Montferrat (/ˌmɒntfəˈræt/ or French pronunciation: [mɔ̃fɛʁa]; Piedmontese: Monfrà; Italian: Monferrato [momferˈraːto]; Latin: Mons Ferratus) is part of the region of Piedmont in Northern Italy. It comprises roughly (and its extent has varied over time) the modern provinces of Alessandria and Asti. Montferrat is one of the most important wine districts of Italy. It also has a strong literary tradition, including the 18th century Asti-born poet and dramatist Vittorio Alfieri and the Alessandrian Umberto Eco.
The territory is cut in two by the river Tanaro. The northern part (the Basso Monferrato, "Low Montferrat"), which lies between that river and the Po, is an area of rolling hills and plains. The southern part (the Alto Monferrato, "High Montferrat") rises from the banks of the Tanaro into the mountains of the Apennines and the water divide between Piedmont and Liguria.
On 22 June 2014, Montferrat was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
There are various interpretations and assumptions concerning the etymology of "Monferrato", but to date none are certain. There are many opinions, like the one advocated by Aldo Ricaldone stating the name was derived from "Mount" and "farro,"—a variety of wheat, and another according to which derives from the Latin "Mons ferax," meaning "mount fertile and rich." Still another refers to the irons left by the Romans in their conquest, "Mons ferratus." Finally, an interpretation derived from a legend according to which Aleramo of Montferrat, the legendary founder of its march, wanting to shoe a horse, and not finding a hammer, used a brick ("mun" in local dialect), and thereby the horse was shod ("fra"), hence the name "Munfra" yielding Monferrato.
Monferrato is one of the most famous Italian wine regions in the world, especially regarding red wines and sparkling wines. The climate is dry continental with hot summers prone to drought and cold winters and the particular hydrogeological soil are favorable for viticulture, which, however, is dominant throughout, making the wine not only an element of economic wealth for the entire region but also a true symbol of the culture and tradition "Monferrina". The widespread dissemination of indigenous grapes and consequently a wide variety of wines, witness them. Among the wines (DOC and DOCG), the most famous are Barbera d'Asti, Asti spumante, Moscato d'Asti, Cortese, Malvasia, and Grignolino.
Beside the Barbera, big identity of the whole Montferrat, numerous native and prestigious grapes exists, that give birth to an unique biodiversity in the national wine diversity background, today well archived through the numerous existent denominations protected by the Consortium.
Starting from extremely territory restricted productions they end up to DOC Piemonte, that contains the whole regional productive variety.
The official denominations protected by the Barbera d’Asti and Montferrat Wines are:
The traditional cuisine of Montferrat, in addition to the award-winning wines, includes a wide variety of foods ranging from meat, fish, vegetables, and cheeses. Typical Monferrato dishes, which have now achieved a reputation not only nationally but also internationally include, among the first courses, agnolotti "al plin" (literally "pinched"), "Tajarin" (noodles for rich eggs seasoned with various sauces), risotto of Casale, rice with mushrooms and red wine, vegetable soups, polenta with fried cod or "loan". Worthy of mention and especially well known is Bagna càuda. Among the meats: tripe, paws (batciuà), chickpeas with head, oxtail (now cooked with Barbera) and the cooked sausage.