I had seen this funny looking building many times, during my afternoon walks from La Morra down to Barolo, and always wondered what type of winery it was. I recently had the chance of visiting it as part of the "Vinum in Cantina" collateral activity to VINUM.
Two things immediately changed my perception of the place. Firstly, that it was actually gigantic. The two 'boxes' above ground are just ¼ of the actual winery, it all develops underground in a series of huge spaces, used for the vinification process, the ageing, storing, bottling and labelling. Secondly, that it was modern and very chic, it embraces its "newness", throughout the whole winery you find many different design objects. The space in which the grapes are pressed, and have their first fermentation is painted with red, brown and orange colours, representing autumn, the time when these processes take place.
During the tasting part of our visit we sampled three different wines produced by L"Astemia Pentita. The first was a Langhe Nascetta DOC, a white wine produced with a grape variety indigenous to Piedmont. The second one was a Barbera d'Alba DOC, produced just up the hill from the cellar, in the nearby town of Monforte, which had a marvellous perfume of red fruits and spices. The third and final wine was the winery's most prestigious one, the Barolo Cannubi DOC, which is aged for 36 months in wooden barrels, which make it a beautifully round and balanced wine.
It is difficult to describe the feeling you have when standing in the middle of Contratto's historic "Cathedral" UNESCO world-heritage wine cellar, beneath the hill of Canelli.
The tour takes you through all the different processes of producing metodo classico, you are shown bottles in all the different stages of fermentation, and if you're lucky you get to assist the enologist, Mauro Ferraro, manually doing the remuage of each individual bottle (they produce 200.000 per year).
The visit is completed with a tasting paired with local cheeses, cured meats and breads. The first spumante we tasted was a 2012 "millesimato" Brut which was a mix of Pinot Noir and chardonnay. The bottle had spent 60 months in the second fermentation phase and therefore had an extremely elegant bubble. The second was a pas dosè (no liquer d'expedition is added before corking the bottle) "millesimato" with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes. And the third and final bottle we tasted was a Cuvée from 2009 with Chardonnay grapes spent 7 months in French oak barriques.
Contratto winery is a must see, it narrates a part of the Piedmontese wine heritage.