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Cantine Garrone: The Custodians of the Ossola Valley

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January 28th – There is a place in Northern Piedmont where attachment to local traditions and viticulture are  stronger than ever. We are talking about the Val d’Ossola, a microcosm of men and women who  today still embody the spirit of this border area. And it is here that Cantine Garrone is located: a  company that is a benchmark for top-quality viticulture in the Valley, of which it has become the  ambassador and custodian. 

The Garrone family, which was originally from the Asti area, settled in Domodossola in 1921,  devoting itself right away to the production and sale of wine. In the 1980s, vine-growing in the zone  – partly because of the depopulation of the countryside and the scarcity of hectares available –  had been relegated to merely providing wine for family consumption. Roberto and Mario Garrone had the brilliant idea, though, of buying grapes from the small growers who remained to add them  to their family’s, thus ensuring the critical mass necessary for satisfying the demands of the market.

“In a context like that of the Ossola Valley, where there is an extremely ancient tradition of wine production  and where the growers have a very close rapport with their land – which is often a very small plot purchased  as a result of great personal sacrifice – succeeding in having them ‘give up’ their grapes is definitely not  an operation that one can take for granted” explain Marco and Matteo, the fourth generation of the  Garrone family.  

The turning point came when one of the doyens of viticulture in the zone, the then ninety-year old Pierino De Gregori, accepted their idea and sold the grapes from his vineyard situated at Pello  di Trontano: a symbolical gesture, but an especially important one, which was then imitated by  many others. 

Pello is in fact one of the top-quality areas in the zone, with a centuries-old tradition of viticulture.  Even today, as you approach the village, you are welcomed by vineyards that are more than a  century old and, if you walk along its main (and, one might say, only) street, you are surrounded  by incredible vines whose history goes back around a hundred vintages. 

The impulse of what happened at Pello led the Garrones to believe that they could play a key  role in safeguarding this heritage that would otherwise have been lost. Many people then began  to understand the value of what the family was doing and trusted their agricultural advice,  accepting willingly to sell the Garrone family their grapes as part of the project. 

Today Cantine Garrone works with around fifty vine-growers who, under the company’s  agronomic guidance, cultivate approximately eleven hectares of vineyards lying in the communes of Trontano, Masera, Montecrestese, Crevoladossola and Domodossola, and in particular in the  most historic subzones such as Pello, Buscialun, Vignamaggiore, Cisore and Oira.  

The historic vineyards, which are on average 60 years old but contain some vines that were  planted over a century ago, are trained according to the “Toppia” system, a traditional pergola  that follows the natural inclination of the land and protects the buds from spring frosts, but  which also calls for a great deal of human labor. 

In their role as custodians of wine production in the Ossola area, Cantine Garrone have, together  with the Associazione Produttori Agricoli Ossolani and the University of Turin, launched a project  to recuperate the genetic material of the Prünent variety, selecting three clones of “Nebbiolo  Ossolano” which have now been reproduced in the nursery.  

Wine production in the Ossola Valley is an inestimable historic and genetic heritage which, if not  for the Garrone family, would have been lost forever.

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