To the discovery of hidden treasures
Carema is on Piedmont’s northern border: in the past it was the last Roman outpost on the road to Gaul and it was a “mansiones”, that is to say the seat of a military garrison and customs house. According to some scholars the name comes from the distance from Aosta, whilst according to others it derives from “cameram”, customs house.
Around the village rises an imposing number of terraces where vines are grown. One enjoys views of places full of charm, with the whitewashed stone houses built one next to the other and the narrow streets dotted with stone fountains.
The village and its terraces are one. The terraces are designed to absorb and retain heat from the sun. Their architecture, however, is different from that of other terraced vineyards because of the pilun, the columns with the shape of a truncated cone made of stone and lime, positioned on the side retaining walls at 3m regular intervals. Four rows of overlapping beams, perpendicular to each other form the trellis (topia) onto which the Nebbiolo vine-shoots are trained. You can reach the terraces making your way up stone stepped paths.
The village, seen from the terraces, is a continuum with the vineyards since it is made of the same materials (stone and lime) and is crossed by paths which turn into alleys and streets when drawing close to the centre. This configuration makes it easy to reach the rows of vines and bring the grapes to the cellars, and also to reach the chestnut woods which supply the wood for the trellises.
“Around here, men of worth, just like excellent wine shun publicity: they want to be discovered and known in solitude or in the reverent company of few friends” (Mario Soldati, “Vino al vino”) and actually these qualities are needed to be able to appreciate the environmental jewels of Carema.
There is a moment in the year in which the Carema hamlet puts aside its reservedness and “dresses up” for the fete: it is at the end of September during the Festa del vino e dell’uva (the Grapes and Wine festival) which attracts thousands of visitors and is the highlight of the initiatives relating to the village’s secular vineyards. During the festival you can attend the concerto dei vigneti (vineyard concert), the corsa dei vigneti,(vineyard race), round tables on the specific issue and cena itinerante Andar per cantine antiche (itinerant dinners with visits to the ancient cellars named “crote”).
Piedmont wines and grappa can be tasted by those who wish to discover these extraordinary products of the Piedmont wine culture, inside these beautiful architectural jewels made of stone.
The festival traditionally inaugurates the grape harvest with its smells of traditional food and is a precious show-window for Carema’s local wine produce.