By Paul Caputo

Ruché is often called the Prince of Monferrato. Its aromatic, perfumed wines are quite unlike anything else found in Piedmont and as such represents an important component of the region’s viticultural diversity. The majority of Ruché is planted around the town of Castagnole Monferrato, from which the grape’s flagship wine - Ruche di Castagnole Monferrato DOCG takes its name. It can be found in other communes however - notably Grana, Montemagno, Portacomaro, Refrancore, Scurzolengo and Viarigi - and these are also permitted production areas for the DOCG.

Nobody seems to know where the name Ruché came from. DNA testing suggests it bears no genetic resemblance to any other grape variety in Piedmont, where, around the town of Castagnole Monferrato the majority of the variety’s plantings are found. There are however a handful of local theories. The first, and perhaps the most logical, is the proximity of a local convent known as Convento delle Rocche, whose friars worked to safeguard the cultural and artistic patrimony of the Roman Empire. An alternative theory points to the Ruché grape’s ability to produce high quality grapes in poor, rocky soils.

In the vineyards Ruché is not an easy variety to work. Sun is a problem. Ruché grapes seem to burn easily and therefore there is plenty of work required to create adequate shading. Over the years many farmers have abandoned the cultivation of Ruché in favour of easier, more profitable grapes such as Nebbiolo. This is a big shame. Ruché offers a wine style quite unlike anything else in Piedmont.