Burgundy Chardonnay has taken root in the Asti area


Burgundy Chardonnay has taken root in the Asti area

06 February 2020

Chardonnay was introduced in Piedmont in the first half of the Nineteenth century. Its arrival has been possible thanks to the Marquis Filippo Antonio Asinari of San Marzano, a diplomat at the service of the Savoy and Napoleon.

Upon his return to France, Marquis Asinari has brought some Chardonnay cuttings with him. These were from Montrachet, in Burgundy, today celebrated as the vineyard that produces “the best white wine in the world”. The cuttings have been planted in Costigliole. It was at that moment – starting from the Nineteenth century – that Chardonnay became an Italian grape variety, and a “traditional” wine of the Piedmont hills.

The diplomat who turned out to be a brilliant winemaker

Filippo antonio asinari coppo Filippo Antonio Asinari of San Marzano

Filippo Asinari was born among these hills. Here, he dedicated his free time and much of his talent to growing vines, between one diplomatic commitment and another. He has upgraded Asti wines to a new level. The marquis has applied to wine production the same principles of rationality and scientificity that Napoleon has put to the service of the conquered regions. Encyclopaedia and musket; research and discipline; military pragmatism and scientific systematic approach. In France, he has met the great producers of that time and fell in love with their wines. He had confidential relationship with Chateaux Margaux, Chateaux Lafite, Chateaux Latour, Chateaux Haut Brion and Chateaux d’Yquem. A sort of “experimental vineyard” has started in his property in Costigliole.

Old buried shoes: biodynamics is born

A new vine planted in the vineyards of Coppo A new vine planted in the vineyards of Coppo

From the other side of the Alps, he has brought vines that would never again part from the Piedmont hills, such as the Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. But rare vine varieties that deserved new attention have also arrived: the Bertromlina, the Baleran, the Gramestia, the Grigia, the Uva Carne, the Uva Scrass, the Mossano Nero, the Barbarossa or the Slerina. Aside from Chardonnay, one of the new plants that will have the greatest impact on Piedmont viticulture is the Brachetto, or the Braquet of Nizza Marittima. Imported by the marquis in the first decade of the Nineteenth century, it has spread throughout the Monferrato. It has replaced the ancient and local black Malvasia almost everywhere. Filippo Asinari has introduced practices that we would now call “biodynamic”. What did his farmers think when the Marquis ordered to bury hundreds of old shoes in the vineyards? Or even horns, as if a divine rite was being performed? In reality, Filippo Asinari has been experimenting with how organic materials, such as leather and horn, could decompose and release nitrogen, a revitalizing source for seedlings: a Rudolf Steiner even before Steiner was born.

Monteriolo, a tribute to the marquis Asinari

monteriolo coppo wine Coppo Winery pays tribute to the Marquis with a wine: the Monteriolo is a homage to the legacy of the diplomat from Asti. The legacy of those missions on behalf of Napoleon, the exchanges with the French Chateaux and the cuttings from Montrachet. The cuttings have taken hold. The soil composition of Asti and the favourable microclimate have allowed it to take root: those vines have found a new home, generating a wine of higher class. Monteriolo is a pure Chardonnay, made from grapes harvested by hand. The grape bunches are carefully selected and the wine is aged on the lees in barriques for 9 months, with frequent stirring of the settled lees. It must be tasted in the magnificent underground cellars of Coppo.  
Explore the Underground Cathedrals of Coppo winery where Monteriolo is aged with The Grand Wine Tour.