The Underground Wine Cellars of Italy's Monferrato

| Tue, 02/01/2022 - 09:43
Monferrato underground wine cellar

To fully appreciate the history and craft behind some of the world’s most celebrated wines - those made in Piedmont’s Monferrato - you need to head underground. 

The Unesco-inscribed area, which also includes Langhe and Roero, is mostly associated with  vineyard-dotted gentle hills and picturesque villages. 

However, many do not know that, right under those hills, there are spectacular cellars where wines are left to age; some are centuries-old, and their origins remain shrouded in mystery.

Canelli is one of Monferrato’s main centers of wine production and is believed to be the birthplace of the sparkling wine Asti. 

The most original feature of the town is the least visible: an extensive network of ancient underground rooms that develop under the whole town, dug in past centuries in the calcareous tuff of the hills, creating fascinating spaces that are also masterpieces of engineering and underground architecture. 

The current cellars date back to the 19th century, following the boom in wine production in the area; however, they were built by expanding already existing tunnels and galleries.

Often nicknamed ‘underground cathedrals,’ they are perfect natural thermal insulators that guard millions of bottles left to ferment at a constant temperature between 12° and 14°C (54 and 57 °F). It is here that the famous sparkling wines of the area were born a century and a half ago. 

In Canelli, you can visit three underground cellars. 

The historic Bosca winery is 190 years old. Their splendid underground cellars feature imposing vaults, grand spaces and permanent art installations, and are enhanced by games of light. This family-run winery guided by the sixth generations of wine producers make Metodo Classico and Metodo Charmat sparkling wines. 

The historic Cantine Coppo were most likely built starting from the 18th century as small storage cellars, and then remodeled and enlarged during the 19th and 20th centuries. Today, they develop under the hill in Canelli for an extension of more than 5,000 square meters reaching a depth of 40 meters. The company's production today focuses for the most part on Barbera, Classic Method sparkling wines, Chardonnay and Moscato d'Asti, which has the added denomination of ‘Canelli,’ a recently introduced label that emphasizes the excellence of Moscato wines produced in the area. 

Casa Gancia, the historic brand that is considered the inventor of Italian sparkling wine, has a beautiful underground cellar with exposed brick vaults dating back to the early 19th century. It still houses a large Marmonier press used in harvest time for the soft pressing of the grapes and 300 225-liter barriques for the fermentation and aging of wine.