The Brachetto Wine Route on a Bike
Not all rubies are meant to be worn, some can even be tasted. This is the ruby red of Brachetto, the wine that could never be missing from the living rooms of Piedmontese “madamin”. The sweet, aromatic, low-alcohol, lively, rose-scented wine that used to be served chilled when it was fashionable to meet at home for social gatherings. Times have changed, but Brachetto has retained its allure as a refined drink to be enjoyed in conversation and happy moments.
The Brachetto itinerary, suggested by the "Strada del Vino Astesana" (Astesana Wine Route), is a very charming bike route through the vineyards that are the basis of this and other renowned wines and it starts from Mombaruzzo, the village known for its amaretti cookies and excellent grappa. While you should avoid grappa before you get into the saddle, if you need a boost of energy you can always rely on the soft cookies born from a love story. It's the story of Francesco Moriondo, bursar to the Savoy family at Venaria, who fell in love with a young woman of Sicilian origin, a pastry chef working for the Royal Family. The two lovers decided to open a pastry shop in Mombaruzzo and the combination of local traditions with those of Trinacria, with the help of the “armellina” (the almond from the apricot kernel), gave rise to this biscuit with a slightly bitter taste, but rich in nutritional properties.
That being said, with dreamy eyes and taste buds in a state of alert, the time has come to begin the tour, which starts from Piazza del Popolo and moves away from the old town centre along Via Guasti, which becomes the SP44 road with the first ups and downs. You will then cross the hamlet of Casalotto, heading towards Nizza Monferrato, and pass in front of the historic Berta Distillery.
Once past the village, turn left towards Fontanile (Via Zerbasso) and continue until you reach Località Croci. Next to a mustard-coloured block of flats a small downhill road will take you onto the SP 60, which you will follow for a few metres until you come to a minor road on the right (Strada Prielle) that ends at a crossroads. Here you can decide whether to proceed along the long loop, come back here and continue along the last stretch, or to turn left and shorten the route quite a lot.
The long loop will take you through highly charming landscapes to discover Castel Boglione, Rocchetta Palafea, Montabone and Castelletto Molina: in all these villages you will find excellent reasons to make cultural stops, among baroque parish churches, towers, castles and the ever-present delicious food and wine specialities.
At the end of the tour, you will return to this crossroads and continue through Fontanile, passing under the monumental neo-Gothic parish Church of San Giovanni Battista, whose 53-metre-high dome stands out unmistakably among the hills, while also enjoying the murals of the project named "I muri raccontano" (Walls tell a story), some genuine narrative postcards that adorn the streets of the village.
After a short descent you get to Mombaruzzo Stazione, but the trail doesn't end here because we advise you to turn, near the level crossing, towards Quaranti, on the SP4 road. Just couple of kilometres away and you will be in the village of the wine record. Quaranti, as a matter of fact, is the smallest of Italy's “Wine towns” but it has the largest number of DOC and DOCG wines, among which Moscato and obviously Brachetto stand out. Continue along Via Marconi and Via S. Defendente, which goes downhill and becomes increasingly narrow as you cross fields and poplar groves.
Keep going left, at the next crossroads turn right and at the junction with Via Cervino turn right again following the signs to Maranzana. You climb up a bit and you will be in the village that was the birthplace of a legendary character: the explorer Giacomo Bove who, in 1878, left the vineyards he was destined to work in, and left on board the ship Vega heading to the far north, in search of a passage between the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean through the Bering Strait. One of the most important missions of the century, which was declared "Memory of the world" by UNESCO. It gives you the shivers, either because of the cold that the Nordenskiold mission evokes, or at the thought that such distant seas and deeds were once dreamt and conceived in these hills.
Next, you go through the centre of the village, also known for its "babaci", puppets made by the inhabitants to animate the village streets, continue along Via San Giovanni, Via G. Bove and Via C. Battisti to reach Regione Cervino and follow the signs to Alessandria. At the crossroads you will turn onto the SP 45 road, which you will leave to continue towards Mombaruzzo Alto. You climb up a bit and you will be back in the village, at the starting point, where now you can recover your energy by tasting some amaretti biscuits, which are as soft and distinctive as the landscapes that have delighted you along the route, perhaps served with a refreshing glass of Brachetto.
Along the way:
Point of interest along the way
Piazza del Popolo
Piazza del Popolo