The winery opens its doors every morning, barely hidden by the trees. Vehicles that come and go from the vineyards, people working in the office and passionate visitors from all over the world.
Just a few meters away, something looks different from an ordinary day. On the same road that connects Canelli’s city center to Santo Stefano Belbo, a crane peeps high in Via Alba above the historic Coppo sign that dominates an old house. The building looks like a slice of Polenta.
Polenta is an Italian dish of boiled cornmeal. It may be served as a hot porridge or allowed to cool and solidify into a yellow loaf that can be fried or sliced. The house is like that: trapezoidal, long, narrow, and yellow, at least on its ground floor.
Near that curious three-storey building, inaccessible for a long time, workers come and go.
The Slice of Polenta House
What is happening inside?
Substantial works are underway, and just as many will come. Coppo opens new passages through the galleries and recovers modern structures, doubling the spaces for wine production, offices and tours in the Unesco cellars.
The thread of past stories intersects with the future.
“It was the 10s,” says Roberto Coppo. “My grandfather had arrived in Canelli, met my grandmother, and then got married. They had already produced wine here”.
In 1913, Piero Coppo had married Clelia Pennone, heir to the Pio Pennone wineries. A marriage between wine producers. The Coppo Wineries, which were still based elsewhere, in the center of Canelli, were thus added to the building with the hidden galleries and this strange long, yellow and narrow house.
“Not many people know that story of silkworms. This building was employed to raise the silkworms,” – Roberto Coppo recalls. It was called ‘La Cucunera’, from ‘cocoon’, or the silk cocoons. Canelli was a critical location for the processing of silkworms. There were no industries, and that activity was significant for the community. It was a good story until that day in 1948.”
That day in 1948 was the day of the flood. The lower part of Canelli was wiped out and also the historic headquarters of the winery. The years that followed were very challenging, not only for the winery. All activities were transferred here in Via Alba, these buildings were salvation.
Roberto Coppo continues. “This house was a cellar in the 40s and 50s and after the war. My memory is from the 70s. I was a child, and a new law had just passed that established the obligation to label bottles to sell them sooner. At that time, everyone sold wine in bulk without much information. We needed a new space. I remember the day vividly when the ground floor of this house was tiled and became where we pack our bottles.”
The Yellow House changed hands over time. Then, Gianni Coppo’s family bought it and made it part of the company’s assets. A recently built passage connected that house with the current cellar.
Renovations and new tasting tours
Long closed and abandoned, Polenta’s slice house is preparing to reopen its doors today, 130 years after the foundation of the Coppo company. One hundred thirty years after the birth of the winery, this and the other hidden buildings are at the center of the work in progress and investments planned by the Dosio Group, the holding that currently owns the winery.
“We have secured the entire building and we are recovering this extraordinary structure,” comments Giuditta Soldadino, the group’s marketing manager. “We will maintain the peculiarities of this nineteenth-century building that was used as a cellar and then renovated. For example, reinforced concrete columns with edges are next to the wooden beams. You can find that design at the Lingotto in Turin, and it tells us a lot about the era and the intentions with which they intervened here. We recover everything, stones, tiles, and other furnishings. Let’s safeguard the story that this house tells.”
Coppo will have new offices on the first and second floors.
The processing area will offer new opportunities. Production will also expand its potential.
The attic will host an exclusive meeting area with a large terrace that reveals an unprecedented view of Canelli. In addition, the inner courtyard will become an outdoor tasting area between the old manor houses.
“The reception will double its capacity with new experiences for Italian and foreign private visitors and those in the commercial supply chain,” Soldadino says.
“It will finally be possible to visit the whole cellar. Until today, it was not possible. During the visit, we will go from the nineteenth-century structures to the galleries carved into the hills, a UNESCO World Heritage Site where we refine our wines, to the production area, the wine shop, and the tasting area. We will move on a single floor even for those with walking problems. It’s very important for us to be accessible for everyone.”