It’s been a trek to get here. The coastal road was closed for a bicycle marathon. We missed our turn off the highway. We somehow drove past the winery and then we were held up in traffic by a tractor-trailer squeezing through a tight Ligurian alleyway as we backtracked. But, we’re finally here.
Pulling into the winery, we’re met by a bouncy golden retriever that chases the car into the vineyard towards the cantina. It’s there that an old man nods to us and directs us when to park, and where we finally meet Brunella and Mirco, the husband and wife duo that currently run Cascina Feipu dei Massaretti.
Agostino and Bice Parodi began the winery in the 1960s and it was Brunella’s father Agostino who was one of the first to pioneer the change from humble orto to vineyard, with many others in Albenga following. In fact, Aimone of VioBio was one of the inspired Albegnese to follow in a similar path.
Triggered by a demand for pigato by local restaurants, Cascina Feipu dei Massaretti decided to take matters into their own hands and begin producing the wines locally. They even pioneered the introduction of Ligurian wines outside the region, which was quite innovative. With a strong link to their community and terroir, Cascina Feipu dei Massaretti is dedicated to creating wines that their customers will recognize instantly as Ligurian.
Currently, the winemaking business relies on Brunella’s hospitality and her husband Mirco’s winemaking genius. Focusing on pigato, rossese and granaccia, they produce natural wines with the philosophy that “in every bottle, there is a story.”
Producing about 70 thousand bottles per year, their wines are made only from grapes picked in their vineyards and processed quickly to ensure the best reflection of quality. With the girls, we sampled four varieties of wine: pigato, rossese, granaccia and passito (made from granaccia).
To kick off our tour, we began with a dry white pigato from 2020. Pouring straight from the vat, Mirco invites us to pay close attention to the colour and nature of the wine. Despite its borderline green hue, the pigato is peachy with subtle basil velvetiness. As we taste, Brunella explains that a Ligrurian classic like trofie con pesto genovese would pair smashingly with this wine.
Next up is La Bice, another pigato from 2020 but different in its blend. An experimental wine, La Bice only came to be after three years of trial and error. What makes this wine so different from their standard pigato is that all grapes used for this particular wine are hand-selected (rather than using sorting machines). The grapes are then left to rest for 15 days instead of being immediately pressed. By letting the grapes rest, this starts a spontaneous fermentation process, yielding a more complex wine that’s golden in colour, distinctly citrus in taste, and creates a sensation of higher acidity.
As we continue to swirl and savour our glasses of experimental pigato, Mirco disappears into another room. Rushing back toward us he holds up a photo, “Does this guy look familiar?”
A photo of a smiling Mirco and Carlo Petrini, the founder of UniSG, arm in arm stares back at us. “Ah, Carlin,” I say in unison with Guilia. Brunella grins as Mirco holds the photo proudly and explains how the winery received recognition by Slow Food and accolades for their approach to winemaking, along with their trailblazing efforts to promote local (and little known) wine varieties. I pull out my phone and snap a picture. Mirco beams.
Leading us into another room, Mirco pours us all a glass of rossese. Pink in colour, rose and sage on the nose, it’s a delicate red that pairs excellently with a baked fish and cherry tomatoes or even rabbit with taggiasca olive. Fruity yet savoury, this smooth rossese follows the traditional method of pumping, which consists of breaking the cap each day and racking weekly in the vats. Best served slightly cool, this rossese is something I’d love to enjoy on a spring day with a wedge of Parmigiano and a few slices of coppa.
Sipping the remainder of my rossese, Mirco asks something exciting, “Would you like to try our granaccia?”
After weeks in Liguria, tasting white after white, and being only tempted by the presence of a red wine, Mirco offers the forbidden fruit. A red wine. A Ligurian red wine. I wait anxiously as he disappears into the cellar, emerging with a bottle of 2020 granaccia.
A rich ruby red, the aroma of raspberries and the faint aroma of cracked black pepper fill the glass. Partially aged in wooden cask, their granaccia consists of mainly granaccia grapes with the slightest fraction syrah grapes in each bottle. Intense and persistent, this wine’s liquorice aftertaste is playfully enough to balance game or even blue cheese. We’re all in love with this red. Shiho, Haven and I, gulping up every last drop.
Excited by our reactions, Mirco offers us another granaccia from 2019. My favourite vintage of granaccia from Cascina Feipu, this was a gorgeous purple hue with a smooth flavour reminiscent of amarena cherries and blackberries. As I closed my eyes and tasted, all I could picture was a candlelit dinner for one, featuring a juicy filet mignon steak.
Inspired yet again by our enthusiasm, Mirco reveals a 2015 granaccia to us. Smoky with hints of vanilla, it’s almost tawny in colour. Immensely intricate not only because of its age, but because it’s a blend of the past five vendemmie, meaning there’s many flavours playing off of each other.
Finally, our wine tasting comes to a close, but not before Mirco offers us a taste of passito. A sweet wine, passito is made according to the appassimento process where grapes are partially dried to concentrate the flavours and sweetness prior to vinification. The end result is similar to that of an ice wine but slightly less sweet...at least that’s my opinion as a Canadian who bleeds maple syrup and ice wine.
Made from granaccia grapes, Il Pippo smells of honey and tastes like liquid strawberry jam. As an ice wine fanatic, every time I come across a dessert wine like this, it instantly takes me back home to ice wine festivals in Niagara-on-the-lake and experimenting with the syrupy stuff in the kitchen, pouring it on top of ice cream or adding a dash of hot sauce to change the flavour to something slightly savoury.
Passito, though never quite as sweet, definitely has a spot in my heart solely for where it transports me everytime I drink it. This particle version from Cascina Feipu was spectacular with its bold berry flavours, praised even by the Slow Food Presidia.
A sweet end to a sweet day, I decided to bring a bottle of grannaccia from 2019 and Il Pippo back home with me. I can’t wait to share the passito with my Canadian friends when they come to visit and hear their thoughts. But, the tasting will only transpire if they arrive to Italy with a tall, thin bottle of Niagara ice wine in tow!