Piemonte 5: Ovada DOCG : 20 October 2021

Wednesday 20 Oct 21 : Ovada 

A different model today: a morning of appointments with various producers of mainly Dolcetto in the Ovada Consorzio office itself – half hour’s drive away to the south west. (It’s not a well known nor much appreciated denomination – but we leave no stone unturned)

As we left Gavi the usually civilised carpark in piazza Dante was heaving with parents dropping off children at the grand Scuola that dominates the main square; it took ten minutes to escape!  Arrived in Ovada with twenty minutes in hand, to be met by a nervous Daniele Oddone in charge of the Enoteca di Ovada, in the basement of the Municipio on the via Turino, and to park the car before grabbing a coffee and colazione at the small piazza’s bar. 

Ovada itself is built at the confluence of the rivers Orba and Stura as they flow north to join the Bormida, then the Tanaro, and ultimately the Po. There’s a very fine road system involving two bridges and two roundabouts at this entry to the town, as shown (and yes – it’s a wine glass):

A duller day, some rain possible, and cool. I was nursing agitated innards and declined tasting what can sometimes be ‘murky’ Dolcetti. I made an exception for the final spumante – medicinal, you understand…  photos follow, in the following order:

 Rocca Rondinaria: a cheery and chatty Giovanna with her 78 year old husband Lucesio, for whom wine making is a retirement project.  Left us with their Timorasso to taste later. 

 Cascina Belvedere 1932: Riccardo Podestà – a quiet and cautious older man; diffident, shy and softly spoken 

Tenuta Elena : Giorgio Cavara spoke good english as his girlfriend was english and his daughter lives with her now in London. Sold up on separation! Starting again working someone else’s vineyard (not difficult to find spare capacity and this is rent free; to remain registered, vineyards have to be worked ) and making the wine in another cantina. 

Cantina Alma : Manuele arrived with her 9 month little girl whom she kept entertained while talking to us in English about the wines. Failed to take a photo!! 

La Piria: An older fast spoken man (not Ivana Franescon!) proud of his soil, excellent for red wines. Website is happening; covid has been an interruption… wanting feedback – pretty labels ! 

Piercarlo Bergaglio : Piercarlo brought some unusual wines including sangiovese, and sparkling methodo classico rosé 48 months on the lees made with Dolcetto –  I thought it was lovely! 

At 13.00 Daniele Oddone, a young Presidente di consorzio Ovada, led us to a ristorante in Capriata D’Orba where we ate with one of his friends, Niccolo Mosto, who is beginning his new life growing grapes and making wine after several years as an engineer. Shared antipasti tipici and then stoccafisso – and a reserva Dolcetto of some finesse. 

On to Daniele’s home and cantina – Cascina Gentile (his mother’s family name) to look around the newly expanded cantina with its high flat roof and small traditional chimneys 

And to look inside the cantina – notice the list of favourable wine sayings, and the cunning use of a drill to perform a little stirring

And finally to taste in his cosy but very attractive tasting room heated by a wood stove, not pellets, with Bonsai-ed vines indoors and great views to taste Gavi, Timorasso and Dolcetti… 

We drove south towards Ovada once more and onto the other side of the river, to Tenuta da Gaggino, the latest winners of Tre Bicchieri 2022 with Convivio 2018; a friendly proprietor – Gabriele Gaggino and a warm, knowledgeable wife – Tiziana Zago, whose success is founded on a good soil and a lot of hectares and with whom we tasted in their working office. I managed to hide the bottle opener under my bag. (That there seemed to be only one in a winery struck me as odd.. )

Castello Tagliolo

We arrived here in the gathering gloom to discover a complete borgo (little collection of homes and outhouses) clustered around the enormous and elaborate castle. Once upon a time there had been a moat, a portcullis, and a drawbridge… 

Our host Luca Gentile showed us round some of the extraordinary rooms and inner spaces, including a collection of terrifying 3m lances with blades easily 50 cm long and frighteningly sharp; and a facsimile of a nineteenth century illustrated Dante’s Commedia

And a spell – of course – in the ancient cellars…

His elderly parents still live within its walls, making  their slow way up and down stone stairways and driving their little old car through the castle gates. Parts of the borgo are let in the summer. All very Harry Potter, as you will see below! 

We then drove back to Gavi to our newly discovered restaurant Beer and Co, saying farewell to lovely Monica in the cortile and gathering up all our washing. Off to the Colle Tortonese tomorrow – and Timorasso !

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