WIMU, THE MUSEUM OF WINE IN THE MUNICIPAL CASTLE IN BAROLO
TERESA E. BACCINI
No matter how you've heard people define museums, it's unlikely they used the word "fun". And yet, the Barolo Museum of Wine is just that.
François Confino's scenery made the most authoritative industry professionals turn up their nose, not exactly convinced by this approach that was more recreational than it was educational. And yet, it ended up making everyone change their mind, if for nothing else than for the influx of visitors that breathed new life into this castle that once belonged to Marchioness Giulietta Colbert di Maulévrier, refined bride of the last Marquis of Barolo, Tancredi Falletti. The Marquis Falletti is credited with the concept of Barolo wine as we know it now, completely dry and aged at length. The winning idea of the architect from Geneva — who also created the Museum of Cinema and the Automobile Museum in Turin with the same provocative creativity — wasn't really to teach visitors how to make wine. (The producers from the Langhe region who constantly open the doors of their wineries to visitors from all over the world know very well how to do that.) Rather, it was to tell the story of how the culture of wine has encompassed all the different peoples of the Mediterranean and how it has accompanied them through history. To use his words, “It's not a place where you learn how to make wine, but a place that speaks about the relationship between us and 'him.’”
A Direct and Highly Readable Story
The highly interactive and emotional language employed plays an important part in the effectiveness of the narration. Anyone who enters the Castle of Barolo – we have gone a number of times with our guests – even without knowing wine in and of itself, or perhaps not being interested in it at all, can't help but be fascinated by this colourful and fascinating story.
Extremely realistic scenic reconstructions, panels drawn like cartoon strips, machines you can move — all this makes the tour a continuous discovery that sparks curiosity. A journey that interests adults and delights children, designed symbolically to start at the top and work down, the museum tour starts on the third floor of the castle. First, it explains the influence of the sky and nature in the growth cycle of the vine, the sunlight and the influence of the moon, the timing of the seasons and the timing of wine, from the darkness of the root to the darkness of the barrel - while you walk through the dazzling light and under the moonlit night, and pedal to make the bright carousel of the seasons go round.
The second floor houses the long story of the role of wine in the history of Western civilisation from Mesopotamia to ancient Egypt, from the Greek to the Roman Empire and beyond, through the medieval ages up to the 1800s. And with different settings — the artist's atelier, the inside of a cinema and a music salon, even a kitchen with the stoves lit — it demonstrates how wine has accompanied human history.
On the first floor, the castle's "noble" floor, which holds some of the original furniture of the Falletti's home, you can't help but be drawn into an elegant dinner from the mid-19th century, where the marchioness plays the host. And while the names of the famous people of the time ring out, like King Carlo Alberto, or Count Camillo Benso di Cavour, projections and animations in the plates re-create the evocative experience of attending a banquet, surrounded by the chattering silhouettes of the commoners.
The tour ends in the basement, with a reconstruction of a class from Barolo College, which the marchioness bequeathed to the castle, and where the “Temple of the Wine Tourist" has been set up, a large room where Barolo wine is available to taste at special events.
Opened in 2010, last season (March 21, 2014 - January 6, 2015) the WIMU greeted about 44,000 visitors (+10% compared to the year before), 30% of which were international.
It always sparks great enthusiasm in everyone, and the multi-media displays really encourage the younger visitors to take part - there are even special fun/educational tours for schools. For anyone thinking of visiting the Langhe wine country, the WIMU in Barolo could certainly be the most educational and enjoyable place to start.
Falletti Municipal Castle in Barolo