Log In / Join Now

Vineyard Chapel in Italy Transformed Into Modern Art

Ryan Isaac
Posted: September 11, 1999

Piedmontese winemaker Bruno Ceretto had a vision: He wanted to restore the Chapel of Santa Maria delle Grazie, which has stood for about 100 years in the Brunate vineyard from which Ceretto harvests Nebbiolo for his single-vineyard Barolo.

Until recently, the chapel had been serving as a shed for vineyard tractors and other equipment. But then Ceretto brought British artist David Tremlett out to the estate. When the two men surveyed the chapel together, a connection was instantly made. "My father always had it in mind to restore the chapel," said Roberta Ceretto, Brunos daughter. "When Tremlett expressed an interest, it was as if he read my father's mind."

The result of the two men's shared vision will be seen this weekend, when the redecorated chapel opens on Sept. 11 with a celebration and its first Mass, to pray for a bountiful harvest. The quaint old building, which can be reached from the Strada della Langhe wine trail, has been transformed into a dramatic piece of modern art.

Though Tremlett, a minimalist sculptor with classical influences, was eager to undertake the project, he believed it was too much for one artist. So while the British artist worked on the inside, American artist Sol LeWitt, a minimalist painter influenced by pop artists such as Jasper Johns, tackled the outside, using bold primary colors. "It's a great work, and it's like a little ball of fire in the middle of the landscape," said Tremlett of the completed chapel.

"It's something very strange for the region because of the powerful and strong colors used," said Roberta Ceretto. "You cannot find these colors in our landscape, but it's really a piece of art. ... I'm really happy with the result of the work."

What better way for Ceretto to compensate the artists than with one case of wine every year for the rest of their lives? Tremlett and LeWitt will mostly receive the single-vineyard Barolo from Brunate, though the winery also makes Barbaresco, Barbera, Cabernet Sauvignon and other wines.

The Chapel of Santa Maria delle Grazie, which is not sanctified by the Catholic Church and can be used by people of all faiths, is the first in a series. Ceretto has selected several more chapels to be restored by modern artists as a part of the family's commitment to promoting tourism in Piedmont.

For recent ratings of Ceretto wines, check the Wine Search.

To learn more about Piedmont's wines:

  • Oct. 31, 1998
    Piedmont Looks Ahead

  • Would you like to comment? Want to join or start a discussion?

    Become a WineSpectator.com member and you can!
    To protect the quality of our conversations, only members may submit comments. Member benefits include access to more than 315,000 reviews in our Wine Ratings Search; a first look at ratings in our Insider, Advance and Tasting Highlights; Value Wines; the Personal Wine List/My Cellar tool, hundreds of wine-friendly recipes and more.

    WineRatings+ app: Download now for 340,000+ ratings.