According to the ancient Romans good wine was produced wherever there was a castle.
This could quite easily refer to the hill where the Castles of Montecchio Maggiore stand, where the "liquer of the vine" obtained several certificates and awards at shows.
When Lonigo was a small "capital city"of Basso Vicentino (the southern part of the province of Vicenza), the prince Alberto Giovanelli, deputy in the Italian Parliament, organized the Agricultural Trade Fair, which slowly would replace the renowned Fiera dei Cavalli ( Horse Fair), famous in Europe and snatched by Verona.
The Strobele sisters, owners of the hill of Montecchio, participated at the famous Fair of Lonigo. They displayed asparagus, which was just as renowned as the asparagus of Bassano, and their wine, which was baptized "The Champagne of the Castles" and was therefore acclaimed and won awards and medals.
In order to understand this, you have to look at the hill dominating the town of Montecchio. It is detached from the Lessinian Mountains and after Rocca Vecchia, which is of volcanic origin and unproductive, following a rapid curve, it turns to the north and aligns with the Agno-Gua' river.
It is known that Durella grape variety needs sunlight and sunheat to produce a good Durello wine. The hillside of the Castles facing north, almost always in the shade, was producing the spring sparkling wine of the Tantero family; the southern strip, however, gained more importance. It was steep but had good soil, reaching the rocky outcropping on which the Castles stand.
The inhabitants of Montecchio had also memories of Carlassare family who later focused their attention on Carbonara and Paglierina.
The "mythical" Strobele sisters followed. They are considered to be responsible for the rationalisation of the vineyard, from the elegant house in Crearo, to the vineyard access paths, to the vats for collecting rainwater and drainage water, extremely useful for the spraying of verdrigis, which, together with sulphur, protected the vines from downy mildew. Exceptional white wine was produced which was also requested by the Parish for the Holy Mass. The Strobele sisters were generous, they gifted the rich families of the village with asparagus and wine, but they hired a lot of families living in the Castles neighbouring area. The inhabitants were not fond of them due to their interventionism in WWI, maybe due to their friendship with Mr Serra.
In the post-war years, fearing the so-called "white league" unions, which demanded a part of their fields for the farmers, the Strobele sisters sold the "hill" to Emilio Ronzan.
The good Emilio continued the job started by the Strobele sisters keeping the unity of the vineyards above and under the road. After his death the hill of the Castles was divided among his numerous children. It did not work well. In a few years the lots were handed down to other hands.
Caltran family should be given credit for buying almost the entire Castle vineyard and adding other fields at the top of the hill.They saved the terrain from sliding towards the bottom of the hill, if it is not cultivated. Different working systems, different manpower.
With Bellaguardia sparkling wine, which takes the name after the Castle, the excellence of the wines of the Castles remains, the pride of the Strobele sisters, an ancient glory for Montecchio in the bygone times.
Prof. Remo Schiavo, is an Olympic Academy member, theatre scholar and historian, classical music expert, professor of history and philosophy, author of essays and art history books.