I spoke with Nadia Verrua from Cascina Tavijn about her life and her winery a couple of weeks ago on Instagram. The winery is in Monferrato and has been in her family’s hands for a very long time. Nadia is somewhat a cult figure in the Piedmontese wine world both for her wines and for her personality. Speaking with her gave me a sense of how much is actually happening in various corners in Italy among women of all ages. Nadia’ story is classic in that her father had two daughters and no sons. He had worked in the wine business and was going to give up the family farm because there were no sons to follow in his path. Eventually he agree to let Nadia try her hand at winemaking and working the land.
Luckily, Nadia’s mother was in her corner and supported her daughter’s efforts to make wine. Nadia’s wines are made in a very natural way meaning she does almost everything by hand and does not include chemicals or anything like that in her wines. She did an apprenticeship if you will to learn about some wine making techniques which she puts into practice in order to start the fermentation rather than use inoculated yeasts.
She also works only with the indigenous grapes which are native to her area – Barbera, Grignolino and
Ruché. One of the things I loved about Nadia was her willingness to try different types of aging regimes using various containers – wood, concrete with epoxy resin, and others. I don’t believe she had any stainless steel. While speaking with her she was in her cellar surrounded by things and I felt a real kindred spirit as I know if I had a cellar it would look the same. I would hope I would be so fearless in my winemaking choices as she is.
Nadia has an art background which is evident both in the beautiful and unique labels on her wines as well as the names that she uses. Also, in her approach to wine in general as rather an art than a science. I see her using the tools of a winemaker much like using the colors on a palette to paint a picture. It seems she has put the grapes at the center and is using the tools of the trade as accents to make the grapes shine.
I got to taste her Ruché called Teresa which is named for her mother. The label is a bright yellow with a lady in a black hat. Very unique and unmistakable. It arrived at my home in a package that looked put together at the last minute and I noted that she has one of the most famous importers of natural wines in the city – Louis Dressner.
This gave her cachet in my book and added a level of mystery to this woman who had been often interviewed and who is always pictured either surrounded by grapes or in the fields, truly a natural woman. Her husband owns a restaurant called Consorzio in Torino where the wines are sold but judging from the number of people following and commenting on our chat on Instagram, it seems she has a large following.
I asked her what Cascina Tavijn stood for and she mentioned that her father’s name is Ottavio, apparently Tavijn is a diminutive way of saying Ottavio. The choice of grapes that Nadia has decided to work with and the styles of wines she uses are also a study in her personality. Barbera is one of Piedmont’s most famous wines and she makes it in a bunch of different styles. Grignolino while very historic is somewhat less prestigious today and is more of a local wine and a wine geek wine. She is able to make a host of styles of this particular grape which is interesting both as a sales and marketing choice and as a winemaker. This means that she is really aiming for a certain local market as well as a type of international consumer. I love the dedication it shows both to traditions and local customs too.
The third grape that she focuses on is even more niche Ruché. It is a semi aromatic red grape variety that only grows in Piedmont. At times it reminds me of a similar grape that comes from Le Marche, also semi-aromatic. The wine it produces is extremely floral and particular. I loved it and thought it had both great personality and finesse. I drank it with a sausage dish I made. The pairing wasn’t perfect but the wine was.
Speaking with Nadia was truly a pleasure and I realized how large the wine industry is and how many woman are a part of it. Nadia said she wasn’t so sure how happy her father is that she is working in the business. For a very well known winemaker, I found her to be incredibly humble, forward looking and easy to speak with. I also found her to be novel in her approach to the whole experience. She doesn’t have a website and has decided only to use Instagram to really communicate with her customers until now.
I don’t know if that means she has a super niche production or if that means that she’s so famous she doesn’t need a website or if having a restaurant in the family means she will always have a ready market for her products. It might mean all of that for all I know. I can honestly say I can’t wait to visit her and try her other wines and to spend some time in Torino, a city I know slightly but that I need to revisit now that I have met so many women, albeit virtually, from Piedmont. It’s been a great ride thus far, one good thing to come from the pandemic.