Vercesi del Castellazzo

Lombardy (Oltrepo Pavese), Italy
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Vercesi del Castellazzo is situated in one of the most charming and beautiful wineries we have seen. Located on the hills of the Oltrepò Pavese in Lombardy, in the municipality of Montù Beccaria, this is not your average Italian operation. The winery occupies the manor house overlooking the town. And what is the manor house? Why, it is a gorgeous 12th century castle once owned by the Beccaria family, nobles from Pavia. 

Over the centuries, the building was fought over by local aristocrats and was often the object of assaults and subsequent reconstructions. At the end of the 16th century, Aureliano Beccaria donated the building to the Barnabite Fathers. The monks built a convent between the end of the 17th and the beginning of the 18th century and the pharmacy they operated there was quite important in the area. The Fathers continued their activities until the beginning of the 19th century when Napoleon, during his Italian campaign, confiscated church assets, including the convent in Montu' Beccaria. The Vercesi family, who had long been engaged in wine growing, purchased the historic building from the Cisalpine administration in 1808 and used it as a residence and as a place of business. Today the college, the apse and the entrance to the church, built in 1700 and dedicated to St. Aurelian, are all that remain of the original structure. The ancient medieval building, which lies on a natural terraced property surrounded by gentle hillsides entirely covered with vineyards, bears testimony to a long-standing history, not just of war, but also of wine-growing tradition.

At the beginning of the 18th century, the Pezzalunga hill was already described in an inventory drawn up by the Barnabites, as land planted to quality vines. Azienda Agricola Vercesi del Castellazzo has planted its own vines precisely on these hill slopes for many years. Today the estate covers roughly 20 hectares of Miopliocenic soil composed of marly clays.

Since 1995, the winery has sought to reduce their environmental impact. Their agricultural practices are designed to safeguard nature; their vineyards are completely grassed; no herbicides are used; vine cuttings are shred in order not to deprive the soil of nutrients; and copper and sulphur are the only fungicides employed. 

Stylistically, Vercesi del Castelazzo is firmly in the natural camp of winemaking, but they are by no means militant and their wines are far from ‘dirty’. Their focus is simply to achieve the best quality, the key to which, they believe, is careful selection of very low yields. 18 hectares out the total of 20 are planted to specialized vineyards facing south. The grape varieties include: Croatina, Barbera, Pinot Noir, Ughetta and Cabernet Sauvignon.

As with their viticultural practices, wine production focuses on respect for the grapes and the wine they yield. They do not use sulphur dioxide in vinification, and only tiny amounts of it are employed in the bottling process. They rely only on natural yeasts for wild fermentations and their cask-aged wines are not filtered. The wines they produce are gorgeous in their understated elegance. They can certainly show lots of juicy fruit, but are also tied together by a unique mineral character. These are serious wines from a region often forgotten by wine lovers.