Proprietà Sperino is the realisation of a dream: to restore the important tradition of Lessona wines by recovering the historic cellars to produce a wine with the greatest respect for local tradition. In the ‘seventies, Paolo De Marchi moved to Tuscany where he founded the wine producing estate Isole & Olena, which played a leading role in the rebirth of Chianti Classico. But his desire was to return to his family origins one day, and indeed in 1999 with his son Luca he did, and once again took the reins of the historic family estate, at the Castle of Lessona in via Sperino.
It was above all his son, Felice Sperino, who was also a doctor and professor in Turin, who gave himself heart and soul to wine growing in Piedmont. Sperino was a friend of the first ever Italian ampelographer, the Count of Rovasenda, and wrote a number of papers on certain types of grape that had disappeared from North Piedmont. He was at the forefront in the battle against Phylloxera with numerous significant publications, among the first of their kind, as well as in the research into American rootstock grafting.
In the early nineteen-hundreds, without any direct heirs, the property passed to the De Marchi family, collateral relatives of the Sperino family. The De Marchi family, that originally came from Biella, were established in Turin working as doctors and lawyers, so wine growing for them was always an amateur affair. During the ‘sixties it became harder to find labour due to the economic and industrial boom, and the limited size of the estate made it uneconomical to proceed with activities especially at time when the market was not prepared to pay for quality (the only option in a zone that for its soil and climatic conditions did not permit quantity). This series of factors eventually convinced the De Marchi family to abandon wine growing. Up until 1999, when Paolo De Marchi finally decided to realize the dream he had nurtured since childhood, that of reviving the castle and those cellars that as a child had fascinated him during the summer holidays in Lessona with his family.
Proprietà Sperino lies in the Castello quarter of the village of Lessona (Biella), among the foothills of the North Piedmont Alps. The whole area is a district vaunting a long tradition of wine growing: at its height in the late eighteen-hundreds, the area covered by vineyards amounted to over forty-thousand hectares, but later on the difficulty of cultivating the district and the attraction of the budding industry in Biella and nearby Milan, Turin and Switzerland led to their gradual abandon.
Now the vines are almost totally submerged by woods, and reconstruction is long and laborious, but the climatic peculiarities of Lessona have always given the Nebbiolo grape (locally known as ‘Spanna’), qualitative characteristics so unique as to make every effort worthwhile.
In the castle cellars there are still the labels for the wine produced by Sperino since the mid eighteen-hundreds. Even then, and a rare case in Italy, all the bottles were labelled and the shipments of wine were recorded in the registers kept in the castle library, overseas shipments included. This is the kind of thing people used to say about the prestigious wine of Lessona:
“... I’m not simply persuaded, but convinced that the grape of the Biellese district is on average better than any other grown in the entire peninsula. It is unfortunate that the most industrious people of Italy have dedicated themselves to any industry other than wine-making, the raw materials for which they have so close at hand.” - Luigi Piemonte “Il Piemonte Agricolo” 1893
“Tasting a series of six splendid wines (1865, 1870, 1879, 1892, 1894, 1900) made by Cav. Dott. Felice Sperino we came to the conclusion that if we plotted a line for each Italian wine, that linked all the different stages in the age of the product, we would see that for all the great Italian and foreign wines for roast meats, this line would rise gradually to reach the level of perfection, and then at a certain point drop and lead almost directly to decrepitude – the line representing the career of Lessona would not follow this course: it would rise gradually like the others, but on reaching the level of perfection would remain there, for a long time, even 20-25 years, then instead of falling off so rapidly, would ever so gradually begin to rise even further.
In other words, the wine of Lessona, at least the exquisite one of Dr. Sperino is a wine that will never become decrepit, it is vigorous and maintains all of its vitality perhaps longer and more worthily than the other great wines of Italy.” - A. Marescalchi “I migliori vini d'Italia” 1905