This is a red wine from natural wine pioneer Angiolino Maule of La Biancara, that I visited in 2018 (read here).
The soil in Gambellara is volcanic, and the vineyard was planted some 45 years ago. Organic agriculture with biodynamic principles. The grape composition is merlot 50%, tai rosso 40% and cabernet sauvignon 10%. They were picked by hand and spontaneously fermented, before a 2 to 3 weeks skin-maceration in big Slavonian oak.
Rosso Masieri 2018(La Biancara)
Cherry red, a bit developed towards rim. Dark and red fruits (blackcurrant, cherry), balsamic, beginning dried fruits. Juicy and yet concentrated, coffee, black olives, long.
Raw Wine is ever expanding and has finally come to Scandinavia. Last Sunday some 180 artisans from all over the world was gathered in the conference center The Plant in Amager Øst, Copenhagen. There were three seminars, of which I participated in one (about wines from Castilla y León, read a note here). In the days leading up to the festival there were also tastings and other events collected under #rawwineweek, of which I also participated in the biggest of the additional tastings (see a report from Café Josephine here).
With 180 producers it’s obvious that I couldn’t taste everything. This time I rambled around with no special plan, except I wanted to talk to some that I didn’t know before, some that I knew a little, and of course say hello to some good friends.
My readers might not know that I have a history in Peru. But I have, and my daughter is half Peruvian. Some years ago I visited the region of Ica. It was exciting to know that there is now a natural wine producer right in the desert. The people of Peru knows that it’s their country, not neighbouring Chile, that is the cradle of pisco. The old harbour of Pisco is located right there, only 75 kilometers from Ica, and both are located south of Lima.
Pepe Moquillaza is also a pisco maker and has done a great job recuperating quebranta grapes for pisco production. Now he is rescuing Peruvian clay vessels (also called piscos, or botijas) for natural wine making. In Copenhagen I tasted two of his maritime desert wines. The first one was Mimo Italia Quebranta 2020 (italia, local name for moscatel de alejandría, and quebranta in equal proportions), organically and biodynamically farmed, with two years of skin-contact, not sulphured, aged in old oak, unfined and unfiltered. It’s a light amber coloured wine with good volume, a grapey character and also good acidity. Albita de Ihuanco 2019 is a blend of albilla (local name for palomino) and italia. It combines the minerality of albilla with the flowery scent of moscatel. It’s yellow in colour, and has good volume in the mouth, with some tannin and a lot of fruit. Like the previous wine it has almost zero sugar and a moderate 12% alcohol. The length of the skin-contact is here two months.
Lanfranco Fossà was there on behalf of Davide Spillare, who lends his name to the labels. I met them both when I visited the important village of Gambellara in Veneto five years ago, and it was nice to catch up. (Here you can read about that visit, with more background.) The wines are fresh and lively, and quite light in body. As if some extra freshness is needed, the L1 Frizzante 2021 sparkler has a small percentage of durella to give an extra boost. Bianco Rugoli 2016 comes from an 85 year old vineyard with volcanic soil, with bushes trained in pergola. The nose is complex with mature apples, wax and aromatic herbs, good acidity and a salty mineral finish.
A relatively new discovery is Bianka und Daniel Schmitt of Rheinhessen. During the last couple of years I have tasted several impressive wines, from the entry-level 1 litre bottles of Frei. Körper. Kultur. and upwards. It was then lovely to be able to meet Bianka in Copenhagen. These wines are fresh, tasty and truly inspiring. Here we tasted rieslings, like the flowery, red appley, quince and honey scented Riesling M 2018 and the flor-aged Voodoo Doll 2020. There’s no evil behind the appropriate black label; it is floral on the nose, with almonds, herbs and a touch of tropical fruit. Of the reds I will mention two; first the elegant Spätburgunder2018, with its generous raspberry, complemented with flowers, green peppers and an interesting hint of coffee. Kékfrankos is the Hungarian name for blaufränkisch, that the Schmitt family brought over from there. Now in its 2021 vintage it’s medium-bodied and in a way light, but it’s also wonderfully complex, smells of blueberry, morello, herbs and a touch of coffee, it’s luscious in the mouth with soft tannins, an agreeable acidity and a pleasant bitterness in the finish.
