Cousins Daniele and Pierluca Proietti are from Piglio, south of Rome in the Lazio region. They own 7 hectares of vineyards, divided into many small parcels on the most important crus of Cesanese del Piglio DOCG. All the vineyards are in the town of Piglio, where viticulture dates back to the Roman Empire. Some of the vineyards are home to ancient archeological finds of Nerva and Traiano’s villas that prove their very long history. The vineyards are between 15 and 90 years old, and have either been inherited or acquired by the family throughout the years. In addition to the vines, they cultivate 1000 indigenous olive trees, walnuts, officinal herbs and a vegetable garden.
The family began to approach natural farming in the 80s, through organic agriculture at first and later when Daniele and Pierluca delved into the application of biodynamic principles, the study of Fukuoka’s natural method and the use of homeopathy in agriculture.
They tried blending these theoretical and practical experiences with a winemaking tradition that is inspired by the approach of Roman agronomists like Columella and Catone, the very first examples of natural viticulture in this area. They were lucky to see these principles applied by the old farmers that live nearby. In the vineyard for example, they’ve substituted copper and sulphur with natural resistance activators that they often produce themselves. The most important thing for them is to give energy to the vines by fostering the fertility of the soil and the plant’s wood.
In this area cesanese has been growing for the past 500 years. Along with them, the two cousins grow and “foster” other ancient varietals of the Lazio tradition such as Passerina, Bellone, Ottonese, Nostrano and Fosco Peloso.
They follow a natural and traditional method in the cellar as well, focusing on their personal taste: expressive wines that are able to convey a deep immediate message and don’t need too many words to be fathomed.
They vinify them in an absolute natural manner using steel, concrete, amphoras, glass demijohns: their only tools. There are no added substances and yeasts. They use a very small amount of sulphur whenever necessary, but in general their wines have very little amounts of it. This doesn’t mean that they are funky, at all: they believe that the wines need to stand on their own legs, without external aid, and must be elegant and strong yet graceful.
Jack Lewens and Bruno Conciliis
Vigneti Tardis is a Sommelier meets Winemaker collaboration.
Jack and Bruno created Vigneti Tardis in summer 2017, making enough wine to start their story while in 2018 they made their first full range of 5 wines and up to 25,000 bottles. This will start to increase again from the 2020 harvest.
Championing local varieties, Fiano, Aglianico, and Aglianicone (a forefather to Aglianico, with bigger berries and thinner skin), as well as a small amount of Primitivo, Malvasia, Trebbiano, and Coda di Volpe. All the wines are made with native yeasts and no additions until a small sulphur addition at bottling. Wine remains on the lees until bottling, so some of the whites are given a very light bentonite fining. Any oak aging is in old, continuous use barrels.
Cilento is in Campania’s southerly province of Salerno, although the varieties are the same as the more famed appellations of Taurasi and Avellino, the territory is vastly different. Dominated by the Parco Nazionale del Cilento, Vallo di Diano e Alburni, a Unesco World Heritage Site, there no big agriculture while the coastline is also a protected marine park. The soils range from sedimentary limestone and schist to quartz, sand and slate. All vineyards are farmed organically (some in conversion) using biodynamic treatments.
The ‘La Settimana’ range of wines are named the days of the week (in the Italian) which correspond to the planets and the gods, as portrayed on their vivid labels. These are wines with a conscience; in region more commonly known for blockbusters they are expressive, super drinkable, elegant, and ageworthy.
Located on the moraine hills south of Lake Garda, in northern Italy, is one of the
brands with which Massimo Brutti, co-owner of Poggio delle Grazie, produces the
DOC line of Bardolino, Chiaretto, and Custoza.
The company, in biological conversion, believes in respecting nature and the raw
materials, to obtain wines that are fully representative of the territory.
The soils are mostly made of clay and stone, the harvest is only by hand, the
fermentation start spontaneously without any input, and the wines are not filtered
before bottling: these are the Lìreos wines.
