The Castello vineyard in Grinzane Cavour - ArnaldoRivera
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The Castello vineyard in Grinzane Cavour


The vineyard below Grinzane Castle represents one of the most important and noble legacies in the history of Barolo wine.

Dating back to the XIII century, the finely restored building stands proudly within the Vineyard Landscape of the Langhe, Roero and Monferrato awarded Unesco heritage site status in 2014. It is home to a Piedmontese Regional Enoteca, a Museum of local life and the Order of Knights of the Truffle and Wines of Alba. For some years now it has also housed a celebrated restaurant, and the Alba White Truffle Auction is held in the Castle each year.

The lower slopes of the hill the castle stands on have been occupied for centuries by vineyards, and it was here in the first half of the 1800s that experiments began on the growing and vinification techniques that led to the production of Barolo as we know it today.

The champion of this was the castle’s most illustrious resident, Turin born Camillo Benso, Count of Cavour, the distinguished statesman of the Kingdom of Savoy and leading player in the Italian Risorgimento, the movement that brought about the unification of Italy. A farming fanatic, ever since his youth Cavour had returned several times to live in Grinzane, where he worked in close association with the nearby Falletti di Barolo family.

The Count’s presence here and his major achievements led to the decision taken by the inhabitants of the village of Grinzane to add the name of their celebrated fellow citizen to its name.

In 1932, the castle and adjoining property were donated by Cavour’s last heir to the town of Alba, which Grinzane had become an outlying district of. Since 1979 their ownership and administration have been shared by the municipalities of Alba and Grinzane Cavour, which in the meantime had reverted to being self-governing.



Camillo Benso (Turin, 1810–1861) was born into nobility, and at the age of ten he entered the Military Academy in Turin, where he acquired a solid education: blessed with a lively intelligence, he distinguished himself particularly in the sciences, in mathematics and also chemistry and physics, skills which would later prove to be invaluable in his studies and management in the field of agriculture.

Reluctant to submit himself to the rigid political and cultural climate in Turin under King Carlo Felice, at the age of twenty he was sent by his father to Grinzane to run the family estate, which included the castle and around 200 hectares of fields, meadows and vineyards. The young Count committed himself to this activity with great enterprise, immediately putting to good use his remarkable, multi-faceted abilities.


After just two years in Grinzane, Cavour was appointed mayor of the small village, an office he was to keep until 1849, even though he lived in the city and elsewhere for long periods of time (called on to join the government of Savoy, in 1850 he finally moved to Turin for good).

On the estate in Grinzane, the Count dedicated himself with passion to understanding and experimenting with various growing techniques, paying particular attention to the methods used in the castle’s cellars to make wine from the grapes grown on his own vineyards. Convinced that farming was not an exact science, and could be improved and innovated, he continually added to his knowledge of the field, travelling abroad as well, especially to France and England.


In 1835 he began to manage another family estate at Leri, in the area of Vercelli, which was much bigger than the farm in Grinzane. There he concentrated in particular on the growing of rice, sourcing new seeds from America which were immune to the diseases that had become widespread. And it was in north-east Piedmont where – as Prime Minister of Savoy – he started the building in 1852 of an irrigation canal which bears his name, and is still today one of the greatest works of water engineering ever accomplished in Italy.

Equally significant were the numerous projects he promoted in various spheres on the estate in Grinzane. He started experimenting successfully with clover as a forage plant, rotating it with cereals; he boosted the use and sale of fertilizers, in particular guano from South America, the qualities of which had been virtually unknown previously; and he took an interest in the cultivation of mulberries and in the breeding of silkworms for their cocoons, which were much in demand on the market in Alba. In an area mainly given over to grain farming, he tried growing sugar beet and planting walnut trees, which were highly profitable for their wood and oil.


Credit is due maybe most of all, however, to Cavour for his work in vinegrowing and winemaking. Thanks also to his international experiences, the Count applied himself to this field with great vision, making a fundamental contribution to the improvement and dissemination of Barolo, which would attain the status in those years of “wine of kings, king of wines”.

On his arrival at the estate in Grinzane, the young Cavour had soon understood the natural potential of the area, and in particular of the local vinegrowing. So he had decided to develop it by promoting the planting of vineyards on hillsides, and only on the slopes with the sunniest aspects.