Philippe Lancelot is a natural wine classic within Champagne. The estate was created by his parents who both inherited some vineyards, then bought new ones together. Philippe had introduced biodynamic practise for all vineyards by 2012. He wants to express the individuality of each cru and village, almost always completely dry and in most cases without any added sulphur. He showed five magnificent wines, among them Le Fond du Bâteau 2018, from the lieu-dit (named vineyard) of the same name in the surroundings of Choully, a grand cru village in Côte des Blancs. 100% chardonnay, no dosageand zero added sulphites. Light golden, aroma of green apples, citrus, chalk and brioche, concentrated, mineral, long, pure. The oldest wine he presented was Les Bas des Saran 2014, also pure chardonnay, with no additions. This one comes from four lieux-dits in the grand cru villages, among them Cramant (his home village). It’s vinified in oak barrels and vats, and spent 5 years in the cellars before launch. It has a discreet floral nose, more expressive citrus, brioche, in the mouth it has a dry and tense attack but develops both creamy and fruity.
Château Meylet is another natural wine venture from a classic place. They are also biodynamic since 1987. David Favard runs the family estate, that due to its location in St. Emilion has a high percentage of merlot plants, but also cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, malbec and petit verdot. Cuvée Baiser d’Ange 2021 is an interesting orange wine from semillon, made with 15 days skin-contact in amphora. Yellow colour, rich with a sweetish sensation. Château Meylet 2019 showed that the reds have some oakiness at an early stage. Luckily there are aged wines then. The 2003, made by David’s father, has stood the test of time. Red with brick rim; red and dark fruits, some tobacco and spice; fine tannins and well-balanced, a raisiny touch also.
Mas de la Lune is located in the Agly valley, Côtes du Roussillon. In schist and granite soils grow varieties also known from the Spanish side, all of them 70-90 years old. Vanessa Courtay showed me a handful of wines in several colours. I am not sure which vintage I tasted of Le Second Souffle; I think it might be 2022, although it then would barely have the time to stay the 9 months with skin-contact that Vanessa told me it had. Anyway it had also little colour for that amount of time. It’s made of macabeu and tastes of wax, flowers and yellow apples, with a structure that more than the colour tells about the prolonged time on skins.
I will soon go on a trip to Bobal country in mid-south-east Spain. A perfect introduction was then to visit the table of Altolandon, from the Cuenca part of DO Manchuela. The property lies up to 1.100 meters, that makes a slow maturation and a fresh acidity possible. Carmen Sebastián and winemaker Rosalía Molina showed me several wines as proof of this. Milhistorias Bobal 2020 has a bright red-blueish colour; red and black fruits on the nose with flowers and herbs; it’s fresh and fruity, very much alive and with a super acidity.
When I was about to call it a day and leave I stumbled upon Nacho León of Demencia Wine. He is located in Villafranca del Bierzo, and the name points to mencía, the most important grape in the area. The wines come in an expressive style, with good fruit and firm tannins. Fuente de San Lázaro 2019 comes from 115 year old vines in a variety of soils and is made in old wood. It shows red and black fruits, herbs and am earthy touch; in the mouth it has the firm tannins, and also a lot of freshness. Villegas 2019 comes from sandy and clayey soils and is also made in old wood. Ripe red and black fruits, herbs, a toasted note; the tannins are firm and there is some coffee and a touch bitterness in the end.
A highlight was indeed the veggie pita served by Jakobsen’s Pita. Not least because I met Ismael Gozalo, that gave me a sip of his magnificent Frágil 2021, a glass-raised verdejo, just in time to enjoy it with the pita. And of course, interviewing Isabelle Légeron MW for Vinforum magazine, in a story about the Raw Fair itself. When it’s published I may port a short version of it here.
Raw Wine brings a lot of activity also outside the fair itself. The day before Raw Wine I had the pleasure to attend a tasting at Café Josephine in the Amager neighborhood of København. It was organized by importer Christopher Melin of Melin Vin, who has an impressive portfolio. Here follow just a few highlights among the many magnificent wines and makers.