“Our company was born from the history of a land that has seen its children grow on the vine, it derives from the union of the vineyards of two families, Portelli-Puleo, and Angileri. The land is distributed on the territory of the municipalities of Marsala and Mazara del Vallo, five hectares divided into six different areas cultivated with vines for more than a century. Almost all the vines are raised as saplings, with low yields per hectare and cultivated according to the dictates of tradition. We have always been farmers who sold their wine to small shops or to the wine factories of Marsala, we have gradually transformed into grape producers, breaking that link that is the unavoidable vineyard / winery, the only way to obtain products of the highest quality. From 2013 the decision to resume the interrupted journey and in the light of the experiences made by me and my father, as enotecologists in time and on the territory, we have returned to producing wine.”
Bakari was born from the desire of five professionals in the world of wine to offer something that wasn’t there. “We wanted a line of wines – explains Raffaele Bonivento, project leader – natural, well done, at an affordable cost that met specific requirements: easy to drink, democratic but not conceptual, for the people, without ethical and cultural superstructures. In short, good and natural wines for everyone “. The experience that gave birth to this project is that of: Raffaele Bonivento, a past in Vinnatur and Porthos, today he is a wine selector and president of Meteri, a young reality established in the world of natural wine; Stefano Menti, winemaker of the family business in Gambellara who works in a biodynamic regime and is an interpreter of Garganega.
Azienda Agricola Dario Prinčič
The Prinčič winery is located in the village of Oslavia, just north of the town of Gorizia, and a few steps from the border with Slovenia.
From our house you can see Gorizia (Italy) and Nova Gorica (Slovenia), behind the towns you can see also the mount Sabotino, where there were battles in the First World War. Behind the house there is a monument with 60.000 soldiers buried.
We started our winery in 1993. Before that Dario sold the grapes to local wineries. From 1988 he didn’t use any chemicals in vineyards, he started to use only natural fertilizers (cow and horse manure) and copper and sulfur for the spray treatments.
In 1999 he started to experiment the maceration of grapes on part of the production, the year after he decided to do it on the whole production.
Now the winery is over 10 hectares densely planted (about 8.000 vines per ha), with almost all the vineyards exposed to the southeast.
Because it’s very steep and the soil is composed of clay and sandstone, we have to do everything by hand.
The harvest usually lasts from mid-September to mid-October, but we pick the grapes when mature. During the summer we trim the vines to produce less bunches, generally four or five, resulting in more concentrated juice.
Once the grapes are in the cellar are destemmed and placed in open oak vats for the maceration with no temperature control, no added yeasts and no use of sulfur.
The duration of the maceration depends on the variety of the grape, it goes from the 8 days for Pinot Grigio till the 45 days for Cabernet Sauvignon. Grape skins must be always covered with wine: that’s why during all the fermentation the cap is pushed down manually 3-4 times a day.
The pressing is done softly using a pneumatic press, then the must passes in old wooden barrels and barriques that do not release more flavors.
Before the wines are bottled, stay for 6 months in stainless steel tanks for natural fining. During the bottling there is a small addition of sulfur (15 – 20 mg/l). The wines are bottled unfiltered and often show a brilliant orange color in the glass.
Davide Gentile and Marco Giuliani
We are Davide and Marco. We’ve been friends since 3 years old, and although we took different roads at times, we found each other again during college. Since then, we began our journey into the world of wine.
Our wines are made simply by spontaneously fermented grapes. We don’t add anything else, no clarifying agents or filtration. Residual lees and grape skins are indicators of a genuine and natural process, necessary to keep the wines alive.
We’re in a process of constant research, taking inspiration from many winemakers that we’ve met on our journey and with whom we continue to have a dialog about how to cultive, ferment, conserve and age wines. They are a source through which we synthesize our experience, which is in constant evolution.
As the son and great-grandson of winemakers, Stefano Menti has rediscovered the delicate touch and the joy that only comes from making natural wines on the family vineyard.
Someone once said that you can fight your own fate, but more often than not, it is a waste of time. The fate of Stefano Menti, who was born in 1979, was the vineyard planted by his great grandfather in the late 1800’s in Gambellara, the land of white volcanic mineral earth, Recioto and Vin Santo. However, Stefano, who at the age ten was already driving the tractor and helping his dad with the harvest, left home to travel around Europe, before his personal odyssey brought him back to the family vineyard in Gambellara, which is home to a mixture of Garganega, Torbiana and Durella vines. Not only did he come home, but he also chose to revolutionise the work done by his father by implementing organic and biodynamic practices.
