Principato di Lucedio
Italy is Europe's largest rice producer, accounting for 5% of the total world rice production. The fertile Po Valley in Northern Italy, watered by pristine cold water from the melting snowcaps of the Alps, has sustained this agricultural product for over five centuries. Italy grows the variety of rice known as Japonica (Oryza sativa var. japonica), a short-grain variety characterized by its unique starch content, stickiness, and texture. Italian rice is classified in four categories by its length/width and amylopectin starch content: superfino, fino, semifino, and orginario. The superfino rice is the one most used for risotto making.
A History Dating Back to the 12th Century: Between the cities of Milano and Torino lies the province of Vercelli, the area where it is said that rice was first planted in the fields of a Cistercian monastery known as “Lucedio" in the 12th century. The monks developed a small system of canals from nearby streams of the Po River to flood the fields. Rice growing soon became one of the most important agricultural crops in the area. With the passage of time, the entire Vercelli province began a gradual landscape transformation to become one of the most highly specialized rice growing areas of the world. In 1937, Count Paolo Cavalli d'Olivola from Torino bought the estate, increasing the property to over 400 hectares of rice fields, creating Italy's largest rice estate. Today, his daughter, Countess Rosetta Clara Cavalli d'Olivola, oversees the restoration of the estate and the farming of the rice fields with zealousness and utmost care. In 1987, Countess Rosetta Clara decided to make a “Grand Cru” estate-grown, single-paddy, harvest-dated rice. Collaborating with Manicaretti and the support of great chefs and retailers in the United States, the brand “Principato di Lucedio” was born and single-varietal rice started to appear on shelves and menus across the United States.
Cultivating "Grand Cru" Rice: At the Principato di Lucedio careful attention is given to each step of the rice growing process, ensuring a sustainable and pristine growing environment. Certified seeds are planted at the end of April. The fields are then flooded with water from melted Alpine snow caps to regulate the temperature and create a blanket of protection for the plants against frost or any other adverse environmental conditions. The rice starts to grow quickly though mid-summer, when golden clusters of rice kernels form on each stalk. Careful monitoring from this point is crucial to prevent the rice from developing infestation or disease. The late hot days of summer develop the kernels to plump perfection and the rice stalks begin to bend with the heavy weight of the kernels. The fields are drained in late August and the rice is harvested in mid-September before the first Autumn rains. The rice is left to dry for about two months in the ancient barns and buildings of the Principato. Countess Rosetta Clara keeps the rice in its protective husk until orders are received. This guarantees a ‘fresher' product. The rice kernels are first milled using a rice huller to remove the outer husks of the gain (chaff). At this point, the product is brown rice. The milling is then continued, removing the rest of the husk and the germ (bran), thereby creating white rice.
Countess Rosetta Clara is an excellent cook and teaches cooking classes at the Principato di Lucedio, in a modern demonstration kitchen. Having a perfectly cooked risotto at her home is one of the greatest gastronomical pleasures of Italy. A stop at the Principato di Lucedio estate is a must for anyone visiting Piedmont and the Torino area.