Before Marina begins to show me the (Boca) vineyard, and explain the quadretto vine training system (used only at this site), she takes great care to explain the family history.
It begins in 1859, with the death of his uncle (in-law). This is when Bernardo Vallana took over the vineyards left to his care. Here’s a photo of Bernardo Vallana ‘The Old’
1859, let that sink in for a minute; it’s not so easy. Not for me, anyway. This period in the Alto Piemonte was some tough, tough going. There was really no industry of any kind, so basically everyone was a farmer. Most likely if there was a baker he/she was a farmer, too. Same for the mayor, if there was one. Perhaps the only person that didn’t farm, personally, was the local priest (though I suspect he did, though certainly not the Bishop).
During this period, the production of wine was not commercial, people grew it for their own consumption. Even today, with paved motorways, etc., this area is pretty remote. If someone alive at that time could see the area today, they would no doubt faint. Yet to me, it’s like I’m looking back in time a hundred years. Or more. Something Italy’s rather good at doing – they just make it look easy!
Bernardo gets married, and has a son, his name was Antonio Vallana. But that’s only part of the story. Like I said, times were different then, because Antonio was the last of 11 children. Let that sink in for a minute; it’s not so easy. Not for me, anyway.
It is said that Antonio had a passion for the vineyards. And so, together, Bernardo and Antonio turned this into a commercial enterprise. Not a formal one, that would not happen until 1937, when Antonio’s son, Bernardo formed the company that still thrives , eighty years later, through the dedication of the (current) fifth generation. Antonio Vallana (photo)
Progress arrived in the form of a railway tunnel (1905); the father and son wasted no time in arranging to sell their Spanna wines to foreign markets (Germany and Switzerland). The business flourished. The Vallana wines and the Spanna grape were a commercial success; they produced a product that market demanded. Demand grew even more with the arrival of factory work in the region. With factory jobs, many (most) had no time to farm and grow their own wines. Antonio and Bernardo, no doubt through a lot of really hard work (everything was by hand, tractors, even if they existed, locally, would have been an extreme luxury, even for the gentry.
So it was, then, that Antonio’s son, Bernardo, carried on with the family tradition. But it’s more than that. Bernardo seemed to have been born with a gift for winegrowing. I’ve tasted some wine that Bernardo made (the 1955 Spanna Montalbano, easily in the top 5 wines of my life, and has another 20 years yet ahead, easily), and straightaway, this guy was on my list of people in history I’d want to meet. The man was a genius. Even today, the kind of purity that Bernardo crafted, is in the legendary, or Cult category. That he was able to do it with the technology and equipment from the mid-20th century, wow, just wow. The man was a visionary. A passionate, perfectionist visionary, with an outstanding palate. I’m in awe of the man. Bernardo Vallana (photo)
When I continue, I’ll be telling you about the fourth generation(s), as well as the (current) fifth generation stewardship. In addition, I’ll be providing some detail about the land, and the influences of the supervolcano and glaciers that moved though here during the last Ice Age.
So, what let’s tally this up for a second:
- A supervolcano that erupted around 300 million years ago. Check
- Glaciers that moved through during the last Ice Age. Check.
- Three generations of family dating back to the mid-19th century. Check.
My visit here was not panning out as I’d expected. The history, of the family and the land, is like (wine) history on steroids. This place is geeky cool.
(header photo: Alto Piemonte wines on the fireplace mantle in Borgomanero)