Why is Gattinara DOCG also known as “The Wrong Bottle”?
Guillermo del Toro, in a celebrated and award-winning 2017 film, presents “The Shape of Water“. You too, at this very moment, reading the word shape will have thought of an image: a triangle for example, or perhaps – finding yourself on a blog about Piedmontese products – a cheese.
But instead, I’m going to surprise you even more, because what we’re talking about here is the “shape of wine”. More specifically, of the shape of a very special bottle of wine that is very precious to us Piedmontese: that of Gattinara DOCG.
Wine bottles, first of all, have a unanimous characteristic regarding their size: 75 cl. Have you ever wondered why? And, if the answer is no, we know you are right now. In fact, there’s a reason why wine bottles only have a 75 cl capacity.
You need to take a trip back in time to the 1700s, when wine was all the rage in the UK and imports forced the French to adapt the unit of measurement in trade. To simplify the conversion, Bordeaux wine was transported in huge 225-litre barrels, or exactly 50 gallons, divided into 300 bottles. Wait a minute… 300 bottles, 225 litres, means that each bottle contained 0.75 cl and, not only that, each gallon contained 6 bottles of wine, which is why today the cases are almost always 6 or 12.
Not only do the bottles have a common amount of wine, they also generally all have the same shape. But we like exceptions. That is why we are presenting Gattinara DOCG, the workhorse of the Travaglini family. Let’s start, however, by getting to know the territory better: we are in a particular area of north-eastern Piedmont, where the cool but sunny microclimate contributes to the ripening of the Nebbiolo grapes with very intense aromas, thanks also to the maternal embrace of Monte Rosa, which brings a light breeze avoiding the cold winds. The terrain on which the vineyards stand is very special: in the Gattinara area, there are granite and porphyry rocks, rich in iron minerals, which contribute to the red colour of the soil. The soil of volcanic origin, moreover, allows the wine to gain a marked sapidity and an evident minerality, accompanied by a persistent acidity.
Returning to the wine, the shape of the bottle is quite unusual. It captures the eye of the observer, leaving him surprised and curious. Sight is the first of the three senses to fascinate anyone who tries it: then it is the turn of taste and smell to be conquered.
The Gattinara DOCG bottle is a functional design, not an end in itself. Its shape makes it soft to the eye, almost as if it were a Michelangelo sculpture. If you thought of the sinuous shapes given to the marble of the Pietà, you hit the nail on the head. This particularity leads to a specific and very useful function: the bottle retains any natural sediment, allowing it to be served directly by the glass, while its dark colour protects the wine from the light, guaranteeing its impeccable preservation. Just think that Gattinara is the only village in the world where a Nebbiolo is produced from volcanic soil.
This very special shape was developed and patented by Giancarlo Travaglini in 1958. Since 1920, the Travaglini family has been a symbol of excellence in the art of winemaking, demonstrating how it is possible to go beyond the needs dictated by the market. With a bit of imagination applied to the functionality of objects, even a simple wine bottle, with its shape, can become a piece of art.
The art that can be enjoyed through sight is transformed into jubilation when we approach the glass first to the nose, then to the mouth. All this is the result of the work of a company able to hand down from generation to generation the passion and… “Il Sogno” (a rare wine produced in only 2300 bottles per year), that of Giancarlo Travaglini to give life to a red wine obtained from the drying on racks of Nebbiolo grapes for at least 100 days and aged for four years in oak barrels, became reality thanks to the commitment and dedication of his daughter Cinzia. A world-famous wine, capable of captivating you at the sight, with its particular bottle; at the smell, thanks to its complex and varied aromas and, obviously, at the palate. Perfect in combination with red meats and mature cheeses.
Gattinara DOCG, therefore, is much more than just a wine.
A work of art capable of capturing your attention from the first glance at the bottle, its shape is the trademark of an excellence that the world envies us.
– Until next time, with Love!