Before Italy was even a united country, from France came a grape that the farmers called "burdunì". The history of Bordeaux blending begins in Grumello del Monte.

Making wine in Valcalepio

The province of Bergamo has always had a strong tradition of wine production. Lots of wine, but mostly forgettable. Only in the 1960s did quality finally reach satisfactory levels.
That time saw the transition from sharecropping to owner farming, which not all farmers were ready for. People were also lured away from the hills and farmwork by the prospect of factory jobs down in the valley.

The beginnings…and phylloxera

The early days were exciting, thanks to the right combination of expertise and creativity. Prince Gonzaga del Carretto, who owned the Castle at the time, personally brought from France some vine shoots of a new grape variety that the farmers called "burduni": it was actually cabernet sauvignon. The new vines yielded fewer grapes than the local varieties, but their quality was superior and the wine made from them was used for "gifts" from sharecroppers to the owners of the estate.
During those years, European viticulture was by virtually destroyed by phylloxera, powdery mildew and downy mildew, which came with the exchange of goods and people with the new American continent.
The Gonzagas' French vine shoots were also affected.

The Grumello Agrarian School

The economic leaders of the Bergamo province launched the idea of a permanent agrarian educational institution and set up the Grumello Agrarian School, which operated from 1870 to 1919. In 1881, director Giacomo Grazzi Soncini discovered that the copper ion blocked the development of downy mildew spores. It was a miraculous discovery, which put an end to a disease that had blighted European viticulture for decades.
In 1885, the French integrated these basic studies with the observations of Pierre-Marie-Alexis Millardet from the University of Bordeaux, eventually launching the classic "Bordeaux mixture", which should actually be called ''Bergamasque mixture''.

The Cantina Sociale Bergamasca

In 1961, the Cantina Sociale Bergamasca (Cooperative wine growers association) was founded in S. Paolo d'Argon, where Carlo Zadra, who later became the Castle's oenologist, devoted himself to the vinification of the area's best grapes. From Calvario on the Grumello del Monte hill came the cabernet sauvignon, whereas from Torre de Roveri – the estate owned by the Grumelli family – came the merlot. Bordeaux blending was the method chosen.

DOC, at last

In 1976, Bergamo's wine-growing vocation was finally made official with the Valcalepio DOC (Controlled Designation of Origin) quality label for both red and white Valcalepio wines – the latter a blend of pinot bianco (later replaced by chardonnay) and pinot grigio.

Soil management

The change of pace continued from an agronomic point of view: the number of vines per hectare was tripled (from 1,500 to 4,500) and the land was worked less – letting the grass grow between the rows to create an organic carpet. Carefully monitored pest control systems were also introduced.