In 1998, his journey takes him to Spain, with the sparkling lightness typical of new graduates, where he meets Katerina, a young lady from the Czech Republic and it’s as if a meteor collides with his fate. Stefano goes back in Gambellara, but lightning is lightning, and meteors are meteors and in the year 2000, he joins Katerina in Plzen, drowning out the call of the family vineyard by working for a mineral water company. Instead of making wine, he drinks it, choosing only organic and biodynamic wines, not to follow the fashion but out of respect for the environment.
However in 2002, he is called back home to Gambellara. Business is not going well, and Giovanni his father needs his son to help him run the vineyard, and being a loyal son, Stefano goes back home to help his father, putting the meteor on stand by.
The best advice that can be given for anyone who decides to work in the vineyard is to make a wine that does not follow trends but that has its own individual characteristics, its own personality. Why? Because the worst thing that can happen to you if you don’t sell it, is that you have to drink it, and at least it will be the wine that you chose to make, a wine that means something to you. Stefano began his new adventure with this ideology: no more of the conventional agriculture practices used by his father that hadn’t changed since the seventies, he went back, and returned to the methods used by his great grandfather.
He went back to basics and started studying: visiting organic and biodynamic wineries throughout Italy, and upon his return converted from a conventional to organic vineyard. “The wine starts from the fruit,” he explains, “It is essential that the fruit is as pure as possible”.
His hard work and dedication start to gain recognition and in 2004 the Menti winery is certified organic, which is followed ten years later by the biodynamic certification. His biggest satisfaction comes from the excitement of those who taste the wine, and the many phone calls he receives from people who want to compliment him, because Stefano’s skill and passion expresses itself in the wine itself. Giovanni, is proud of his son who successfully turns his ideas into a success.
Now, the Menti vineyard has seven hectares of vines, including the Omomorto vineyard where the Durella vine is grown, a vine that is perfect for sparkling wines.
As per tradition, towns give their names to the wine, the Omomorto Metodo Classico is the pride of the family, with the label on upside down because the bottle has to be stored with the neck facing down, so that the wine can immediately get rid of the foul-smelling yeast upon opening. A process that is usually done in the winery before a wine is put on the market, but in this case that Stefano wants done exactly the moment before you drink the wine, so that the wine can be enjoyed expressing the best of its unique characteristics.
In one way or another, fate wins and we discover that even meteors can change course. In doing so, one in particular lands in a vineyard in 2006, and since that fateful day, Katerina and Stefano live happily and contentedly on the family vineyard.
(WORDS BY ROBERTA CORRADIN)
Frank Cornelissen is the owner of 19 hectares of vines rather high up on Mount Etna. Uniquely, he has been involved in wine his entire life. As the son of a wine broker in Belgium, he had the opportunity to be immersed in wine on a professional level from a very young age. Frank went on to produce his first wine in 2001 when he started with only 0.40 hectares of vines.
Frank is obsessive over details in an effort to make wines that truly express terroir with perspective. He is a meticulous vineyard worker and keeps an extremely clean and organized cellar. The evolution in his wines are intriguing as well. Earlier vintages were linear, angular, precise, and full of minerality. He has often said that in the early days his goal was to create liquid stone. His wines have softened with time now striking balance between fruit and dynamic minerality.
While there are are many important details in his winemaking method, the key is in the vineyards. Frank is not Sicilian, so choosing Mount Etna was deliberate. The main reason to choose the North Valley of Etna was for its it’s incredible and unique diversity of volcanic soils that have an immutable voice. This in tandem with Etna’s primary varietal Nerello Mascalese, he believed he could make wines of great complexity and distiction. He has describes Nerello Mascalese to be somewhere between Pinot Noir and Nebbiolo. Frank’s best wines have the dry and sharp tannins you find in great nebbiolo, but with the lusher fruits of Pinot Noir.
Frank works without the use of herbicides, pesticides, nor any other chemicals. He occasionally uses biodynamic treatments, but not in the ways outlined by biodynamic calendars as he feels his vineyards have their own unique schedule!