What could be more appropriate than to start, like I did last Saturday, at the table of two Danish brothers. Poppelvej is Uffe (winemaker) and Jens Deichman who run their estate in McLaren Vale, South Australia. From organically and biodynamically tended vineyards there and in the neighbouring Adelaide Hills, they produce wines in a natural way, with little or no use of sulphur. Poppelvej is the name of the street in Denmark where the brothers grew up. SommerNat Pét Nat from mourvèdre came in two vintages; the 2022 had a light peach colour and was very fresh, berry fruity and with herbs, while the 2021, with longer time in concrete eggs resulted a bit creamier and fatter in texture. Irresistible Impulse 2022 is a sauvignon blanc fermented in barrel and aged on lees for 10 months. It’s light and turbid in appearance, with notes of apples, passionfruit and herbs, good volume, textured, with crisp acidity, and with a slight bitterness in the finish. Lastly, Lille 2022 is based on the northern Italian grape teroldego. It’s quite dark with a blueish hint, dark and wild fruits, some spice and earth, with a light sparkle.
There were three Italian producers in the “garden party” of Café Josephine organised by Melin Vin (see previous post). Ampeleia is located in the Maremma region of Toscana, specifically in the medieval town Roccatederighi. Under manager Marco Tait they converted to organic and then biodynamic. Francesco Pascucci brought to this tasting a personal trebbiano-dominated blend (with ansonica and malvasia) simply called Bianco di Ampelaia 2022. It’s a light orange wine with a nice dried fruit character that adds complexity to the fresh fruits and orange peel aromas, and with a light structure in the mouth. He also presented a delicious blend in one litre bottle aptly called Unlitro 2022, easy to drink with fresh fruits, herbs and some balsamic. Alicante Nero 2017 is a wine with personality and depth; light and fresh red fruits, but underneath a layer of herbs and earth, and with a delicate structure. Their emblematic cabernet franc wines were offered at the fair itself, if I got it right.
There were two producers from Veneto. Alex Della Vecchia is winemaker for Costadilà in prosecco-land north of Venezia, but he also has his own project called Ombretta. Simone Ambrosini’s Indomiti is found in Colli Berici, Vicenza.
Alex Della Vecchia sources grapes from the family’s vineyards in two municipalities. For his Grinton label he also uses organic grapes from friends elsewhere in Italy. Here in the current vintage Alex showed an easy-drinking, delicate pinot bianco and a more structured, reddish skin-contact pinot grigio. A wine with a tremendous personality was a cabernet franc pét nat. (I must ask Alex about the name, so stay tuned!). The colour was light red with fine bubbles, an aroma of flowers, peel and a sweetish hint, and in the mouth it was tasty, concentrated with a raisiny touch. The wine had been made from passito (dried) grape juice, Alex informs.
Simone Ambrosini tells a story about him as a young man travelling to Australia, in search for harmony and the good things in life, more or less at random. Among other things he learns to love wine. Back in Italy he embarks on studies in enology and viticulture. After working with several wineries he decided to set up his own, with “a wallet full of ambition”, as he puts it. This was as recently as 2018. Now he rents old vineyards that he has restored in Colli Berici, his homeland. These vines, now brought back to life, are the “indomiti”, the indomitable ones that gave name to his project. Mistica was a lovely garganega 9 month skin-contact wine with good structure to the primary fruit. I tasted two wines with tai rosso. The varietal Osai2021 rosé shows delicate raspberry aromas, and in the mouth there is a cool acidity running through an otherwise round and fleshy body. Opplà 2021 is an uplifting pét nat rosé, where the tai rosso is accompanied by garganega, pinot bianco and sauvignon blanc. It’s light orange, aromas of white flowers, peach and a touch of orange peel, and in its lightness it’s full of flavours and with a refreshing integrated acidity.
Two German producers were present. It’s always a pleasure to taste the outstanding wines of Brand Bros of Bockenheim, Pfalz. These are made in full respect of the terroir, without additives, unfiltered, and always full of freshness and energy. This is the first time that I have met one of the brothers, Jonas Brand, who guided the guests through part of their portfolio.
I have had their charming Wilder Satz in many wine bars throughout Europe. The 2022 is different though, as 18 hours of skin-contact gives it more colour and structure than before. It also has good volume and appears quite grapey, and with lovely scents of citrus (clementine), flowers and some balsamic. Jonas brought two magnificent magnums, a non vintage Riesling (with that name) and Monastery 2016. The latter was light yellow in colour, with concentrated aromas of yellow fruits, some balsamic, and on the palate good acidity and wonderful balance. Add to this super pét nats, reds, among them a brilliant Cabernet Franc 2015, and you get the picture of a great producer.
