Ruchè wine guide: all you need to know about the tiny DOCG of Castagnole di Monferrato
Don Giacomo Cauda, priest of Castagnole Monferrato, belongs to that category of “peasant priests” who did not have the honor of the pages of the magazines, like the “working priests” of the Seventies. In silence, and above all with passion and effort, these farmers of God worked the land side by side with the farmers. Sharing with them efforts and discouragement, but also the joy that at the end of a long day in the vineyards fill the heart and pacifies the spirit, putting you in peace with others and with the world.
Over thirty years ago, the Ruchè grape was rediscovered by this wine-growing priest. Asking him how the idea of recovering the fortunes of a forgotten grape, which later became one of the emerging wines of the last few years on the Italian wine market, is like asking the origin of his religious faith. In 1964 when he arrived in Castagnole Monferrato, Don Cauda took over the parish benefit: a few hectares of vines, including, however, those red grape varieties that immediately gave him the impression of a promise yet to be discovered.
The priest rolls up his sleeves and holds the spade. He started to vinify those bunches forgotten by all the farmers of the Castagnole area. He obtains a magnificent, immense wine, “a gift from God”, as he didn’t hesitate to define it. It has a perfect body and a balance of unique aromas and flavors. “Sipped in moderation it frees the spirit and opens the mind ”. Too bad this great man didn’t have an Instagram account: he would have been a great wine-influencer…
Where does the Ruchè grape come from?
The origin of this noble grape is unclear, perhaps it arrived in Piedmont four centuries ago with the Spanish troops who occupied the region in the seventeenth century. Or, as another theory wants, it landed in the Asti area in medieval times, from France, following monks who implanted it in the lands around a now disappeared monastery. A place dedicated to San Rocco: according to some scholars, the name Ruchè derives from this name, Rocco. For others, Ruchè comes from the dialectal word that indicates the “fortresses”, ie the highest hill positions.
As soon as the winemakers of Castagnole met the rookie Ruchè, they realized the peculiarity and potential of the grape variety, so different from Nebbiolo and Barbera. And they let themselves be carried away by the enthusiasm and planted a few hectares of Ruchè, with the result that in 1987 the DOC Ruchè of Castagnole Monferrato was born.
Where is Ruchè grown?
Today, the restricted production area includes in addition to Castagnole Monferrato, the municipalities of Grana, Montemagno, Portacomaro, Refrancore, Scurzolengo, and Viarigi. Over 250 thousand bottles a year are made and fifteen wineries in the area are dedicated to this grape variety. The projections on future plants make it possible to estimate vineyards cultivated in Ruchè for 47 total hectares with a potential production of almost three thousand hectoliters.
Don Giacomo Cauda reveals and says “the will of the Lord has been done. The fruits of the earth have served to bring peace and prosperity. And they will grow even more if the men and women who followed me in the Ruchè vineyard know how to respect nature as a gift from God ”. Holy words, not to say divine.
The organoleptic characteristics of Ruchè
How to recognize Ruchè and what are its main characteristics? Ruchè is usually harvested in mid-September and, if ripe at the right point, has a good concentration of sugars.
The tannins are thick and the acidity is never exaggerated, overall the wine is structured and alcoholic, but still slender, agile, with aromatic complexity, good intensity, multifaceted.
The most important clue to recognize it: the floral bouquet, with geranium petals in the foreground and then pulpy red fruit, often ripe and lots of spices too, such as pepper and cardamom. Face powder and cherries in alcohol are two other characteristic aromas of the Ruchè grape variety.
How to serve Ruchè?
The serving temperature of Ruchè is the classic one of structured red wines: 18-20 degrees C °.