The management of organic vine-growing has recently become one of the most frequent and most discussed topics. ‘Organic’ wine still does not exist by law but the word ‘organic’, which then soon leads to ‘biodynamic’, is all that producers, wine experts, journalists, etc. are talking about. Speaking for ourselves, all our red grape vineyards are included in the certified organic regime. Therefore the following wines – Carmenere Più, Bradisismo, Oratorio di San Lorenzo and Campo del Lago, all come from organically-managed vineyards. We purposefully do not use this topic as a direct sales pitch. Or perhaps it would be better to say that we are very happy to tell anyone who should ask for information on the characteristics of our wines and our productive philosophy about it. But we do find it hard to use these points for commercial benefit as if they were just another item to add to the label.
The thoughts behind this decision come from a vision of wine that is briefly outlined below.
In the last thirty years wine has experienced an unprecedented boom and interest in it has grown dramatically. Styles, fashions, old and new production areas, species of vine and philosophies have come and gone through the market at a incredible pace.
This has made modern wine ‘similar’ to a number of other consumer products that often have to alter their own look and label in order to capture consumer interest.
It is, however, interesting to note that the great classic wines, especially French ones, have not bowed to this trend and have kept their identity well intact without ever directly communicating any changes in their vine-growing and wine-producing methods. Many have long been produced from organic or almost organic grapes but this has never been declared openly. The aim is to not distract the wine drinker from what is the one and only true purpose of our work: the goodness of the wine.
Any adjective like organic, biodynamic, natural, etc., is not proof of the goodness of the wine but does place the consumer in a positive mind, perhaps too much so, even before he even tastes the wine. How many of us have drunk wines boasting such attributes and have found them really bad? I believe that a lot of us have.
Therefore, using and introducing new adjectives in the name of a greater ‘naturalness’ of the wine does not actually help the consumer’s palate to develop but can risk turning it towards a new fashion, no matter how healthy, that certainly does not certify the goodness of that particular wine.
On the other hand, the entirely opposite procedure would be ideal: blind tasting, we would even add a little distracted tasting, where the goodness has to emerge intensely and almost unexpectedly.
Good agricultural and oenological practices are definitely necessary for this purpose. But they are not a guarantee.
What is volcanic soil?
It is simply the native land, the primordial land that derives directly from the hot and glowing mantle underneath the Earth’s crust. Over time, volcanic soil modifies, giving origin to other soils. Therefore, volcanic earth could be considered as the «mother» of all other soils.
Even today, active volcanoes erupt large amounts of lava. However, volcanic soil covers only one percent of the Earth’s surface. This surface in Italy corresponds to four to five percent of the national territory.
But why is the volcanic soil so special?
They offer minerals in their native form, that give to the plants a specific composition. In the case of the grapevine, they influence greatly the flavor of the wine, which develop a mineral or floral note and over time that becomes typical.
The ancients Romans were aware of this phenomenon, and chose the white wine produced on the volcanic soils as the reference wine for goodness.
In the Central-South part of Italy, the volcanic soil is much present, for instance, in the areas around Rome and Naples, in the northern part of Lazio region, in Sicily (in the Etna and Mounts Iblei area), in the small islands in the South, and in the Vulture area in Basilicata.
But in the northern part of Italy, volcanic areas are almost absent — except for the Soave Classico area and other small territories.
That’s why the ancient Romans, when they arrived in the Northern Italy, first planted their vines in the area that would become Soave Classico.
So we own an extraordinary heritage and ancestral history and culture. But above all, we have the unique flavors and inimitable aromas that this wine still retains.
Everybody identifies the majority of the wines with the name of the variety they are produced with: “Could I have a glass of Chardonnay please? I’ll have the Cabernet Sauvignon”: commonplace chat from two friends in a wine bar.
At most, they add the name of the producer to the variety. But all too often, we do not know what to expect if we do not know the region where that particular producer owns his vineyards.
In most cases, the interest of the consumer stops here, since only those who are passionate go further, trying to know more and understand where a wine comes from.
What could help are the appellations and/or the names of the places where wine has been produced for a long time.
Where a specific region is producing wine since time immemorial, and the interest in this was preserved along the centuries, the name attributed was linked to regions, not to variety: Soave, Chianti,, Valpolicella, Barolo, etc.
Furthermore, when that specific area has been producing wine since ancient times (e.g. Roman times), that wine became Classico: Soave Classico, Chianti Classico etc.
With these wines, the variety is not mentioned, as it is the territory that determines the characteristics of the wine.
Unfortunately, this key point is lost on the majority of the consumers.
Curiosity arises when the label doesn’t show the variety: what’s the grape for the Soave Classico? This wine, produced since the Roman times, mainly maintained the original variety: the Garganega grape.
Other Classico wines though have changed their compositional varieties over centuries. Why? Probably because the original varieties were not giving the best results in that territory, thus others were introduced.
This fact shows that the producers cared more about the expression of territory on the wine, rather than the grape variety.
This concept is extremely important but still not clear today.
The concept of territory/typicality/uniqueness of a wine is by far the most meritable and important concept: the one that differentiates the wine from all the other beverages. The distinctive flavour derives from the land where some specific varieties adapted, modifying their original compositional characteristics.
So, in such cases, the varieties are the “bricks” with which we build. The territory (and to a degree, human input) is the architect that designs the “wine-palace”. The more this becomes sumptuous, complex and unique, the more we can be certain of the role played by a region’s unique territory.
The typical notes of the variety disappear, giving way to a distinctive, elegant and unique richness: M.me De Pompadour, wrote in one of her aphorisms: “I like Romanée-Conti since it doesn’t taste of Pinot Noir”.
If there is no territory, the wine has a “varietal” flavour, which we have to consider as its “basic” flavour. The wine thus expresses the primary notes that come from the compositional variety. But it doesn’t go further than that and can be banal, ordinary or just predictable.
M.me de Pompadour even abhorred the varietal character of the Burgundy Pinot Noir…