Unknown to me was Glow Glow of Nahe. Pauline Baumberger runs it with her brother. Pauline showed various fresh, lovely uncomplicated whites from riesling and gelber muskateller, a relatively dark dorenfelder/regent, and more. Here we focus on the Spätburgunder 2022, that has all the young virtues of the white wines under a coloured cover. Made partly with carbonic maceration and short skin-contact it appears as a light rosé-ish wine with red fruits on the nose, and with a delicious natural acidity wrapped in a rounded body.
It seems to be no end to the list of interesting producers coming out of the ancient and historic wine country of Georgia. Andria’s Gvino I had never heard of, but now it’s not easy to forget. The winery is located in the Kakheti region, not far from the capital Tbilisi. They make their wines in the traditional and natural way, in qvevri, without additives and without filtration.
Winemaker George Wolski and his wife Tako showed me their main line and also the wines that come with the Château Khashmi label. There was a number of beautiful amber and red wines, of which I will only mention two. Their Mtsvane had lots of character. The colour was light amber, with aromas of mature citrus, orange peel and a touch of marzipan, and in the mouth it was rich and structured with a touch of raisins. George tells that the must spent five days with full skin-contact in qvevris. The Saperavi Khashmi 2020 comes from a 40 years old pre-phylloxera vineyard. Saperavi is fascinating grape that often has an impressively dark colour, but is still highly drinkable. This one is not among the darkest and has a blueish hue. I find it quite flowery with dark fruits (boysenberries), plums, some earthiness, and in the mouth it’s fresh and juicy, with some tannin, and overall it’s very appealing.
The red Drago has become my go-to Valpolicella. Last time it was featured here was in this article, where you also get some background.
It originates on the Monte del Drago hill, with a total vineyard area of 8 hectares. The grapes are organically cultivated, and biodynamic techniques are also employed. Corvina accounts for 60%, the rest is corvinone, rondinella and barbera. It has rested 12 months in French oak, which is barely noticeable.
Drago Valpolicella Superiore 2018 (Musella)
Dark red. Aroma of dark and red berries (cherry), some herbs. Lucious, tasty and with an adequate acidity.
Valpolicella was originally light to medium-bodied, refreshing, with a pleasing bitterness on the finish. Nothing to do with the dark, sweet, oaky or raisiny wines we have come to know. (Okay, amarone and ripasso have a rightful place in their context.) Monte Dall’Ora makes beautiful classical style wines.
The winery was founded by Carlo Venturini with his wife Alessandra in 1995. They bought some land in bad condition and started almost from scratch. They work the traditional varieties corvina, corvinone, rondinella, molinara, and also oseleta, an almost extinct grape that now is on the up.it was always organic, and in 2006 they converted to biodynamic agriculture.
They are found on the Castelrotto height, in San Giorgio, northwest from Verona. The soils are limestone with a reddish hue, quite special for this area, with a porous upper part. They train their vines in pergola. These varieties are vigourous and can easily grow to big bunches to control. Pergola gives air and space between the clusters, and you would also get smaller and concentrated bunches.
The actual wine is made up of 40% corvina, 30% corvinone and 20% rondinella, and a dash molinara. The vines for this traditional Valpolicella varieties were planted in 2008, trained on wires in guyot rather than in pergola for greater concentration. It’s harvested by hand in October, later than for the rest of their wines.
The grapes are destemmed and gently pressed. Spontaneous fermentation takes place with native yeasts and without sulfur in concrete and steel tanks, then maceration 7-8 days with occasional manual punch-downs. Aged 6 months in steel, then 6 months in old 25-hectoliter oak vessels bottled without filtration and only a small amount of sulphur.
Ruby red, just a bit cloudy. Aroma of cherries, white flowers and, wild raspberry. On the palate more pungent than it appears by the eye; with red currant, pomegranate, berry seed, and stony minerals. Lots of pleasure in this bottle!
