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Tenuta Tenaglia, Monferrato. Art befriends charity, while investment prefers to profit

Tenuta Tenaglia’s secret is sheltered in earth’s womb, «a canteen dwells under the house which has not been touched for five-hundred years. The wine waits in the dark until it is ripe for the table»

22 February, 2021. Sited in Piedmont’s Monferrato, a landscape modeled by vineyards and crops, the Tenuta Tenaglia estate stands on top of a hill in front of Serralunga di Crea’s valley. We reached out to owner Isabella Ehrmann to talk about history, wine and art: «The Tenuta was founded by Giorgio Tenaglia, an Italian captain of fortune who fought the Spaniards. In time, the place passed under the control of a monastery. The devotees continued to take care of the vineyards until the end of the Nineteenth century. The address became private-property, passing from hand to hand until my grandmother fell in love with it and took it under her wing. We have owned this place for twenty years». Tenuta Tenaglia’s building has remained for the estate’s history and the owners had to make little to no changes in order to live in it. «We prefer intimacy and simplicity. This is true for customers and collaborators, we receive groups of people to recreate a domestic microcosmos, cooking and building relationships».

Tenuta Tenaglia’s secret is sheltered in earth’s womb, «a canteen dwells under the house which has not been touched for five-hundred years. Here we keep our wine, waiting in the dark until they are ripe for the table». This place is called infernos, Latin for hell, its name contrasting with the atmosphere «Not far from Monferrato stands Crea’s sanctuary, a Patrimonio dell’Unesco whose dwellers are from the cult of those who cured the estate’s vineyards after Tenaglia’s departure. The Tenuta stands four-hundred-and-fifty meters from the sea, the glen below, and in autumn evenings the fog rises to circle it, engulfing the surroundings. it’s like Innominato’s castle from Manzoni’s I Promessi Sposi». The location’s characteristics support the blossoming of a variety of wine. «Due to this weather, we can produce full-bodied red wines like Syrah, a variety found in climates like Sicily’s. Another strength of our wines comes from the ground’s geology: once this valley was covered by water, we have found fossils of shells in our crops. This heritage leaves the ground minerals, absorbed by the vineyards and released into the wines». In nurturing wines, it is of importance to have a mindset, and Ehrmann’s lies with sustainability. She leans towards agriculture, «we work the fields to keep the pesticide level on a minimum, using them when the situation demands no other solution. We apply a process of continuous-harvest, inspecting the health of our vines and cutting the ruins. Without this maintenance, the plants will lose their strength and waste their nourishment».

Tenuta tenaglia 9
The vineyards, Tenuta Tenaglia

It is inevitable to touch upon the topic of cultivation, «people search for the symbol ‘bio’ as they look for a label. Every nation in Europe has its parameters to assign the badge, I have lived in France where I found it on a number of wine labels. Bio is an approach we would attempt for our fields in the future, but the rules to obtain the certification are set: the crops must be kept chemical-free for eight years. It takes care and research, as there’s a difference between quality biological wine and an amateur wine». The Covid-19 pandemic changed aspects of everyday life, and the world of wine was shaking as the virus swept away its fairs, where amateurs and connoisseurs taste up-to-the-minute bouquets. These circumstances are an occasion to discover something that was being forgotten in the flurry of the market for Ehrmann. «I appreciated attending fairs, but they were getting dispersive. It was like going to a mall: people spinning around and drinking, producers bellowing about their vintages, one or two sommeliers keeping track of the happenings. The customer tended to be swallowed by the depths of the offer, transforming an affair about wine into one about drinking. This epidemic is an occasion to forge relationships: there is no spillage of gestures and thoughts, human connections can grow as they didn’t before. We had the time to build bridges with corners of the world: imagine our faces when we were contacted by wine experts from Japan. The situation calls for attention, but we are adapting. Wineries are experimenting with wine-tastings online and we decided to do one ourselves: the meeting took place on Zoom, where the sommelier guided the tasting as he would have done in their presence. Wine production continues, not suffering from social distancing or limitations to personal travels».

In these circumstances, balancing virtual presence and in-person presence can be a task. «Social media was a blessing during the lockdown, since social activities performed in person ended up being translated on the internet. Our page kept us in touch with our audience, preparing them for the moment when we could meet them face-to-face. Once the lockdown was lifted, we reinstated our collaborations with properties like Il Borgo di Cioccaro, where our wines are part of seasonal-menus, or attending the events organized by the Enoteca Regionale del Monferrato». Tenuta Tenaglia is launching Tenuta Tenaglia Residence in 2021. The idea is to create a space that can welcome creatives and entrepreneurs from the world over, giving birth to projects dedicated to sustainability, charity and ethical matters. When asked about why she chose to begin this journey in the midst of a global crisis, Ehrmann didn’t fret, «It is a paradox, but I decided to embark on this project because of the pandemic. It is what I have wanted to do and 2020 gave me the chance to re-align my thoughts. I was compelled into creating something that could embody the tensions of the present: the idea of leaving the city in search of utopia away from the vortex of colors and sounds produced by our metropolises. The goal was to bathe the artist in nature, to create surrounded by nature». Art befriends charity, while investment prefers to profit. «We produced plenty. A way to undo the past is to support those who offer a service we require within proximity. Tenuta Tenaglia for Aboubakar Soumahoro, a calendar that is our starting product, is printed in Italy to honor this logic, sold in three-hundred copies whose profits will be donated to support Soumahoro’s projects in favor of the Italian citizen stirred by scarcity. To start this change, we cannot wait for a sign from the state: if we want to help make a difference we must act as privates».

Soumahoro’s calendar was shot in Tenuta’s territory in December, as Ehrmann and the troupe were isolated in the estate by a blizzard. The choice of the Italo-Ivorian trade unionist as the face of the project is due to his nature. «The project’s art director Roberto Ortu and I have known Soumahoro from following him on the web. He brings an approach to matters like racism and immigrant rights, far from the language of politics. Italy is underdeveloped in facing the problems he stresses, and it swept the dust under the rug. In face of this climate, there are two alternatives: you shout, as Soumahoro does, or you flee. By shooting the calendar we got to know the people who work with him: they are Italians who left for other nations, like his assistant who now lives in Belgium. They are part of a delocalized Italy». The calendar was preceded on Instagram by a series of short-videos. They look up to video production, «Tenuta Tenaglia Residence’s projects will be oriented in this direction since we adore cinema. While we were shooting the calendar, we shot a short-film that can be seen on Instagram. When we noticed that YouTube had guidelines against nudity, we turned to Vimeo». Living in Tenuta Tenaglia’s atmosphere, Ehrmann developed a taste in film «My directors of choice are Fellini, Luis Buñuel and Dario Argento».

IMAGE GALLERY

Tenuta Tenaglia
Strada Santuario di Crea, 5
Serralunga di crea AL
Monferrato, Piedmont
Italy

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