- Pierino Piantavigna, the founder
- From left: Alessandro Francoli, Giacomo Ponti, Nigel Brown
- Bottle of Ghemme from 1904
- Ghemme, Gattinara and the River Sesia in 1700
- The old ‘Bono’ Cellars of Ghemme
- 15th-century frescoes from the Valsesia
- The Trivulzio Cup, Late Roman glass (4th century)
The history of “Torraccia del Piantavigna” began in 1977 when Pierino Piantavigna, maternal great grandfather of the current generation of the Francoli family, planted his first vineyard of Nebbiolo in the hills above Ghemme, near the former Cavenago Castle. The name of the company, founded 13 years later, was inspired by Pierino’s passion for the vineyards, which were such an important part of his life, and by the name of the hillside where he worked, known as “la Torraccia”, in reference to the derelict tower of the castle there.
It was Alessandro Francoli, president of the Luigi Francoli distillery, who founded the company in 1997. A company now known in Italy and worldwide for the quality of its innovative wines which, at the same time, reflect the local character and traditions.
Torraccia del Piantavigna is situated in Alto Piemonte in the foothills of Monte Rosa, perhaps the most emblematic of all Italian mountains. The company owns nearly 100 acres of hand-tended vineyards growing almost exclusively three local grape varieties, Nebbiolo and Vespolina for reds and Erbavoglio for whites. The wines are all vinified and aged in our cellars and bottled on our own production line. The winery makes exclusively quality wines, mainly reds but with some white and rosé, including our illustrious Ghemme and Gattinara D.O.C.G. wines, whose constant outstanding quality is testified by the dozens of prestigious awards received for these wines. In particular, the ‘Tre Bicchieri’ has been awarded to one of our wines for each of the last ten years by Gambero Rosso, the bible of Italian wine.
The current generation of management of the company draws inspiration from grandfather Pierino, not only by making wines of recognised quality and elegance but also in its values and attitudes towards the local area, the local community and the environment. As a reflection of its work in environmental protection, Torraccia del Piantavigna was honoured in 2014, 2017 and 2018 with the prestigious Eco-Friendly award from the Touring Club Italiano.
The Francoli family, as always, still own the majority shareholding in Torraccia but, since February 1, 2015, the ownership has changed, with the Ponti family, also from Ghemme, owners of the eponymous leading Italian producer of vinegars and vegetable preserves, taking a significant share. This is a logical step for the company as the Ponti family has been involved with Torraccia from the beginning, having handed the management of their prestigious vineyards to a joint-venture company owned by the two families. In addition, the current manager of the business, Nigel Brown, has been granted a small shareholding in recognition of his important role in the future development of the business.
Wine-making in the hills of the River Sesia, on both sides of the river (in the Province of Novara and Province of Vercelli), has entered its third millennium. In fact, the area of Alto Piemonte has an extremely old wine-making tradition which still shapes this land so closely associated with wine.
The conformation of the soil and the climate have always been–and still are–key factors.
About 290 million years ago, there was an active volcano between the valley of the Sesia and the valley of the Sessera. Then, about 60 million years ago, when the Alps were created, the overturning of the Earth’s crust in the Sesia Valley enabled its deepest magmatic layer to rise to the surface, giving rise to what is know nowadays as a ‘fossilized super volcano’.
As a result, the alluvial hills on either side of the Sesia are extraordinarily rich in minerals, from which our vines draw the precious elements they need to generate long-lasting wines of superb quality.
Here, the continental climate favoured by the Nebbiolo grape, possibly Italy’s most outstanding and unique grape variety, which “breathes the mist” in autumn, is mitigated by the cool currents of air that flow down from Monte Rosa, the ancient “Monboso” drawn by Leonardo da Vinci.
An extraordinary climate but a difficult one for farmers.
They didn’t have much choice in the old days except to pray to the saints to protect them from the hailstorms or the pests that could ruin their crops: to St Gratus, St Julius, and St Theodore, the famous bishop of Sion, with his miracle-working bell, who has been depicted in local frescoes since 1543.
These are the factors that make up the “terroir”: the soil, the climate, the grape variety, and the people who work the land, thanks to their millenary knowledge, handed down from one generation of farmers to another.
To bring alive this millenary history, we must embark on a journey. There are many characters in the story: the Celts, the Romans, monks from Cluny in France, the monks on the Island of St Julius on Lake Orta, the noble rulers of Milan (the Visconti and the Sforza families), the Savoia of Turin, even Garibaldi and Cavour. But to tell the story is also a way of remembering the many farmers who, over the centuries, applied themselves with great tenacity and sacrifice to cultivating the vines.
Today, the story continues, a blend of tradition and innovation, applied in the vineyards and in the cellar, resulting in wines of great calibre.