Laghi & Monti Bike: Cycling through the colours and scents of the grape harvest
The Ossola Valleys are DOC lands, and not only in a metaphorical sense. Apart from the fact that it still exudes the authenticity of its inhabitants' character and the flavours of their products, it also boasts three varieties of wine which have been awarded Denominazione d'Origine Controllata (Controlled Designation of Origin) status.
Interested in finding out more about Ossola wines? The grape varietals featured are Nebbiolo, Croatina, Merlot and Chardonnay. These varieties make Valli Ossolane DOC Bianco, Valli Ossolane DOC Rosso and DOC Nebbiolo (Prunent), including the Superiore wine range. In the 19th century, as in most parts of Europe, the vine-killing insect phylloxera destroyed most of the vineyards. With the accompanying development of industry, many of the terraces, which mark the landscape of the slopes closer to the valley floor, were abandoned and invaded by forests. In the last few decades, an ancient indigenous Nebbiolo vine, the Prunent, has been rediscovered, which has led to the enhancement of Ossola wine. Several vineyards were planted and between now and the first half of October the grapes that give life to Prunent are harvested.
To taste the 2021 harvest one will have to wait a few months for the whites, and a few years for the more refined reds. However, in the meantime, you can enjoy the colours and scents by cycling through the vineyards.
You can start from Masera, where the Grape Festival has been held for almost a century, and, after crossing the bridge over the Melezzo, climb up a steep asphalt road (Via Pello) to Trontano, from where you can descend along the Strada Vecchia to State Road 337. The route is surrounded by rows of vines and woods, with a view over Domodossola and the surrounding mountains, from Cistella to Moncucco.
Follow the SS 337 as far as Croppo di Trontano, cross the Mizzoccola bridge towards Domodossola and follow the signs for Sacro Monte Calvario. From here you can continue to the hamlets of Crosiggia and Quartero. From here you can descend to the plain and continue to Borgata Gabi Valle towards Villadossola, and then follow the signs for Tappia. Here too, in the shadows of the peaks that mark the boundaries of the Val Grande National Park, you will cycle among rows of vineyards that are tinged with yellow, orange and red in autumn.
The return journey can be along the same route or by crossing the Toce near Domo 2.
For those who have strong legs, there is a further loop to add to the excursion. From Masera, head north towards Montecrestese. Climb up to the hamlet of Lomese and then descend towards Roledo, from here the road runs alongside the river and you can return to Masera. Alternatively, continue north to the hamlet of Oira di Crevoladossola. You will cycle through vineyards, forests and examples of rural architecture. A landscape carved in stone and softened by Prunent grapes.
Photo Credits: Silvia Lorenzini, Marco Garrone, Jacopo Fontaneto