Cà dei Frati winery - Sirmione (BS)

Built for barrels

The underground extension of the barrel cellar at the historic Cà dei Frati winery in Sirmione del Garda was designed for storing barrels at a constant temperature and in regulated conditions of humidity - with major benefits for both the wine and the energy bills
Virginio Briatore
Year of completion

In the second half of the 18th Century, the monks at the monastery of Santa Maria de Senioribus in Desenzano came into possession of an extensive farmhouse in Lugana, complete with fertile land and vineyards, a few hundred metres from Lake Garda. When Felice Dal Cero, a second-generation winemaker from the province of Verona, moved to Lugana di Sirmione in 1939, having spotted the production potential of the land there, 10 families were living in the farm building. Step by step, Felice started buying up portions of the farmhouse and plots of land, and eventually established the Cà dei Frati winery. Thirty years later, the winery produced its first DOC wine, with the help of Felice’s son, Pietro, who channelled his considerable experience into producing a wine known as «Lugana Casa dei Frati». When Pietro died in 2012, the estate passed into the hands of his wife, Santa Rosa, and their children, Igino, Anna and Gian Franco, who maintain the winery’s cultural legacy and production philosophy with the same care and enthusiasm. With its time-honoured devotion to excellence, Cà dei Frati is a perfect expression of the history of the Lombard shore of Lake Garda. Here, mutual respect, family unity, clearly defined roles and strong bonds with the local area are the real strength of this solid undertaking.
Today, the estate has 170 hectares of vineyards, produces some three million bottles per year and operates in a variety of sectors, as one of its owners, the oenologist Igino Dal Cero, explained: «We’re not a farm-holiday estate so we’ve kept the farm separate from our hotel business, which is made up of two small hotels on the lakeside. Here at the farm, we have a restaurant, a multi-purpose reception area and the underground barrel cellar, and we receive tourists, who come to visit the vineyards and taste or simply buy our wines.»
The cellar, featuring groin vaults that replicate the originals, was recently remodelled and extended, to plans drawn up by the well known structural engineer Claudio Toniolo. The rationale was to provide optimum conditions to nurture high-quality wines, and enough space to accommodate the winery’s increasing output. First, the pre-fabricated vaults were installed in an open excavation. Their interior side was then plastered with lime in the traditional manner, while their exterior side was covered with soil to form a surface that’s now part lawn and part car park. The winemaker-owner of the underground cellar explained the importance of the structure: «Not everyone knows how complex it is to control the humidity and temperature of a cellar to ensure the correct storage of wooden barrels and the quality of the wine in them, or how disastrous the consequences of getting it wrong can be. Wood is a living, porous material, and if the barrels are kept in a humid environment, the staves they’re made of slacken and let air in, so the wine oxidises, or worse still, leaks out! To avoid these risks, we decided to build our barrel cellar underground, so as to ensure a constant temperature all the year round and keep any temperature variations to within 4 degrees. This constant temperature, combined with precise humidity control, not only guarantees the high quality of the wine, but also saves a lot of energy. And we’ve added to those energy-savings by installing photovoltaic panels on part of the roof. The barrel cellar contains 2000 225-litre French barriques, so we opted for ceramic flooring, partly for hygiene reasons and partly to withstand the stresses of handling these barriques with forklifts. The wonderful thing about this floor covering is that Cercom, its manufacturer, designed and produced a warmer, lighter colour tone for us — with a yellowish, flecked pattern — which blends into the setting and creates the atmosphere we wanted.»

porcelain stoneware
30x30 cm
Granigliato giallo
Technical characteristics
Water absorpion (ISO 10545-3): E ≤ 0,1% Bla GL
Chemical resistance (ISO 10545-13): UA-ULA-UHA
Resistance to deep abrasion (ISO 10545-6): ≤175 mm3
Stain resistance (ISO 10545-14): compliant
Frost resistance (ISO 10545-12): compliant
Modulus of rupture and breaking strength (ISO 10545-4): S ≥1300N
Slip resistance (DIN 51130): R9-R10-R11
Thermal shock resistance (ISO 10545-9): compliant
Crazing resistance (ISO 10545-11): compliant
Linear thermal expansion (ISO 10545-8): compliant
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