Luca Ferraris Agricola
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Luca Ferraris Agricola

As both a wine producer and international businessman, Luca Ferraris has done a great deal to put Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato on the map, not only in its native Piedmont, but all over the world. The wine grape called Ruchè, pronounced Roo-Kay, with the stress on the Kay, was strictly a local specialty in a few Piemontese towns northeast of Asti when Luca finished his agricultural studies in Turin in 1999. It was then that Ferraris returned to the family vineyards in Monferrato. For years the vineyards had been selling their output to the local cooperative. Luca re-started and modernized the family cellar and with crusade-like zeal began to produce Ruchè wines that showed his own individual stamp. He also became an ambassador for the grape, travelling around the world. He had the good fortune to attract the attention of American wine maverick Randall Graham in 2001. Graham’s promotion of the Ferraris Ruchè stateside allowed Luca to ramp the winery’s production up to 180,000 bottles, half of it Ruchè, from twenty-seven hectares of vines. That makes Ferraris the largest family-owned winery in the seven Ruchè communes: Castagnole Monferrato, Montemagno, Grana, Refrancore, Viarigi, Scurzolengo and Portacomaro. Luca’s focus is on Ruchè even though he produces wines from Barbera, Grignolino, Moscato, Malvasia and other Italian grapes. The business focus is on export to twenty-seven countries, with the US number two on the Ferraris list just behind Japan. Over the next three years Ferraris is planning on planting an additional twelve hectares.

Ferraris releases his Ruchè in three basic styles:

The Ferraris Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato DOCG Bric d’Bianc is propagated in eleven non-contiguous plots on the youngest Ferraris vineyards. The juice ferments relatively quickly in temperature-controlled stainless steel vats with the aim of producing a wine that is fruity and easy to drink. Bric d’Bianc is ruby red with purple rim, with rose and cherry on the nose, moderately tannic in the mouth, flavors of candied orange and plum, and a clean dry finish.

The Ferraris Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato DOCG Classic was born in 2001 and is the winery original. Grapes come from exposed vineyards on the southwest sides of the hills. These vineyards are heavily pruned and hence their yield is never greater than seven tons per hectare. The fifteen to twenty day fermentation occurs in horizontal maceration machines. The long fermentation assures optimal skin contact, for structure, tannin and color. Malolactic fermentation and aging occurs in 54 hectoliter oak barrels. The wood is perfect for providing a natural level of oxygenation, without much oak flavor. The result is a balanced wine, elegant, with tannins that work hard at being soft.

The Ferraris Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato DOCG Opera Prima is the product of a single vineyard, and that vineyard is nurtured like no other on the estate. “I wanted to dedicate this wine to my grandfather Martino,” Luca relates, “and see that it stands up to years of cellaring.” The vineyard here is steep, late in ripening, with loose calcareous soil that is poor in nutrients, restraining the vine’s vigor. Grapes are hand harvested and rigorously selected. The juice ferments in large oak barrels. The wine then ages in 500 liter oak tonneaux (mixed new and old) over twenty-four months, with continual tasting. This long process assures that the colors stabilize and the tannins soften. The wine then bottle ages an additional year. “My goal is that this wine should stand with a good Barolo,” Luca says, “and it is priced accordingly.” The nose is peppery spice and a garden of flowers, the palate ripe raspberry and cherry, medium to full bodied, tannins are soft and acidity stimulating, reminiscent of a fine red Burgundy, with a fully ripe finish.

Luca Ferraris website

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food writer Elliot Essman James Beard Foundation Journalism Award
James Beard Award Nominee Elliot Essman

food writer Elliot Essman James Beard Foundation Journalism Award

Luca Ferraris

Luca Ferraris (center) talks wine over dinner

Luca Ferraris vineyards

Vineyard on the Luca Ferraris estate

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