As we know, there were already vineyards here before he came, but no attention was paid to producing wines of any particular quality. To join him in this venture, Cavour called on General Paolo Francesco Staglieno, an expert agronomist and winemaker who was renowned for his great skill. It is no coincidence that Staglieno would later be chosen by King Carlo Alberto to direct the cellars on the royal estate of the Agency of Pollenzo, which at the time was the most important agricultural and winemaking experimentation site in the Kingdom. Considered by scholars to be the pioneer of the new Piedmontese oenology, Staglieno considerably improved harvesting procedures and the fermentation and vinification processes, achieving major results in terms of quality and a substantial increase in the sales of wine.

At the time, dolcetto and white wine grapes were vinified on the estate alongside nebbiolo, and vermouth and grappa were also produced.

But Cavour longed to create a wine which could achieve the standing of the fashionable wines from Bordeaux and Burgundy: a wine which could also be exported and become famous throughout the world.


With this in mind, the Count began working closely with another person who would prove to be key in the history of the king of wines: Marchesa Giulia Colbert Falletti di Barolo. His contemporary – though older – and with similar roots in Turin and the Langa, the Marchioness was the last in line of the wealthy Falletti family, the seigniors of Barolo and owners there of vineyards of note and cellars which are still famous today.

Before the arrival of the Count and the Marchesa, the wine made from the Nebbiolo in this area was light red, medium sweet and with a short cellar life. Though the two aristocrats had quite different character traits, they were able to count on a friendship that had developed in their social life in the capital. It was therefore a simple matter for Cavour to suggest to Colbert Falletti that they should work together in an undertaking that would raise the profile of the finest product from their estates. This would not only satisfy his rightful pride; it could also provide her at the same time with copious resources to dedicate to the mission the Marchesa had agreed on with her husband prior to his premature death to donate all their wealth to the poor.

To achieve their goal, they took advantage of the advice from a well-known winemaker and trader from across the Alps, Count Louis Oudart (Maison Oudart et Bruché, Genoa). He suggested introducing new fermentation processes and lengthy ageing in wood, which led to the production of a prestigious wine with great potential, transforming Barolo into a great dry wine which was capable of a long cellar life and of showing off the typical properties of the soil and the varietal at their very best.

The Count carefully followed all the various steps in the production in person in order to control the quality of the wine for himself. It was so successful that Cavour decided to convert the castle cellars for the production of this new wine, and in just a short time his Barolo was assured fame and a future, going so far as to compete with the finest that France had to offer.



Not to be forgotten either are the important collateral ideas that the Count implemented over those years in the vineyards in Grinzane, such as the experimental planting of new varietals, including some from abroad; the impetus he gave to the studying of the composition of the soil (sending samples to Turin for the scientist Angelo Sismonda to analyze in order to understand how they could be enhanced); and the resulting attention to fertilization techniques, for which he founded a chemical company (Rossi Schiaparelli) in Turin. And last, but not least, the major success obtained in the fight against the oidium (powdery mildew) which was beginning to appear at the time in Piedmont: already a government minister, Cavour tasked the Royal Academy of Agriculture with the research, and the effective treatment they identified in the use of sulphur is still employed today.


His extensive, long-standing experience in the field led to Cavour’s appointment in 1850 as  the Kingdom of Sardinia’s Minister of Agriculture. Just two years later he would be called to head up the Government, and over the following decade he became a central figure and long-sighted leader of the great epic feats that led to the unification of Italy (1861).


Cavour passed away suddenly in the same year, and his body lies in the family’s monumental tomb in Santena. Meanwhile the Count’s bedroom and a significant collection of relics are preserved in Grinzane Castle.






A place of research and exceptional scenic and environmental heritage in the Barolo winegrowing hills of the Langa, the Castello vineyard is today run by Alba’s ”Umberto I“ Oenology High School and its young students who will be the local winemakers and agronomists of the future.


Since 1973 the School has also been a grower member of the Terre del Barolo cooperative. Over the years, this relationship has raised the profile of the grapes grown on this special vineyard, and contributed to the name of Grinzane becoming widely-known among enthusiasts throughout the world as one of the historic villages where Barolo is grown.

In 2010 the Barolo from the ”Castello“ vineyard was officially awarded M.G.A. (Menzione Geografica Aggiuntiva) by the Ministry of Agriculture.


Following the introduction of the ArnaldoRivera project in 2013, the new production protocol designed to bring out the very best in the outstanding character of this site is applied to a selected parcel extending over approximately 5000 m² on the cru’s south-western slopes.


* The information on Cavour is drawn largely from Camillo Cavour e l’agricoltura edited by Silvia Cavicchioli, published by Carocci, Turin 2011.