Moscato Country, Marenco Winery in Strevi, Bagnario Valley Piedmont

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As we approached the hilltop village of Strevi in Piedmont (province of Alessandria) just outside of the larger commune of Aqui Terme (a very old city from Roman times, known for the Brachetto D’Acqui DOCG) the lands just kept getting greener. Strevi is part of an area known as the Bagnario Valley that according to the Slow Food Diversity Foundation is the top cru for Moscato  around Strevi and the birthplace of Moscato D’Asti Passito. 

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Andrea Costas (Michela Marenco and Giovanni Costa’s son), who went into engineering before joining the family winery,  lead our bus up a narrow, muddy road to the top of the Scrapona vineyard. A light rain had just ended so we were all prepared for mud.  However, Andrea explained the drainage in the vineyard is really good, so the ground was surprisingly, not so muddy, due to the marl and limestone soil.

In 1925, Michela’s grandfather, Michele acquired the vineyard in Strevi, grew moscato grapes but had dreams of making the wine as well. This particular area is part of the Moscato triangle/rectangle (areas historically known for growing the best and highest quality moscato grapes)  along with Canelli (province of Asti), Santo Stefano Balbo (province of Cuneo) and Castiglione Tinella (province of Cuneo).

His son, Giuseppe, then set out to acquire the best land he could for growing grapes. In 1956, he built the winery in the heart of the village of Strevi, so it would be close to the train station so he could send wines directly to customers. A man with deep roots, he was able to convey his passion to the entire family, and today his daughters , Michela, with her husband Giovanni Costa, Patrizia, and Doretta carry on “the family dream ” with his same enthusiasm and dedication. They supervise and control every step of the production process, all the way from grape to glass. Andrea joined the company in 2014, bringing his background as an engineer for international companies and some academic studies in winemaking as well.  Patrizia Marenco (winemaker) and Filippo Furlani (agronomist), follow every stage of the production process, so that nature can take its course in the best possible way. The family’s connection to the land was quite evident as Andrea talked to us about the grapes and the wines.

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Slow Food describes “the Bagnario Valley as once known ironically as the ‘valley of the sheikhs’ because its winemakers were the richest in the area, thanks to the quality of their Moscato fruit. Harvested from steep vineyards planted with old vines, these aromatic grapes boast an incredible equilibrium of flavor, rich but never cloying.”  Andrea talked about their sustainability actions in the vineyard, permanent sod, green manure, soil rest, minimal fertilization, weather stations, biodegradable products and vineyards running horiontally to prevent erosion in order to grow the best grapes.

Scrapona is the best vineyard in Strevi’s prestigious Bagnario Valley, with a south-westerly exposure and marl and limestone terrain, 6.5 hectares of vineyards are cultivated aiming for low yields obtained through short pruning, thinning and grassing, combined with a strict respect for the environment. It’s a multi-clonal vineyard where five different clones have been planted, including the Marenco clone from their original vines which always produced Moscato of exceptional quality. The name Scrapona derives from the dialect “scrapare” meaning to climb, referring to the steepness of the hillside … since the best vineyards are always those most difficult to work.

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The Scrapona vineyard has a giant bench (which I did not get a picture of) which is part of the Big Bench Community Project in PiedmontThere are 54 currently in Piedmont and they are meant to inspire people to go out and find them, get outdoors and feel like a kid again.

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Photo from website Musement.com that is a travel website for adventures in Piedmont and beyond.

After the vineyard visit we proceeded to their winery for a reception and then dinner accompanied by local music.

During the reception a rainbow appeared outside.

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Michela prepared an incredible dinner to go with the pairings of their wines, part of the dinner discussion included the variety of food pairings that go with Moscato D’Asti. The star of the night was the Scrapona Moscato D’Asti.

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What was really interesting is that they gave us a vertical of Scrapona Moscato D’Asti, 2017, 2015 and 2011 and the wine held up. The 2017 had notes of sage, apricot, orange blossom and passion fruit, the 2015 figs, honey and dried fruit, the 2011 more honey notes and figs. They are really trying to get delicate fruit notes in the wine along with very fine perlage. Given the quality of the fruit they are able to grow, it comes out in the wines. When we were talking about food pairings, Thai food, came to mind right away.

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Single-vineyard Grower Moscato D’Asti
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Patrizia Marenco
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Michela Marenco Costa
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Risotto  all”Albarossa

Their wines we tasted:

The star- Scrapona 2017: Moscato d”Asti DOCG

 Albarossa: Piemonte DOC Albarossa – 100% Albarossa originally thought to be a nebbiolo X barbera cross, found to chatus X barbera cross (Robinson, Harding, Vouillamoz wine grapes). Stainless steel maceration and fermentation, oak barrels 18 months, fruity, floral spice and toast 13% ABV

 Pineto: Brachetto d’Acqui DOCG – 100% Brachetto I was excited to try Brachetto and wondered if it would taste like a Lambrusco but it really is almost the red version of Moscato D’Asti, there fruit was very delicate, roses and raspberries, sweet with a fine sparkle, was very happy to try this! 6% ABV

 Passri’ di Scrapona: Strevi DOC

 Passri’ di Pineto: Brachetto d’Acqui DOCG Passito

I was sad to leave such a beautiful place and land but at least when I got back to Chicago and went to my job at Eataly Chicago, the Scrapona was on the shelves reminding me of such a happy, beautiful place. The Scrapona Marenco Moscato D’Asti, a gorgeous place in a bottle!!!!!

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