Before the wine, and certainly before words about wine, the landscape of the Lange is to be celebrated. The town of Barolo has the sleepy air of a small place which has inadvertently given its name to a world famous product. But what really stand out is the view from the town. Every available square metre of land seems to be covered with vines.
Outside, in the vineyards, the meeting of human beings and the land they have cared for and worked has a special poignancy, perfectly captured by the ciabot (cha-bot, Piemontese dialect) the tool huts and shelters that dot the landscape.
On these steep slopes, no one will want to carry their tools further than they need, or want to go far for shelter. This has led to the hill sides being dotted with ciabot of all shapes and sizes – smart and modern, tumble down, functional. But they all speak of the grower’s profound relationship with the land and the climate. I suppose they have appeal of the garden shed while enhancing an already fabulous landscape.
The rolling hills of the Langhe also benefit from a wider backdrop which sets all this activity in a much bigger frame – the arc of the Alps. Although the photo below is taken with some magnification, in late spring the snow line is clearly visible and emphasizes the rapid change of landscape and microclimates in Piemonte.
Back to the human scale, the farmhouse (cascina) is an art form here. Most are quite substantial if low key, pleasant and functional buildings. Many have a well-concealed winery below ground, reducing the impact on the visual environment and getting all the benefits of stability of temperature for wine making and storage. Monchiero Carbone (red building below in the Roero region) shows the large domestic scale and of course you can’t see the substantial winery below.
Some wineries are have started afresh but even then they can be simultaneously very contemporary and, with that curved and grassed roof, disappear into the landscape. This is the historic firm of Renato Ratti, now in modern guise.