Food: Light meat, liver, sage, prosciutto, pasta, boils, hard cheeses…
Here is a short post from a wonderful Italian lakeside resort. Bardolino is located on the east side of lake Garda, not far from Verona in the Veneto province. There are many nice, fresh and juicy rosés and light red wines.
These hills are where the Gorgo Wine Estate was established in 1973. It belongs to the village of Custoza, and the company also makes organic certified biancos bearing that name.
This Bardolino wine is made from corvina 55%, rondinella 25&, and the rest divided between molinara, merlot and cabernet sauvignon grapes. It’s made with controlled temperature fermentation in stainless steel, and was pumped over for up to ten days.
Light ruby red. Aroma of clean red fruit; cherry, some herbs. It’s dry in the mouth, with a pleasant smooth mouth-feel, and with a slightly bitter aftertaste. Simple, harmonious, easy to drink. Just nice!
Food: Light meat, salads, soups, and some pasta and rice dishes
Verona is located in near vicinity of many recognized wine areas, but I can’t see that it has a lot of dynamic wine bars. One can always go to the Antica Bottega, that boasts hundreds of wines, not least for references, as they present many of the leading houses in several vintages. But I am more attracted to the smaller, distinctive bars with a clear idea, call it underground, avant-garde, rock’n’roll, jazz or whatever you like – especially when the idea is to present organic, natural, artisan wines, that the proprietors and sommeliers have a personal relation to.
Osteria Nosetta is located in the pleasant neighbourhood of Borgo Venezia, just outside Verona center. And Nosetta is the kind of place that I am talking about. The restaurant is intimate and full of atmosphere, the decor is a rustic, retro, and the music was vintage jazz on vinyl when I was there. The food is without limits; their small dishes -locally called ‘cicchetti’- are vegetarian, vegan, and you can have fish and meat too. The kitchen is based on fresh ingredients. The inspiration is from various places though, not least Asian-middle east, and there are some vegan dishes alongside more usual Italo-European stuff. The menu of the day was taped onto page 98 and 99 in an old paperback.
And the prices are undoubtedly to live with.
Andrea and Lorenzo
Lorenzo Folati has been leading the venture until now, but Andrea Venturini and a couple of friends are in a period of taking over.
They have a fine selection of wines and beers from independent artisan producers. I enjoy picking smaller ‘bites’ among those displayed at the bar, to go with a few glass of wines. Some were mint glass, a falafel, various greens, such as the delicious tomatoes, frittered squid, tomato and eggplant sandwich, zucchini with cous-cous, onions, honey and balsamico, and -why not- chocolate salami. The list goes on.
Here are a few of the wines that I enjoyed during my visits. (The order is changed according to “normal tastings logic”.)
Durello 2017(Calesio dalle Ore) is made with the charmat-method. It’s a light coloured, apples, citrus, and bread scented, light-bodied sparkler with good acidity. Simple and good.
A postcard on the wall-board
Trachite 2016 (Alla Costiera), an unfiltered, yellow and cloudy moscato-prunella-garganega regional Veneto white with a sweet (moscato) sensation, together with flowers and citrus peel, and with a medium body, light tannin, and slightly bitter aftertaste.
Lugana 2015(Marangona). This is a lugana from 100% turbiana grapes. It’s a fresh, simple, dry wine with light, almost blank colour, with a greenish hint. And the aroma is dominated by pears and citrus.
On the contrary, the next wine, was all but simple. Sassaia 2016(Angiolino Maule), a varietal garganega showed light yellow, slightly turbid, and on the nose could be found mature apples, flowers, ginger and a touch of toast. Slightly yeasty, quite full and with decently acidity, all in perfect harmony. Maule is a long time favourite, and there is a report from a visit in an earlier post in this series.
Musella is one of the better producers of both standard valpolicella and amarone. Here is a white IGT from the Valpolicella area, biodynamically cultivated as always. Pinot Bianco “Fibio” 2014, from that variety, is a bit more on the wild side. Yellow with green hints, smells deliciously of flowers, yellow apples, and I would say, plays with oxidation. Quite slender, integrated acidity, very pure, and the fruit shines on to the end.
