Appellation: Alta Langa
Giuseppe Contratto founded Contratto in 1867. This beautiful Estate was in the family's hands for 126 years. In 1993, Carlo Bocchino purchased the property. The historical cellars underwent substantial renovations. In 2011, Giorgio Rivetti and the team of La Spinetta were able to take ownership of this understated jewel with the goal of reviving Contratto to its former glory. The winery has a long, distinguished history. Contratto is the oldest producer of sparkling wine in Italy. In fact the 1919 Contratto Extra Brut was the first vintage "Metodo Classico" sparkling wine ever made in the country!
At the turn of the 20th century, Contratto's wines were one of the premier sources of sparkling wine in Royal houses around the world. Contratto was the personal supplier to the Vatican, as well as the Italian royal family. The historical Estate has breathtaking cellars carved into the tuff limestone hillside that protects the small town of Canelli. These cathedral cellars are among the finest of their kind, excavated at a depth of 32 meters. The cellars maintain a constant annual temperature of 13°C and sufficient natural humidity. This ideal environment for bottle fermentation and maturation helps Contratto to craft wines of purity and complexity. Over the course of its 150 year history of winemaking, Contratto has produced Moscato, Barolo, Spumante Metodo Classico, Vermouths, Tonics, Bitters, Gin, Whiskey and more!
Today, a UNESCO World Heritage site, Contratto produces only traditional method sparkling wine and selected spirits under the watchful eye of Giorgio Rivetti, and his talented son, Andrea. While La Spinetta has only owned the Estate since Spring 2011, Giorgio and Andrea have been secretly making the Metodo Classico wines since 2007 with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes from Oltrepo Pavese. Thus, the inaugural releases of Contratto Metodo Classico are all the products of this talented father-son team.
Currently the Estate is investing in land and the creation of new vineyards in Alta Langa, near the town of Bossolasco. Giorgio Rivetti acquired 45 acres of southern exposure hillside in order to plant Pinot Noir at 720 m above sea level. With the existing 33 acres of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir vineyards around Canelli and Loazzolo and the new Pinot Noir plantings, Contratto from 2017 vintage onwards, will produce sparkling wines from 100% Estate grown fruit only.
The future apellation of the wines will then be Alta Langa DOC.
The first Contratto Vermouth recipes date back to the 1890s when herbs and spices were used to cover "off tastes" or oxidized wines. At that time nobody dared to throw away wine and the herbal infusion would cover any unpleasant tastes.
In the 1920s Vermouth production increased, still a lot of oxidized wine was being used as the base wine, but recipes were modified for a fresher taste. Most of the Vermouth was exported and this type of spirit became the "in" drink of the time. Contratto Vermouth di Torino became very popular in the 1930s with the winery's annual production totaling 100,000 bottles.
After World War II the popularity of Vermouth diminished albeit it was still consumed in Europe and overseas. In the 1960s Vermouth went out of fashion, especially in Italy, and the Contrattos decided to cease the production entirely.
With the revival of classic spirits and a booming cocktail scene, Contratto is reintroducing three historic Vermouth products that embrace old tradition and modern demand, Contratto Vermouth Bianco, Vermouth Rosso and Americano Rosso. Using Cortese, an indigenous white grape variety, as the base the wine is being infused with 30 to 50 organic premium natural herbs, spices, roots and seeds and then fortified with Italian brandy. This traditional process is used to create a sophisticated elixir that is complex, fresh, exciting and well balanced between Asian medicinal herbs, Italian spices and citrus fruit. These are boutique aperitifs that will make any Vermouth or Americano based cocktail an exceptional experience.
Together with the reintroduction of the Vermouths, Contratto also launched a Fernet that is based on the original recipe. Fernet is an aromatic spirit created using a secret recipe from 1920. Myrth, rhubarb, chamomile, cardamom, aloe, and especially saffron are just a few of the intense aromas and flavors to be discovered in this classic digestif. Today you will find this award winning, artisanal liqueur blended into pre-prohibition cocktails at the world’s finest bars.
The newest additions to the Contratto Spirits line are the Aperitif and Bitter, Contratto's artisanal and 100% natural version of a Campari and Aperol. Both products are based on CONTRATTO recipes from 1933 and 1935 and signify the use of top quality, natural herbs and spices, Italian alcohol and vegetable juice extracts for natural coloring. A cold maceration extracts flavors carefully and ensures top quality products. While the Aperitif with only 13.5% alcohol and mixed as a spritz with sparkling wine or soda water is an ideal before dinner drink, the Bitter with 22% alcohol is the high end and natural alternative for Campari in famous cocktails
Giuseppe Contratto moves from Aosta to Canelli intrigued with the idea to make champagne-style wines also in Italy.
200 people work for more than 5 years on building a cellar into the tuff limestone of the Canelli hills.
Contratto becomes an expert of the Metodo Classico production using mainly Moscato and releasing wines that are named Moscato Champagne and Asti Champagne.
The winery produces one million bottles annually, of which the majority was exported to the British Empire and more than 50 people were working in the busy cathederal cellars.
While Contratto was predominantly exported to the Britsh Empire and its colonies, a wine called "For England" was released, as the English were the first to develope a drier palate. The "For England" was less sweet than its Champagne colleagues from France.
1930 to 1945
The second world war also has an impact on Contratto and its production. While the winery tries to continue to make wines, the sales and production suffer largely under the economic restrictions of war. The winery loses almost all export sales in this difficult period.
The French Champagne region achieves that only sparkling wines from Champagne may be gven such name. Thus Contratto changes labels to Spumante "Metodo Champenois".
1950 to 1970
Contratto Metodo Classico is still the most important quality metodo classico sparkling wine in Italy.
In 1977 Franciacorta winery, Ca del Bosco, releases its first sparkling wine, and shortly after, many other new Franciacorta cellars were established. In the 80's the bubbles from Franciacorta boomed in Italy and Contratto lost market share to these new colleagues from Lombardia.
No sparkling wine producer outside of Champagne may use the term "Champagne method". The region therefore changes from Spumante "Metodo Champenois" to Metodo Classico.
After 126 years the winery leaves family hands and is sold to Canelli's grappa distillery, Bocchino.
1993 to 2011
Bocchino largely renovates and restores part of the cellar. He invests into the remodelling of the office and warehouses as well as the courtyard and outside fassade of the buildings. The physical appearance of the winery is reborn. The new production focus are reds; Barolo, Barbaresco and Barbera, as well as Moscato d'Asti and Gavi. Less attention was given to the sparkling wines. The annual production of Spumante is reduced to less than 100.000 bottles annually.
Giorgio Rivetti of La Spinetta acquires Contratto together with his family. The goal is to revive the brand stronlgy re-focus on the sparkling wine production.
Large financial investments are necessary to achieve a high quality production of classic method sparkling wines, using Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes. Half of the Contratto sales are again export sales.
Contratto releases three different Vermouth and a Fernet, all based on the original recipes from the 1910s to the 1930s.
Contratto's annual production is now again at 150.000 bottles of high end sparkling wines. The grape production moved from Oltrepo Pavese vineyards to Alta Langa vineyards. Export sales reach 70%. A Bitter and Aperitif are released and added to the spirits range, both products also based on original Contratto recipes.
Contratto acquires land at Bossolasco (Alta Langa) at 720 meter a.s.l. and plants its first 5 hecatre Pinot Noir and Chardonnay high elevation vineyard.