A Memory Of Matteo Correggia

How sad and how terrible it was to learn about the death of Matteo Correggia, the young winemaker of the Roero district in Piedmont! My memory takes me back to a cool farmhouse kitchen on a warm summer’s afternoon in the mid-Eighties. I remember a plastic table cloth and I can see Matteo Correggia, no more than 20 or so at the time, and his mother Severina offering me a glass of Barbera. In those days they used to sell the wine loose to a close circle of family customers. ‘Why not take the plunge? Why not start bottling your wine on your own?’ I suggested. His wine deserved as much, and when you’re 20-years-old it’s only right that you should wager on your future. A young artist, Coco Cano, a naturalized Italian from Uruguay who ran a bookshop in Carmagnola, had given me a set of lovely labels with stylized drawings of hills and vineyards with suns and moons. They were simple in style but attractive. ‘Here you are’, I said to Matteo. ‘The labels are ready for you. Now you take care of the bottling and you’ll see that the rest will take care of itself, day by day.’ And that’s what happened. After a few weeks, his wines were already winning acclaim and, with stubborn determination, the young farmer gradually grew into one of the big names in Italian winemaking. Renato Dominici of the local La Carmagnole restaurant was so taken by Correggia’s dry Brachetto that he began serving it with one of his favorite dishes. Over the years Dominici was to follow Correggia’s production with almost paternal affection. In 1996, Correggia, with the support of his wife Ornella, earned his first Three Glasses Award in the Italian Wines guide with Nebbiolo Val dei Preti ’93. Since then, year by year, he progressed by leaps and bounds, adding to the Nebbiolo, Barbera Marun and, in the late Nineties, Roero Ròche d’Ampsèj. All wines of great character, all harmonious and elegant, all with a characteristic style and subtle aromatic notes.
With the death of Matteo Correggia, the Roero district loses one of its leaders in terms of quality. Not that Matteo ever flaunted that leadership. One trait of his character that I’ll always remember was his reserve. He was as simple and well mannered personally as he was determined and firm professionally. On many an occasion the Roero locals complained about the ‘primogeniture’ of the wines of the Langhe, but they often failed to oppose them with wines of comparable caliber. Correggia took on the langaroli at their own game: top quality red wine. He did so perseveringly year by year, turning out a string of fantastic reds and demonstrating that the Barbera and Nebbiolo of the Roero can compete with the noble vines of the Langhe after all. For quality wine connoisseurs, Bric Marun, Val dei Preti and Ròche d’Ampsèj are now milestones in Piedmonts oenology, proof of the fact that the Roero is capable of producing masterpieces, and that the way is open for young quality wine makers. Wine producers and enthusiasts and everyone else who delights in detecting the different nuances each vintage offers and human intelligence shapes should pause for a moment to pay tribute to Matteo Correggia, the producer of memorable wines in the Roero.

Carlo Petrini

from La Stampa 16/06/2001

(English adaptation by John Irving)

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