On to a real rarity: Il Fresco Cesane 2014(Marco Antonelli), that is from the DOC (sometimes: Cesane di) Olevano Romano, Lazio. Got it? The production area lies in the province of Roma and includes the municipality of Olevano Romano and, in part, Genazzan. The wine was nice enough; cherry red, red fruits, plums, and hints of leather on the nose; smooth, juicy, and with an adequate acidity.
Merlot “Casa e Chiesa” 2015 (Lenzini) is a biodynamic Colline Lucchesi. It’s cherry red, hints of green green pepper, a sweetish element from the oak elevation, and a light tannin on the palate and a touch of bitterness in the aftertaste. (14,5% alcohol, while most of those tasted here were around 12.)
We close the chapter from this gem of a wine bar with another pleasant surprise, nothing sensational, but better than most of its kind, a Moscato d’Asti 2017 from producer Emilio Vada. We are talking about a straw yellow coloured wine with the typical moscato rose aromas, clean, and pure. It’s a lightweight, but it has an inspiring acidity and it’s not sticky sweet, compared to what you often can find in this category. The alcohol here is 5%.
From Siemàn in Colli Berici it was almost an hour’s ride back on the north side of the motorway, to Bassano del Grappa, in the extreme east of the Breganze DOC. Here is Vignaiolo Contrà Soarda, whose wines I had been familiar with since a few years ago. I had tasted their wines in London, both at the Raw fair, including the tasting that Fiona Beckett talks about here, and in natural wine bars.
I came half an hour early, so I started to make myself comfortable, as I believed I was going to meet the person with whom I had corresponded. So I started with a short tasting in the shop. It turned out that it was nobody else than one of the owners, Gloria Gottardi herself, that kept the shop going at that time.
The first wine was exactly the one that Beckett started her tasting with, as an alternative to sauvignon blanc to match with a goat’s cheese. And it stood the test with its crisp, citrussy flavours. That time it was the 2012. Now the Soarda Vespaiolo is in the 2017 vintage. Vespaiolo is a wonderful grape, one of the great Italian V’s (alongside verdicchio, vermentino, a.o.).
Vespaiolo (or vespaiola), named after the wasps (vespa in Italian) thrives especially well in this area of Veneto. -it’s our star grape, the whole family agrees. It is often used for passito (dried grapes) style dessert wines, such as the Torcolato, and the wasps have also found out that the sugar levels can be very high because of the sweet aromas in the vineyards. The grape is often fermented to dryness, and produces wines with high acidity and other aromatic characteristics.
Contrà Soarda’s Vespaiolo 2017, fermented and raised in steel and bottled unfiltered, was light straw coloured, with green apples, pears in the aroma, and a high, but well integrated, acidity. Vignasilan 2013 (made in the same way, also 100% vespaiolo); light straw, apple and citrus aromas, but it also goes towards peach and apricot, and a touch of honey. The great concentration and elevated acidity makes the finish long, and at five years of age it keeps very well. 121 B.C. Time Flows Bianco 2014, named after a fabled vintage a long time ago, is also a varietal vespaiolo, I tasted before I left for Italy, and it’s convenient to mention it here. It’s spontaneously fermented, with 7 days of skin-maceration, and stayed 12months in oak barrel (with steamed, not toasted staves), and no added sulphur. Nice golden colour; complex aroma with floral components, honey; concentrated and structured (high acidity and some tannin).
121 B.C. Time Flows Rosso 2012, is the red version. Here the variety is carmenère. It’s aged for 18 months in steamed oak, the rest is similar. Deep cherry red; mature fruit (blackberry, dark cherry), with some herbs and spices; luscious and fresh in the mouth, with a light tannin structure. Veneto Rosso 2009 is a blend of marzemino 30%, merlot 25%, pinot noir 20%, and the rest teroldego and groppello, fermented in steel and barrel before blending, then matured 24 months in barrel and steel. Deep purple; fresh aromas of dark berries, cherries, morellos, herbs, and some underwood; fresh, immediate and juicy in the mouth, with a nice integrated tannin.
