Posted by Keith Wallace

Ruchè (pronounced Roo-Kay) is a red Italian grape from the Piedmont region. This grape has risen from obscurity to having its own recognized DOCG. Ruchè is grown in several municipalities in Piedmont and is used to make Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato, one of the lowest-producing wines in Italy.

History of Ruchè

Various stories about this grape’s history abound, with no definitive written evidence. Some believe Ruchè was brought to Piedmont by French nobles, while others think it grew indigenously in the hills of Asti. The consensus is that the name Ruchè came from a Benedictine monastery dedicated to Saint Roch. Historically, Ruchè was used to make a sweet wine consumed for celebrations. By the 20th century, only a few vines remained, and the grape was near extinction.

Ruche wine vineyard logo with bottle and grapes.

Ruchè Comes Alive Again

In the late 1960s, a priest named Don Giacomo Cauda arrived at a parish in Castagnole Monferrato. Born in 1927, he became a parish priest in 1964. Excited about the old vines on the church property, Father Cauda began tending them and refined the wine made from Ruchè into a dry wine. He was the first to bottle and sell Ruchè under “Ruchè del Parroco,” using the proceeds to fund church restorations. His efforts unknowingly reinvigorated the area and saved the Ruchè grape from extinction.

In the 1990s, Franco Cavallero of Cantonese Sant’Agata and his family decided to produce a wine similar to Father Cauda’s. They created a Ruchè wine called ‘NaVota, meaning once upon a time. Other growers followed suit. Ruchè Di Castagnole Monferrato was classified as a DOCG in 2010. Currently, the DOCG produces one million bottles annually from seven municipalities, with about 35% exported to the United States and Asia.

Ruchè, the Grape

The Ruchè grape thrives in the calcareous clay of the region and its various microclimates. It is resistant to disease and is harvested in the first half of September. Ruchè wine is medium-bodied with moderate acidity and soft tannins. Typical flavors include berries, floral notes, and peppery spices. It is usually aged in oak, making it a good match for rich foods, meats, tomato-based dishes, and even Asian cuisine. DNA analysis shows Ruchè is a cross between a Croatian tannic black grape and Muscat, a white grape.

Bold pop art Ruche wine bottle and grape illustration.

Il Ruchè d!

Finding this wine was challenging. I located one bottle at a wine shop an hour away. The wine, “Il Ruchè d!” from the Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato DOCG, is produced by Eugenia Rivella, a third-generation grower. Rivella’s vineyard covers one hectare and produces 2,000 bottles per year. He was awarded Winegrower of the Year in 2021. The wine has 14.5 percent alcohol.

Tasting Il Ruchè d!

The wine is a dark ruby red, bright with evidence of high alcohol. It has dark fruit on the nose with initial aromas of roses and a hint of oak. On the palate, it tastes of cherry and dark fruit, with a medium body and low acidity.

The Future of Ruchè

With the DOCG recognition, the future of Ruchè looks promising. Winemakers in Piedmont are dedicated to expanding its cultivation and improving its quality. As more wine enthusiasts discover Ruchè, its popularity is expected to grow, potentially increasing production and export volumes. This revival not only preserves a unique grape variety but also enriches the cultural and historical tapestry of Italian winemaking.

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