#wine #winetasting,  Emilia Romagna

Ronchi di Castelluccio Winery: Reviving the Tradition of Romagna Wines

Ronchi di Castelluccio Winery, in the scenic hills of Modigliana, the heart of Romagna, stands as a testament to the enduring spirit of Italian winemaking. Founded in the 1970s, Ronchi di Castelluccio was established during a period when Romagna wines were not as widely celebrated. However, thanks to the stewardship of brothers Aldo and Paolo Rametta, the winery saw a significant revival in 2020. Although initially from the Emilia Romagna region, the Rametta brothers lived in the U.S. and Switzerland and brought their international perspective to wine-making. While they work to maintain the winery’s traditional methods, they also infuse innovative practices to enhance quality and sustainability. I was able to spend time at the winery and experience their wines first hand in Modigliana. It is clear that Ronchi di Castelluccio has​ played a pivotal role in transforming the perception of Romagna wines, elevating them to new heights of quality and recognition.

There is no question that the terroir of Ronchi di Castelluccio has a huge impact on their high-quality viticulture. The hillside vineyards, or “ronchi” are situated on the foothills of the Apennines, at altitudes ranging from 300 to 500 meters above sea level. The hills of Modigliana are of marine origin, so the soils are characterized by clay or calcareous marl and sandstone, which definitely bestows distinctive qualities to the wines, such as intense aromatics and salinity.

Moreover, this hillside position is also conducive as it facilitates excellent exposure to the sun, as well as the biodiversity of surrounding flora and woodland vegetation. Additionally, the Rametta brothers recently acquired the historic Fontana Farm and breed cows and bulls, which contribute to their sustainability.  The winery’s commitment to organic and sustainable farming practices is evident in its meticulous vineyard management. Techniques such as manual pruning, grassing, and the use of organic fertilizers ensure minimal environmental impact and high-quality grape production. The low yields further emphasize quality over quantity​.

Ronchi di Castelluccio’s wines reflect the unique characteristics of its terroir. While spending time at their winery and at dinners, I was able to engage in some insightful conversations with the Rametta brothers and taste a few of their wines.

Sottovento di Castellucio Colli di Faenza DOC (2020, 2021) is made from 100% Sauvignon Blanc from their vineyards in Modigliana. Trebbiano and Sauvignon Blanc represents the winery’s innovative spirit, combining local and international grape varieties to produce a distinctive Bianco di Modigliana.  Fermented in stainless steel and aged for 9 months in wood and at least another 9 months in the bottle. Aromatic, crisp and fresh. Lovely balance of fruit, acidity and salinity. Good texture. 12.5% ABV. 

Buco del Prete di Castellucio, Romagna Sangiovese Modigliana DOC (2020, 2021) is made from Sangiovese Grosso (Romagna clones), also from their vineyards in Modigliana. This beautiful red wine is a Sangiovese cru from vines planted back in 1989. This wine had been abandoned for many years due to its difficult location. However, Aldo and Paolo revived it, and we are so happy they did! Fermented in stainless steel with 25 days of maceration on the skin. Aged for 12 months in French oak and 6 months in the bottle. This wine is elegant, herbal and earthy. This wine demonstrates longevity in Sangiovese, and as Aldo remarked “it doesn’t fear time.” Clearly not! 13% ABV.

Le More Romagna Sangiovese Superiore DOC (2022)

What a beauty! I had to start with that. The label is absolutely stunning, and the contents are equally delightful. The label depicts flowers and blackberries, which provides a preview of what’s in the bottle. Le More is fermented in stainless steel and macerates for 25 days on the skins. Then it ages for 10 months in concrete and at least another six months in the bottle. Le More or blackberry is Ronchi del Castelluccio’s entry-level Sangiovese, but it is most pleasing. This Sangiovese Superiore is lovely with cherry and flowers….Rich in fruit, but delicate and elegant. 13.5% ABV.

Ronchi di Castelluccio separated the four original Ronchi for winemaking. All of them are crus of 100% Sangiovese, except Ronco del Re Sauvignon Blanc. Some of these were not produced in over 25 years, but Aldo and Paolo worked to revive and enhance the production of these Ronchi. Each has a distinctive personality and provides a taste of Romagna.

Ronco della Simia Romagna Sangiovese Modigliana DOC

Ok. This cru has a very interesting and memorable story. The name refers to a legend surrounding an American soldier stationed in Modigliana during WWII. After the war, the soldier settled in the area along with a little monkey. Eventually when the monkey died, the soldier is said to have buried it near the ronco. For this reason, there is a certain mysticism associated with this particular ronco. The label depicts the monkey, drawn by Ulisse Aldrovandi. This wine undergoes spontaneous fermentation in steel and oak vats, then 25 days of maceration on the skin. It is then aged for 10 months in tonneaux and barriques, followed by at least another 14 months in the bottle. Round and fruity. This wine is a great mix of elegance, finesse and power. While drinkable and enjoyable now, Ronco della Simia demonstrates great aging potential. Delicious! 13.5% ABV.

Ronco dei Ciliegi Romagna Sangiovese Modigliana DOC (2020) 

Named after the cherry trees, this wine was planted in 1975 and restored in 2019. Ronco dei Ciliego is aged for 10 months in tonneaux and toasted barriques and then for at least another 14 months in the bottle. It displays classic Sangiovese notes of …..Beautiful blend of fruit and tannins. I really enjoyed this expression of Romagna Sangiovese! 13% ABV.

Ronco del Re Colli di Faenza DOC Sauvignon Blanc (2021)

This vino bianco cru is 100% Sauvignon Blanc from 50 year-old vines. It is their flagship wine and only produced in the most favorable vintage years. The name “Re” does not refer to a king. Instead, it is a reference to the rio, or three streams (Acerretta, Tramazzo and Ibola) forming the Marzeno river near the hilltop vineyard. The production of this wine was also restored after many years. After harvesting, the wine undergoes spontaneous fermentation and is aged in barriques for 8 months, followed by another 14 months in the bottle. Ronco del Re is really crisp. 14% ABV. 

Ronco Casone is the fourth. However, as this wine was also lacking production for over 25 years, I did not yet taste this wine.

Il Poggiolo (2020) was a treat. This wine was affectionately referred to as a “Super Romagna,” as it is crafted from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon planted back in 1974.

Aldo and Paolo were very hospitable with their wines, but it didn’t stop there. We enjoyed a delicious lunch that included antipasto, schiacciata (delightful, thin Italian crisps) and cappelletti pasta with wild asparagus. Cappelletti are “little hats” of pasta traditionally and historically linked to the Emilia-Romagna. According to Aldo and Paolo, Asparagus was in season, “so we have to use it!” 

Paolo and Aldo Rametta are a true example of passion and rejuvenation. Under the leadership of the Rametta brothers, Ronchi di Castelluccio aims to honor its rich heritage while exploring new horizons in winemaking. The winery’s enological philosophy balances traditional methods with modern advancements, ensuring that each bottle not only reflects the legacy of Romagna but also meets contemporary standards of excellence. The Ronchi di Castelluccio Winery continues to be a beacon of innovation and quality in the Italian wine landscape, offering a compelling blend of history, tradition, and forward-thinking practices. 

For more, read about my experience with their other winery, Poggio della Dogana: Pure Romagna on the Palate.

Planted, harvested and aged in NY. I have a background in education and marketing, with a love and passion for travel...and all things wine. In addition to writing about wine, I also maintain an online wine boutique (thewininghour.com) that caters to the winelover, as well as the weekly vinous winechat (#WiningHourChat) on Twitter (see page for more info).

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