Back to the Bassano tasting, the last wine I tasted with Gloria was Musso Riserva 2007. A lovely wine from marzemino and merlot, and the first wine that really showed development: Brick nuances; developed aroma somewhere between cherries, dried fruits and smoke; quite slender on the palate with plums and some lickorice. -Musso is a different project, explains Gloria. -Musso means donkey in Venetian dialect. When thinking about terroir images of vines, soils come along. And our philosophy is based on the respect for our land, but alto the animals that live on it. So Musso offers a none ironic perspective, suggesting that the animals are in fact part of the terroir. Donkeys are much more than workers; they are gentle and intelligent companions, curious and with an incredible memory. While horses often will run away from any danger, donkeys are cautious and steadfast.
Anyway, in comes Marcello, the wine maker, and his father Mirco Gottardi (Gloria’s husband obviously), and we have a chat and a brief tour around the premises.
Mirco (left) and Marcello Gottardi
The hill was bought in 2000, and 2004 was the first vintage. They started with a 4 hectare vineyard, now it’s 18. A successful traditional restaurant in Bassano centre, that the family has been running for three generations, has been important for the project’s overall economy, says Marco. In 2011 the restaurant, Pulierin, was moved to the hills where the winery is located.
Down to some basic information: Contrà Soarda, meaning ‘on the slope’, is located in the hills at the foot of the Asiago plateau in San Michele of Bassano del Grappa, a place dedicated to vines and olive trees since ancient times. The soil here is volcanic, often called “onion type”, because it’s old lava solidified in various layers. This makes the rock easy to break, thus it’s easier for the roots to go deep. We also find clay and rocks with fossils here.
A green manure is used to improve the biodiversity. The vines are normally trained in ouble guyot. Only own grapes are used, growing and vinification is all natural, with natural yeast, spontaneous fermentation, and also natural temperature control. The first harvest is normally done in the 2nd week of September, three weeks later for the sweet wines. The winery is modern, but based on traditional winemaking techniques, such as gravity, and wisely integrated with the environment.
They come back to the vespaiolo, -our star grape, the family rejoices. -It’s versatile; we use it for sweet wine (torcolato), natural wine, basic wines, cuvées, and special selections. We love it for the high acidity and the citrus notes, the mineral character. And after ageing it gains in hydro carbon, like truffle.
Time flies, or flows, as the labels say. I take a look at the watch, appologize that the visit became shorter than intended. But the good impression I had before I came here is confirmed, and I am already looking forward to next time, when a visit to the restaurant should be obligatory.
You don’t travel much in Vicenza and other Venetian areas before you learn that durella is a grape you ought to come to terms with. It’s a grape that originated there. First and foremost it gives acidity.
In ancient times there was an underwater volcano in the eastern Verona province and neighbouring Vicenza. Now there are rolling hills here in the Monte Purga, with volcanic soil and huge amounts of fossils.
In Italian the name means “little hard one”. It is supposedly so called because of its thick skin, but also because the vines are difficult to manage.
While the high acidity in the past has been regarded a weakness, one has now learned to appreciate this feature. It contributes to the longevity of wines, and it’s very useful in blends. And it was in the hills of Monti Lessini that the first DOC was established in 1987.
In the time of afterthought, after coming home from the trip, I decided to order a varietal durella to be delivered to my local shop. And among three available wines I chose this one.
Flavio Prà, experienced producer and consultant based in Soave, started this project in 2000. The aim is to offer typical wines from several designations to a wide audience. The portfolio includes most Soave and Valpolicella categories. The cultivation is always organic, and they also employ other sustainable practises, such as renewable energy. Corte Allodola own some vineyards and also collaborate with farmers in rented plots, in the different areas. Fermentation, winemaking, ageing and tbottling is then done in the cellars in Monteforte d’Alpone, one of the Soave wine villages.
This wine is from the slopes of the Lessini mountains. It has the typical durella acidity (9 g/L), and is balanced with 6-7 grams of sugar.
I Campi Lessini Brut(Corte Allodola)
Straw colour, light mousse. Green apples and bread crust with citric notes. Slender, fruity, evident but integrated acidity, and a slightly bitter aftertaste.
Coming from Tenuta l’Armonia, crossing the A4 motorway I arrive in the small settlement of Villaga after three quarter of an hour. We are now in the Colli Berici area. Siemàn has nine hectares, but only four is planted with vines, since it’s important to maintain the biodiversity of animals and plants. We went to the top of the hill, where we got a magnificent view of the slopes with the naturally ventilated vineyards and we could see as far as the Apennines. The ground is limestone, some clay, and where the tai rosso (aka tokai rosso, aka grenache) is one of the most prominent grapes.