A few words by Frank himself…
“Our farming philosophy is based on our acceptance of the fact that man will never be able to understand nature’s full complexity and interactions. We therefore choose to concentrate on observing and learning the movements of Mother Earth in her various energetic and cosmic passages and prefer to follow her indications as to what to do, instead of deciding and imposing ourselves. Consequently this has taken us to avoiding all possible interventions on the land we cultivate, including any treatments, whether chemical, organic, or biodynamic, as these are all a mere reflection of the inability of man to accept nature as she is and will be. The divine ability to understand the ‘Whole’ was obviously not given to man as we are only a part of this complex and not God himself.”
In the winery his work follows the same philosophy of using what nature provides him. There are no industrial yeasts, sulfites, or anything else added to the wines. All of the wines are fermented in small, neutral tanks and no wood is used in the cellar in order for all the wines to express their specific territory to the full extent. Frank uses neutral epoxy tanks and anforas because he likes the round shape which allows the wines to be nourished with the fine lees moving freely during the aging process.
Marilina and Federica Paternò
Angelo Paternò worked for 25 years as the winemaker and technical director for the Sicilian wineries Cantine Settesoli and then Duca di Salaparuta and then bought 60 hectares (148 acres) on a hill formerly known as Poggio dei Fossi in the southeastern Sicilian province of Siracusa, near the town of Pachino, where he thought the land was one of the best viticulture areas in Sicily.
He handed the reins over to his daughters, Marilina and Federica, and still helps them in the cellar. They grow orcanically and favor strict minimal intervention and additives in the cellar, with an approach influenced by local natural winemaking master Frank Cornelissen. Almost half of the land is dedicated to polyculture in order to nurture the ecosystem. On the other 35 hectares grow a array of grape varieties such as Nero d’Avola, Grecanico, Muscat Blanc, Moscato Giallo, Insolia, Merlot, Tannat, Viognier, and Chardonnay. In the cellar, fruit and freshness are preserved with the use of large concrete tanks for fermentation and elevage.
Filippo and Nancy Rizzo
Filippo Rizzo and his wife Nancy met over a decade ago when Filippo owned and operated a small restaurant in Belgium. At that time, Filippo was among the first to be talking about and serving natural wines anywhere outside of Paris. His family ties to Sicily imparted a passion for land preservation and the importance of additive free wine.
After years in restaurants and retail, Filippo decided to get back to the land the best way he knew how, become a winemaker. With a scant 11 hectare farm, 4 of which are under vine, Filippo and Nancy have built the tiny Lamoresca estate from the ground up. During the process of reviving his own olive groves and vines, Filippo spent several vintages with his friend and fellow winemaker Frank Cornelissen making wine high on the slopes of Mt. Etna.
Lamoresca is the only winery for roughly 50 square kilommeters and Filippo and his farm hand Gaetano work the land by hand with incredibly diligence.
Lamoresca is located in the southern most corner of the province of Catania, between Etna and Gela on the southern coast, at ~450 meters above sea level. The area has a combination of deeply compressed sandstone soils mixed with calcium and iron rich clay. The old vines are a mixture of nero d’avola, grenache and nerocapitano (frappato) for the reds, and the extremely rare vermentino corso and some roussanne for the white; all of which are worked without the aid of any chemical or pesticide. The wines are naturally fermented without temperature control and no sulfur is used at all throughout the process.
Azienda Agricola Cirelli
Francesco and Michela Cirelli
Agricola Cirelli is an organic farm certified by IMC (doc. n.3194 RV.01), surrounded by 23 hectares of land. All of its production is designed to respect the natural cycles of the olive trees, vineyards, horticultural crops and the animal breeding. Crop rotation, natural fertilization, and free range animal grazing are Agricola Cirelli’s “techniques” of production. This harmonious environment creates olive oil, wine, vegetables, fruit and meats of supreme quality.
The farm grows its food and wine in total respect of organic agriculture. Nature sets the rules and it dictates the rhythm of every activity. The animals’ interaction with the land offer natural grazing and fertilization of the vines, which means there is no need to use harmful chemical substances.
Francesco purchased the land in 2003 right after his graduation in Economics at a prestigious European university. Before this, he was a student at the Italian Navy College. He decided to dedicate himself to organic agriculture because of the profound values of working the land (“Right after God the farmer comes next” he was told once). He is now helped out by his fiancée, Michela.
His favorite wine is his amphora-fermented wine, as they are truly artisanal containers. There is an obligation to only interact manually with the juice, using nothing other than your body. If you have to clean the vessel, you have to go inside it with your swim suit to clean the vessel. This makes for a more emotional process and requires more effort. It’s you and the clay vessel, that is all.
