In ancient times in Monferrato the vineyards were rich in biodiversity, and the wines were the result of the blending of many grapes, other than the prevailing Barbera.
Ruchè of Castagnole Monferrato is now a successful wine, protected by the DOCG, but unlike other Piedmontese wines its history is fairly recent.
These grapes were consumed as table grapes or used in blending, to grace the wines thanks to their delicate and fragrant aroma, or even to produce a sweet wine for family consumption only.
The “scout” of the Ruchè, the first to believe in the potential of this grape to produce a varietal wine, dry, pure, the first to vinify and sell it in a bottle was a country parson. His name was Giacomo Cauda and, long before the advent of the DOC, the wine was known as “Ruchè del Parroco”.
“God forgive me – Don Giacomo Cauda used to say in his last years of life – for having sometimes neglected my ministry to devote my energies to the vineyard. After celebrating the Mass, I used to change my clothes quickly, and climb on the tractor. But I know that God has forgiven me, because with the money earned from the wine I created the oratory and renovated the rectory. “
Don Giacomo, born in 1927, came to Castagnole Monferrato as a parish parson in 1964. The parish has some neglected vineyards. Don Giacomo was a country man, peasants’ son, and cannot see this almost abandoned land. Thus begins his long career of priest winemaker, who will have given fame and fortune to a whole territory.
Born in Cisterna d’Asti, in the Roero, Don Giacomo doesn’t know the Ruchè; but he is immediately amazed by those grapes with a pleasant and charming taste, so that he tries to make wine in purity. His first experiment produces the beauty of 28 2-litres bottles! He tastes the wine, has others to taste it, and is captured by enthusiasm.
So he restructures and plant new vineyards, get to handle 12 “giornate” (the Piedmontese “giornata” amounts to little more than a third of a hectare, 3810 square meters), 8 and a half are Ruchè (the vineyard of the Parish Priest), two of Grignolino, one and a half of Barbera. He makes a label “Ruchè del Parroco” (Pastor’s Ruchè), with an angel with open wings. For years the Ruchè wine will be identified by that name, and that label.
As for all innovators, in the village, at the beginning, many people consider him a dreamer, an eccentric, even not a half-mad, and the ecclesiastical authorities too don’t look too kindly to his entrepreneurial commitment and his debts with the banks.
But time gives reason the obstinacy of Don Giacomo. In the 80s Ruchè phenomenon begins to be consistent: other producers have planted it, the wine meets the favor of the market.
With the support of influential people including the primary school teacher Romana Valenzano and the mayor Lidia Biano, woman of culture, poet, esteemed in the village and outside, the time has come to protect this production with the designation of origin, which later became controlled and guaranteed.
In the following decade the phenomenon explodes, and Ruchè enters the Olympus of Piedmontese wines.
In 1993 the land owned by the parish is transferred to Diocesan Institute for the Sustenance of the Clergy, and then sold. The parish priest, respectful to the duty of obedience, is silent, but he’s not happy. On the other hand his green years are long gone, and the life of the hill vine grower begins to be hard for a man of his age. What consoles him is the fact that the ownership remains in the village: One of his parishioners, Francesco Borgognone, becomes the new owner.
The “Pastor’s Ruchè ” has now become “Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato DOCG Vigna del Parroco”. And other labels, from the growers and from the small cooperative winery of Castagnole, now are spread in Italy and in the world. They are all good quality wines, and this was the luck of the Ruchè: maybe out of respect for “the pastor” all the producers have always tried to do their best in the production of this wine.
In 2016 Borgognone, senior himself, sold the vineyard with its old vines to the young wine grower Luca Ferraris, even from Castagnole Monferrato.
The “Vigna del Parroco” will be the leading wine and the flag of Ruchè in the world, in memory of a courageous and forward-looking country priest, who, in his modesty, was used to say: “I’m just a man, a poor priest. The success I’ve had is not my merit, but who’s, from the sky, inspired my work. So many times I thought ‘Who makes’ me do this?’ But, inside me, I knew the answer. “