles Lefranc cellars, and William Grant imported and distributed our Barbaresco.
In the US, Castello di Neive Arneis followed in the steps of Barbaresco with the help of its success in Europe.
The Stupino family asked to enlarge the Roero appellation (as previously with the pockets of Serralunga and Santa Vittoria in the Moscato d’Asti appellation) to include Neive, by virtue of merits acquired through clonal selection. However the request was not approved and the first year’s production was labelled as Arneis 1982 table wine, and continued thus for many years.
Arneis joined Barbaresco exports to Japan. The refined palates of the Japanese much appreciated the elegance of these two great Piedmontese wines, as they would Langhe Pinot Nero in the future.
Recollections of the Pinot Nero produced by Giacomo from Riccardi-Candiani grapes plus the idea of using Castello’s subterranean cellars for refermentation inspired Italo and Giulio to plant two separate vineyards with Pinot Nero: one destined for red wine and the other for a sparkling, classic method ‘blanc de noir’.
An early renovation of the historical cellars of the Castello saw new steel tanks fitted with automatic pumping-over mechanisms installed. These replaced old cement containers; the removal of these revealed an ancient–and beautiful–subterranean infernotto. In the same year, the Slavonian oak casks were replaced with the more delicate French oak barrels.
Cooperation with the respected consultant Dr. Giancarlo Scaglione, enriched the production of the Castello di Neive and introduced several new wines which met with instant success. Among these were the two Pinot Nero wines previously referred to.
The Barbera d’Alba “Rocca del Mattarello” was also created from a small, old vineyard, with the grapes aged in barriques for a year.
With the grubbing-up of the vineyard, this wine was replaced by Barbera d’Alba Superiore. Finally, an Arneis passito was created, with the grapes dried naturally on the vines.
Factor and cellar master Natale ‘Talin’ Brunettini, (along with his wife Maria and daughter Ornella, who today is a member of the office staff), was joined by the oenologist Claudio Roggero. A little at a time, he took over managing the cellar, the vineyards, and the hazelnut groves and eventually became the business manager.
Italo Stupino, who until then had shared management of the family estate with his brother Giulio and sisters, Anna and Piera, took over management of the entire estate. He became involved full-time, abandoning little by little other business interests, and established the base for the future of the Castello di Neive.
The Albarossa: one of the Castello’s warmest and best-exposed vineyards on the Marcolino hill was grubbed up. During replanting, it was decided to dedicate a part of the vineyard to Barbera d’Alba Superiore and another part to a new variety recommended to Italo by his friend and school companion Roberto Paglietta, who had become the Professor of Tree-Based Cultivation at the University of Turin.
A portion of Barbaresco grapes from the Gallina subzone was vinified as a single vineyard to create Barbaresco Gallina, destined mostly for the domestic market.
This was an important year for the estate with a new importer for the United States, a new technical cellar and the winding down of grape sales from the Santo Stefano vineyard to Bruno Giacosa.
Italo Stupino and Leonardo Locascio made an agreement for the distribution of many Castello di Neive wines throughout the United States through Winebow – Leonardo Locascio Selections. This arrangement could not remain without Barbaresco Santo Stefano, until then produced by Bruno Giacosa, but with whom a decades-long collaboration had been broken off.
Italo understood that the historical cellars of the Castello di Neive–however magnificent and steeped in history–were no longer the ideal place for fermenting and bottling Castello di Neive wines. He and Claudio were conscious of the logistic limits imposed by the structure of the Castello and the need to serve Winebow convinced him definitively. They succeeded in equipping a new cellar in six months, fulfilling all the requirements dictated by technicians and consultants, and achieved both maximum efficiency and state-of-the-art technology.
By August 17th, 2012 the cellar was ready to receive Pinot Nero grapes to make traditional method sparkling wine.
Over the next few years, they realised how correct their decision had been; though the same attention was given to the winemaking process, results improved with less time and effort.
Since then, the new cellar has been put to use to produce a new wine, a Barbera d’Alba without added sulfites. Over a very few years it has become a star product, and is even used as an example in the oenology course at the University of Turin.
During the same 2012 grape harvest, the Bruno Giacosa cellar, historic buyer of Santo Stefano Nebbiolo grapes, decided without warning to cease production of this wine.
It is possible that the new law regarding geographic references, which restricted the use of labels with the vineyard name to winemakers using their own grapes imposed a strategic choice…
For the Castello di Neive, a verbal, gentleman’s agreement between Bruno Giacosa and Italo and Giulio Stupino was interrupted.
From this moment on, the Santo Stefano designation was reserved solely for Castello di Neive labels.
The eighteenth century cellars of the Castello were renovated to allow for perfect élevage in wood of our most important wines, Barbaresco in particular.They are transported here when fermentation is complete and find quiet, humidity and ideal temperatures for élevage. During renovations, an ice cellar was also discovered, in which historical bottles of Barbaresco from our own production are now stored.
During 2016 the “Casetta”, a hundred-year-old building in the garden of the Castello di Neive was renovated.
It is now the departure point for visits to our historical cellars and an ideal location for tastings of all our wines. They are served at the correct temperature by a qualified and well-informed sommelier.
A new historical agreement was signed between Italo Stupino and a large distributor; the entire range of our wines is now included in the catalogue of Sagna SpA for all of Italy, joining some of the world’s most illustrious wines and spirits. Thus our wines are represented in the best restaurants and wine shops in the country, and we are free to devote all our energies to producing ever-better wine.
Was a year of investment in new equipment: a new soft press, a new stemmer and a new bottling line. The equipment was chosen to help us in our quest for elegant and crisp wines that respect the intrinsic qualities of each grape variety.