di Umberto Gambino

cascina-12Cascina Garitina is named after its owner’s prestigious ancestor: “Nonna Margherita”, known as Margheritina to her family and shortened to “Garitina” in the typical local dialect. It is in honour of his illustrious great-grandmother that Gianluca Morino named his estate Cascina Garitina. We are in Castel Boglione, one of the most flourishing parts of the Barbera d’Asti wine production zone and of Nizza Superiore Doc. Morino is Chairman of the Nizza Producers’ Association and is currently serving his third term of office. According to the disciplinary charter “il Nizza” – an outstanding Barbera – can be made in 18 municipalities of the digital winegrower’s district.
Gianluca can be described – and quite rightly so – as the prototype of the modern “digital winegrower”, but not in the sense (as you might mistakenly think) that he tends to his vineyards and cellar comfortably seated in front of his computer, delegating most of the work in the fields to someone else. No! You’d be completely wrong… “Morinaccio” (as he’s known to his friends) loves to compulsively document and share all of his winemaking (and other) activities, minute-by-minute, through the social networks (mainly Twitter) and his beloved iPhone, which he uses to take “bunches” (if you’ll pardon the pun!) of photos of bottles, vine rootings, food, winestores and the events he attends. This is part of a carefully thought-out communication strategy drawn up by a wine and new media consulting and PR expert of the calibre of journalist Monica Pisciella (@wineup on Twitter) from Turin.  This said, Gianluca Morino knows each of his vineyards (including those of the Nizza DOC) like the back of his hand. He spends time in them every day and, if he could, he’d sleep with the barrels in his cellar. A farsighted winegrower, he keeps abreast of the times and is quite possibly ahead of them. This is exactly how I’d describe him since meeting him on my recent mini tour of the Monferrato district. Starting from Nizza, a delightful little town with ten thousand residents.

Nizza, a fully identifiable Barbera
The digital winegrower’s opening words are “Barbera di Nizza Monferrato is a wine for everyone, not an old-fashioned wine”. “Together with the other producers of this Doc wine, we intend to propose it in the right way to consumers of all ages, doing our best to break down ideological barriers that can no longer be justified”. The idea is to make Nizza a perfectly identifiable “super Barbera”. It will soon be granted Docg status. Consequently the disciplinary directives are extremely strict: lower grape production per hectare than Barolo, the espalier training system, a maximum of 10 buds per vine, with regular collective blind tasting sessions of the wines made by all the members of the consortium (over 40) to guarantee that the typicality of this wine is respected.

Cascina Garitina and the keys to export
Cascina Garitina, Gianluca Morino’s estate, exports 65% of the bottles produced. The countries that buy most Barbera are Denmark, Holland, Switzerland, Germany, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Much, if not all, of the merit of the success of these exports goes to the brokerage agency Enoteca Nederland, guided by Maarten Bonants, a man with a great nose for the Italian wines appreciated abroad. “He manages to project every single label onto the best market” confirms Morino.

The tasting
The production of Cascina Garitina is anything but monothematic. Meaning that there’s more than just Barbera. The first wines presented are those of the “Vera” range, named after one of Gianluca’s daughters, Veronica.
First the Dolcetto d’Asti 2011. Then the Barbera 2011, macerated on skins for three months and vinified in steel: a basic, fresh, fruity and slightly spicy wine that’s a pleasure to drink. Merlot 2001 Doc Monferrato. An immediate wine which goes by the book, observing the rules, with a characteristic nose, smooth, fresh mouth and slightly green tannins.
The single-vineyard Barberas
Bricco Garitta Barbera d’Asti Docg 2010. Gianluca proudly says that this is the Danes’ favourite wine. I’d already tasted it at this year’s Vinitaly: nice floral nose, immediate; an intense, persistent and fresh wine. Three months on, today it is quite rightly more evolved.
Villalta Barbera d’Asti Docg 2010. Interesting in its dark, wild, animal and brushwood scents, it displays all its substance on the palate. It’s fresh, rather smooth and vibrant with rough tannins. It evolves well and will still be well-worth drinking in two or three years’ time.
Neuvsent 900, Barbera d’Asti Superiore Doc Nizza. After macerating on skins, it ages for 24 months in barriques. A sweet spiciness conveyed by the wood is still evident in the nose, along with balsamic and eucalyptus scents. A fresh, quite smooth taste that decidedly stimulates the palate. Nice persistence.
Caranti Barbera d’Asti Superiore 2009 Docg. I hadn’t tasted this wine in Verona and was positively surprised. Fresh, fruity notes in the nose, round, smooth, perfectly tempting. A hot year which makes it easy to appreciate the later harvest and overripe tones. Correct and well-dosed use of wood.
Niades Brachetto d’Acqui Docg 2011. A nectar that caresses the mouth like a feather and seduces the nose. Elegant notes of forest fruits and wild strawberries, a floral touch of rose, smoothness and freshness. For the very reasonable sum of 6 euros and 30 cents, you get to take home an outstanding dessert wine with 140 grams of residual sugar. To drink and drink again. Abroad however, they prefer it as an aperitif. There’s no accounting for taste.
So which wine did I like best? Villalta, without a shadow of doubt. Followed by the Brachetto and Caranti. Then Neuvsent. The Barbera “Vera” is dignified and agreeable too.

A tangible example of modern wine communication linked to the web was #barbera2, the event held on the 14th of May last year, which brought about a hundred people to Nizza Monferrato, with two shared passions: wine and the world of digital technology. A unique event in the wine world and in the digital era. Monica Piscella and Gianluca Morino were the organisers and the driving force behind the event, together with other Barbera producers. I’m prepared to bet they’ll soon be imitated by others. A year on, a reminder event was held and about twenty of those who attended #barbera2 met up in the “digital” vineyard, which has become a reality, to see and touch the growth of the young vines. An exciting event for several budding winemakers. This has been an authentic communication project for a wine and a territory, carried out within that territory. A vineyard that is born, grows and produces its fruits thanks to the online community and the social networks.
There’s a profound significance behind this: “Barbera is a wine that belongs to everyone – explains Morino – and it’s anything but elitist. We tried to shake off its old image. Starting from the web and the enthusiasm it instils into people, we reached the people and planted the vines. A real sharing of experience and emotions. A way of involving more enthusiasts as opposed to the usual members of the trade and experts. We want Barbera to be a young wine, for young consumers too”.
This is an aim that we here at Wining fully approve of and share. 

From the video of #barbera2 with Gianluca Morino (see

“The #barbera2 vineyard was conceived in May last year. It’s a real vineyard and it really does exist in Località Caranti in the municipality of Castelnuovo Calcea, planted with the vine rootings that were assigned to each participant of the #barbera2 event, held in Nizza Monferrato, on 14 May 2011. The meaning behind the vine rootings? The aim was to create a strong link with Nizza as a territory: so everyone was given a vine rooting. They were actually planted on 9 June. The intention was to give all the participants the chance to really plant a vineyard, to watch it grow and see the results and the fruits of this vineyard in the future: in a glass and in the few bottles that will be made. It is a very strong reference to the territory of Nizza. There are 100 Barbera vine rootings and each one bears the name of the single participant. We are currently in the second year of vegetation and the vine shootings have yet to bear grapes. Next year they’ll start producing small bunches. The first harvest will be in 2014”. 

Azienda agricola Cascina Garitina, via Gianola 20 – Castel Boglione (Asti) – tel +39 0141 762162 

Bottles produced: 200,000; grape-varieties cultivated: barbera, dolcetto, brachetto, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, pinot nero