Azienda Agricole Casalone

Casalone with the background of vineyard

who? what? when? where? why? how?

who grows the grapes at Azienda Agricole Casalone? who makes the wines?

Azienda Agricole Casalone is and always has been a family affair. At present, brothers Pierre Angelo and Paolo are responsible for the production and marketing of the wines, but they are never far from the experienced and watchful eye of their father Ernesto who represents the sixth generation of the family at the estate.

During our visit to the estate, we were left with the impression that Ernesto is still the captain of the Casalone ship when it comes to the work in the vineyard. He is a man who grew up before WWII in a country that resembles modern Italy in name alone, where as a child he slept with the cows in the family’s kitchen for warmth during the coldest winters.

Azienda Agricole Casalone is a tiny, family owned estate based in the town of Lu Monferrato in  Piedmont, Italy.  The family grows indigineous and rare varieties from Barbera and Cortese to Braccheto and Malvasia Greca, an amazing white wine made almost nowhere else in Italy.  Distributed in Illinois by Candid Wines: www.candidwines.com

Extended conversations with the Casalone family on their history, life in the region, and the evolution they have witnessed over a Piedmotese lunch high on the list of reasons that we are in this business.

what wines do they make at Azienda Agricole Casalone?

Casalone’s Barbera del Monferrato is to many Barberas from the area what a homegrown tomato is to anything you might buy at a large grocery store. Monferrato is a large area that encompasses all sorts of vineyards, many of which are on the flat lands. Casalone’s fruti comes only from the hillsides around the town of Lu, and is free of oak and modern wine-making techniques that have tried to beef up this noble and oft mistreated variety.

Among their whites, Casalone offers a zippy Cortese that accompanies many cheeses and lighter style salami with ease. Their Malvasia Greca is something else all together. Originally from the Greek island of Monemvasia, this white grape was brought to Italy in the 18th century and is all but forgotten in Piedmont.

Casalone Malvasia in lineup
The Casalones’ version is a floral, medium bodied wine that opens slowly and offers an amazing range of smells and flavors. We’ve noted peaches and white flowers alongside the unmistakable smell of muddled mint than might serve as a base for a cocktail. It’s a pleasure to consider the various options one has for pairing it with food. In Piemonte, it is served as an aperitif.

Finally, “Mariposa” is a sweet, frizzante, Braccheto made with enough tannin to be enjoyable on it’s own or with a range of foods. We’ve poured it at any number of barbeques where it’s chill, it’s brightness and it’s bubbles offer a wonderful counterpoint to heat and spice off the grill.

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when did Azienda Agricole Casalone start? when might you open a bottle?

Petrus Hieronymus Casalone bought vineyards in Lu in 1734 and the family has continuosly farmed them since that time. Pierre Angelo and Paolo represent the seventh generation to tend the land.

Casalone’s Barbera, made as it is without oak barrels, is as flexible as most any Italian red grape when it comes to food pairings. As long as the food you are considering is not too spicy or too fishy, this Barbera is reasonable to consider. It can also be served without food, or with minimal appetizers. For their “Mariposa” we’d suggest it with a strong bleu cheese, or a spicy Vietnamese meatball with green peppers and lemongrass. Both the Cortese and the Malvasia Greca are fine options for BYOB Sushi.

Lu di Monferrato 2

where is Azienda Agricole Casalone?

Lu Monferrato is named for the Roman Army’s 55th rest stop on the way north from Rome.  LV, the Roman numeral for 55 has morphed into Lu.  More importantly, Lu sits at the hilly heart of Monferrato.  Casalone own two “bricchi” or hill top sites.  The “Briccho Morlantino” is as pure and dense a Barbera as we have tasted and is a tremendous value as compared to neighbor’s wines in Alba and Asti.

The winery sits in the heart of and on the edge of town, literally.   Sloping away from it’s highest point, Lu falls away quickly from where Casalone is situated.  It makes for rather dramatic views from the family’s garden. In the picture above, Pier-Angelo is standing on the literal edge of the property.

Piedmonte

why is Azienda Agricole Casalone a Candid Wine? why might you want a taste?

The climate in this corner Northern Italy is ideal for producing the sort of wines we love; balanced fruit and acidity,  elegant and often lower in alcohol.  And yet many producers aggressively oak the fruit the grow or apply all sorts of modern techniques during fermentation. We prefer Casalone’s traditional approach.  The wines are relatively simple, in the very best way.  They are honest, satisfying wines that often show best when accompanying food made in the same manner.

We would suggest tasting the straight Barbera di Monferrato along side the Briccho Morlantino.  As neither are raised in oak barrels they provide an amazing picture of how a single site can focus and deepen the flavors in Barbera.  We’d also suggest that the white Antica Malvasia Greca, the only example of this grape we’ve seen anywhere in the world, is worth a try because it is as tasty as it is unexpected.

Ernesto Casalone

how is the wine made at Azienda Agricole Casalone?

The cellar at Casalone is dominated by large concrete vats along two of the main walls.  These traditional fermenting tanks impart little flavor on the grapes and native yeasts are used for fermentations.   None of the modern techniques and machinery that have been a focus in Northern Italy in the last decade are used, and the wines rarely if ever climb above 13.5% alcohol.
Caslaone in winery