The Wine Barrel Race
As there is no sea to sail for us, here in the Langhe Monferrato Roero, and the shipwrights (master boatbuilders) in the Langhe Monferrato Roero became coopers. There are so many similarities between two such ancient crafts, beginning with the working tools: hammer, planer, plane, gouge, but above all the skills for mastering wood, shaping it and holding it together to create protective shells to face journeys, either at sea or in the depths of cool cellars.
A true and archaic craftsmanship, one that must be preserved and handed down. A craftsmanship that became an industry as early as the 19th century and that expressed itself to the full extent on these hills, and became one of the most flourishing activities. The art of barrel-making was not at all easy and was carried out under very harsh conditions: one thing was crystal clear: it had to be handed down and therefore in the many workplaces there was a swarming of “ghersonet”, young apprentices whose main task, apart from stealing the trade from the elderly by watching them, was to deliver the barrels to the cellars and to the buyers. How? By rolling them through the city streets and competing in some sort of speed contests.
A noisy and joyful hustle and bustle that was soon forgotten with the advent of new and more comfortable means of transport which also transformed the work world. And yet, there is a day when that carousel comes back to life: for more than forty years Nizza Monferrato has been reviving and recalling that society, which is profoundly different from today's, and has brought an ancient trade back into the spotlight.
The Wine Barrel Race, as per its rules, is a competition between wineries, shops, wine shops and producer associations: a competitive challenge based on the age-old skill of the workers in carrying barrels, weighing no less than 100 kg, and rolling them through the streets of the town centre. A very exciting race at the end of which, of course, winners and losers have only one thing to do: raise a glass and have a toast.