Castello degli Angeli
The Bergamo hills are not exactly famous for wine. But that's what entrepreneur Mauro Taiariol wanted more than anything else: To grow wine. He went in search of the best terroir and found it on the steep hills near Carobbio degli Angeli, a small village between Lago d'Iseo and Bergamo. There were only two snags: the land was only available together with an ancient, dilapidated castle. Hitch number two: the land was steep and wine-wise untouched. Both turned out to be a stroke of luck, Taiariol created a wine treasure, devilishly good and angelic. The entrepreneur became a winemaker with a castle. Or a lord of the castle with wine.
They still exist, precious and hardly discovered wine treasures in Italy. The Castello degli Angeli is one of them. It is a small castle estate proudly perched on the Santo Stefano hill, which has been built and cared for with a lot of passion and commitment. Mauro Taiariol, the current owner of the castle, came to the Engelsburg like the holy mother Mary came to the child: unexpectedly and rather virginal. He had a great passion for wine, but little idea how to produce it. The decisive factor for a new start was - as so often in life - a crisis. A divorce led to extensive wine trips to France, and soon it was clear for Taiariol: His new happiness lay in wine, with his own estate in Bergamo, and with elegant red wines that could be stored for a long, long time. A good friend brought the famous enologist Rainer Zierock into play, and fate took its course. The two became close friends and found the perfect terroir on the steep slopes in the Bergamo hills, with black marble that allows the vines to root deeply, so that they can find water even in very hot weather. But the purchase was conditional: The castle had to come along. So Mauro Taiariol did not only buy the Santo Stefano hill but also the castle.
In 1996 the first vines were planted, on steep slopes up to 45%. One of the most extreme vineyards in the whole of Lombardy was created, with terraces and dry stone walls and exciting varieties. "We tried everything, Sauvignon
Blanc and Sangiovese we took out again." Now we grow Chardonnay, Viognier and Moscato for the whites and Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Viognier, Mourvedre, Petit Verdot and Syrah for the reds. All finely tuned for the respective sites and produced in rare quantities of only about 5000 bottles per year. When they are produced, that is. "We have learned from Zierock that we only harvest when nature and the vintage allow it. If this is not the case, the grapes are left on the plant", the owner of the castle explains.
"The winery had two catches. The first one: It only existed with an ancient and dilapidated castle. The second: The terrain was steep and untouched in terms of wine. A stroke of luck!"
Mauro Taiariol on the story of how he came to his winery.
Rainer Zierock, the famous and visionary viticulture professor, had a lasting influence on Taiariol and its winery. "Unfortunately, he died much too young. We experienced so much together, it was a very special time, very intense, exciting and enriching. Maybe not healthy for the liver, but all the more for the soul", Mauro says with a smile. You can see how much the friendship meant to him. Zierock's credo was built on the basic principles of the Greek mythology of Panta Rhei - everything flows. His teachings combine traditions and ethics, with the terroir, the climate, the earth and the vines. His well-known pentagram, the pentagon, symbolizes the elements
spirit, fire, water, earth and air. Production is based on the principle of gravity by using a natural slope without external pressure. Zierock was a free spirit and a scientist. But above all he was a friend. It was difficult to find a successor who could continue this work with his philosophical view. The oenologist couple Fabio Bigolin and Vanessa Verdoni seems to have been a stroke of luck, they maintain the Zierock tradition in vineyard and cellar. And they conjure wines with an aristocratic expression, fitting to the picturesque-impressive castle.
The castle, that is also such a story. The medieval estate - once a castle, then a monastery - was in a pitiful state. "The castle was much like myself, we were both awakened from our slumber". For in Mauro Taiariol's life also swirled a new love. The vivacious and spirited Marianna awakened the castle and the lord of the castle to new life, and together they restored the old walls with unerring intuition. In the beginning the barriques were stored in the baroque castle church, today the lavish hall is one of the most beautiful wedding addresses in northern Italy, with an intoxicating view over the countryside. Under Marianna's creative power, a dream retreat was gradually created with guest suites, a castle park and finally an exceptional restaurant: the "Barbariccia". Michele Lasco is the chef in this culinary jewel and has not only scored with the best risotto ever. Impressively, the modest chef interprets traditional recipes of the region in an innovative and light way and builds a sustainable stage for the multilayered wines of the house. The interplay at Angel Castle also applies to the cuisine: heavenly treats prepare hellish temptations. Before you look forward to a spontaneous meal at "Barbariccia", you should definitely ask in advance. Because the restaurant is not open every day. When events take place in the castle, the kitchen brigade belongs entirely to the closed society.
"Our highlight of the year is undoubtedly the ceremony of 'Il Prescelto', the best single-varietal wine of the vintage. For this opulent event we invite oenologists, wine journalists and friends of the house princely to the castle. A great event!" Mauro and Marianna love the grand performances of their wines. From the most promising parcels, wines are always vinified single-varietal, depending on the initial situation in special barrels. They are then left to lie dormant for five years until they make their grand entrance. Only one wine can become the best of its year. The guests present become the jury and part of the wine story. A success story. And a wonderful opportunity to position and celebrate the older Prescelti in vertical tastings. 180 rare liters, about 250 bottles of site wine, thus become an almost unsaleable object of desire and build each year on the wine history of the castle.
It sneaks into the wine heart, the beautiful castle of the angels, and with every sip of the complex, long-aged wines you want to stay longer and have more. How wonderful that you can also book the rooms in the castle. And how wonderful that there are people like Marianna and Mauro who share their fairy tales with others.
Text: Domenica Flütsch | Picture: Flavia Vergani | Source: Vergani Magazine 10