Siemàn means “six hands” in the local dialect. I am welcomed by four of them, Daniele and Marco Filippini, who share the duties in wine. Siemàn also makes beer, from grapes! – and it’s the third brother Andrea who takes care of that part.
Daniele (left) and Marco Filippini
The owl in the logo must be explained by Italian terms: Owl is gufo in Italian, and gufare means to be lucky. -We all have other professional backgrounds, explains Daniele and Marco. So the people said, you can’t succeed. So the owl has become a symbol for being a bearer of luck, and so far it seems that it was a lucky choice of logo.
The brothers have a low-intervention attitude, and there is meticulous cleaning at all stages. They don’t use pesticides or any chemicals in the vineyards. The grapes are almost exclusively autochthonous. In the cellar, fermentations takes place spontaneously with native yeasts, and nothing is added (except for a small quantity of sulphites, when necessary). The wines are kept in barrels, concrete and steel, according to what the consider best to express grape variety and land.
There is a high proportion of limestone in the vineyards, compared to the volcanic of the north side of the main road. There are two illnesses in the vineyards that need to be watched, oïdium and downy mildew. Oïdium is treated with sulphur. When it smells of mushroom you cut it off and throw it away. Mildew is normally treated with copper (mixed with water and sprayed onto the leaves). When the leaf looks as if it has oil on it, this part is burnt off. It is important to say though, that the amounts of both copper and sulphur are kept much lower than the legal maximum. This because they use fungus as a natural treatment to minimize addition of copper.
The first harvest was in 2013 (without label). –Angiolino Maule helped us in the beginning, say the brothers. (Read about his estate and wines here and in the article about Gambellara.) 2014, a very rainy year, was the first vintage on sale. The plantings are young also, only 4-6 years old. But all the wines have something to them. They are luscious, tasty and with a mineral character. And they will only get better in the coming vintages. -We are improving every year, says Daniele. And it’s easy to believe.
Camaleonte 2017 is a pét nat with second fermentation in bottle, from the grape varieties tai rosso, garganega and incrocio manzoni, the two latter (the white grapes) with two days skin-contact. The colour is deep yellow; on the nose some bread and citrus notes. an easy-drinking wine. In 2017 there were hailstorms that caused a 30% loss of grapes, says Daniele.
For the white and red wines, half is fermented in concrete, half in wood, then put together in stainless steel before bottling. Occhio al Bianco 2017, a still wine from that vintage -grapes garganega, tai bianco, and in some vintages incrocio manzoni- had shorter skin-contact and was subsequently lighter yellow, and also somewhat cloudy; white flowers and herbs on the nose; tasty with a salty mineral character in the finish. not very different was the 2016 version of the same wine: tai bianco and garganega, golden colour; white flowers like chamomile, and a slight touch of peel after 3 days of skin-contact. Mosca Bianca 2016, from 90% garganega and 10% moscato, stayed 2 days with skins. It’s yellow golden, aromatic with flowers (the small amount of moscato shines through), and a round body. The 2017 had only 1 day skin-contact, and another difference was the grape composition, 50/50 garganega/moscato. This one had some peel character, but only a little. For me it was still more aromatic, in the moscato way. This wine come from a rented vineyard in Colli Euganei (to the east, in the Padova province), and has volcanic soil. It has 5,5-6 g/L acidity, like all the wines. All wines also come with less than 15 mg total SO2 (the current selection between 2-14).
Occhio al Rosso is their only red wine, from tai rosso. The 2017 was the lightest of the lot (bright ruby), and maybe not as expressive; as the others; nice and juicy with some fresh cherry fruit though. 2016 was a hot summer. This wine was the darkest of the three; red fruits, cherry, blackberry; and fruit all the way. In the 2015 no sulphur was added, and a slight hint of brett. To me it doesn’t matter at these low levels. Furthermore, it was very fruitdriven, with red berries in the front. The colour was light cherry, and the appearance clear too.
Both beers are in a sour ale style. Le Bucce is spontaneously fermented with yeasts of grapes (tai rosso, red grapes). The other is the Incocio, from the white grape incrocio manzoni. The grapes are the main reason for the difference in colour.