Winery Profile

Franco Penna lacks the self-righteousness of some natural farmers. In its place is a great sense of humor: lively and gently irreverent. While Penna is not an outwardly ideological guy, in his cellar while tasting no-sulfur natural yeast Dolcetto, in the middle of 15 hilly acres of scrupulously tended organic vines, the core identity of Franco is apparent. Franco has been making wine at Cascina Barisel since 1985. Penna’s father bought the house in 1965 and planted the estate’s oldest Moscato parcels. Recently Franco built a new cellar with old bricks under his father’s house. You can see the roots of Moscato vines coming through the marl and ceiling, from five meters above. In this very clean, cool underground space Franco has a corner devoted to a natural spring, water these roots are seeking. Their struggle is part of the origin of good wine in this good terroir. Franco Penna’s careful and constant work completes their labor.

The estate’s cellar is notably well maintained. Franco takes clear pride in its hygiene. All vineyards are contiguous to the cellar at Barisel, mostly on the steep south-facing hillside immediately behind the winery. All fruit is hand-harvest into small baskets and hustled into the cellar by family: Franco has seven sisters and two brothers! With the addition of uncles, nieces, and cousins, the Pennas field an effective, professional harvesting force. In Canelli, warm weather can persist into September and occasionally beyond. Seasoned harvesters selecting healthy grapes and getting them quickly into a cool cellar is essential to making wines in Barisel’s pure, lively style. Cascina Barisel create even-keel, understated and exceptionally affordable wines. Sadly, there isn’t much wine! 30,000 bottles in a good vintage. Still, Franco’s wines are priced to sell “I have to make a living with wine, this is not a rich man’s hobby for me,” and to drink. They are seamless and perfectly representative daily wines, clean, direct and good.

“Don’t be fooled by Franco Penna’s funny, irreverent and self-effacing persona. The man is a detail-oriented professional with a competitive streak, and total mastery of his craft. Penna does not evangelize about organics or make pricey riservas. But his goal is to make the best natural wine in Canelli, and elevate Cascina Barisel to be among the top small estates in all of Asti.” – Jay Murrie, Piedmont Wine Imports


Dolcetto Monferrato: Organic.  Calcareous marl soils. This wine is harvested from the middle of their south-facing slope.  Penna does vigorous cluster pruning to create intensity in the finished wine. The fruit is hand picked in two passes to harvest it at optimal maturity. 100% de-stemmed, and fermented with native yeast in stainless steel. The wine is bottled in spring, with minimal sulfur (<20mg/l.)

Moscato d’Asti Canelli: Organic. Calcareous marl soils. 50-year-old vines. Very gently pressed, fermented in pressurized, temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks.


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