Since the 1100s, the Mattioli family has lived in the tiny settlement the Romans deemed Collecapretta or “hill of the goats”. For generations, the Mattiolis have cultivated the rugged hillsides of this Umbrian village located just outside of Spoleto. Today, the farm is barely 8 hectares in total but boasts a dynamic mix of local olives trees, farro and other ancient grain plantings and about four hectare of indigenous old vines.
Vittorio Mattioli lives together with 3 generations of his family inside the tiny village that overlooks the valley below with the high Apennine Mountains and Gran Sasso in the background. At 500+ meters up, a unique mixture of calcium and iron rich clay with outcroppings of tufo and travertine limestone make up this elevated terroir.
The total production of Collecapretta is only about 8000 bottles during a good year, yet the family vinifies many different cuvées to show the various expression their land is capable of. All of the cuvées go through natural fermentation in open-top cement containers without temperature control or sulfur additions. The wines then age according to the waning lunar cycle in glass-lined cement vats or resin tanks. No sulfur is used at any point in the winemaking process and all farming in the vineyards is completely natural, with only compost being made exclusively from their own animals.
Fausto and Cinzia Cellario
Fausto and Cinzia Cellario are 3rd generation winemakers in the village of Carru on the western outskirts of the Langhe. The family only believes in working with local, indigenous Piemontese grape varieties and fiercely defends local winemaking traditions both in the vineyard work and the cellar practices. The Cellario vineyard holdings cover some 30 ha between 5 different vineyard sites covering the southern Langhe. With holdings in Novello and Monforte, the Dogliani plot is arguably the family’s most prestigious land, and in many ways Dolcetto specialists. Vineyard work is organic (soon to be certified) and all the fermentations take place with indigenous yeasts. Sulfur is only added in very small quantities at bottling if necessary (a practice not common with a winery in this mid-size range).
Franco and Mario Accorsi
Brothers Franco and Mario Accorsi are farmers at heart, more specifically they primarily cultivate orchards filled with local varieties of pears and apples. The farm was run by their grandfather Ezio who raised cows and produced cheese sold in the local markets around south eastern Lombardy. Today, Franco and Mario have integrated orchard fruit production with several small parcels of old vineyards and focus on producing wines from near-lost indigenous varieties of lambrusco. All the vineyard work is done organically (they are in the process of becoming certified). Yields are limited, while natural fermentations and low sulfur additions are key to their production.
The Oltrepò Mantovano is, as the name suggests, on the banks of the Pò River Valley to the south of the village of Mantova. The soils are clay and limestone mixed with alluvial deposits left by the river. This unique and tiny DOC is the only appellation outside of Emilia-Romagna that produces true lambrusco.
Margret and Guido Cantarelli
Overlooking Lake Trasimeno, on the northern most cusp of Umbria, this tiny farm is run by Margret and Guido Cantarelli. The hills around this interior lake form one of the most unknown wine zones in Italy; Colli del Trasimeno (DOC). There are only a dozen or fewer producers in the appellation, most of which are growing international varieties. Montemelino’s farm is roughly 10 ha, with less than 4 being under vine. They grow grechetto for the white wine and sangiovese and gamay for the red. Yes, gamay! Gamay has been growing around the lake for more than 85 years, opinions vary as to where and why it’s actually here, but it certainly has remained a relative unknown to the outside wine world. Farming is organic, the wines are naturally fermented and aged in large slavonian oak barrels that rest both under the farm house and in a tiny chapel on the property (for lack of space and the proper temperature conditions). These are humble, simple wines made in a very genuine and characterful way.
Podere il Saliceto
Gian Paolo Isabella
On the outskirts of Modena in the tiny village of Campogalliano is the small estate of Podere il Saliceto. Gian Paolo Isabella is most known as a decorated Muay Thai champion though he is a gentle winemaker both in the vineyard and the cellar. In 2005 he and his brother in law Marcello were driven to follow their passion for all things wine and founded the 4 hectare estate they now operate together. As producers of lambrusco they are dedicated to working with the classic local grape varieties such as Lambrusco di Sorbara and Salamino but they also work with the uncommon Malbo Gentile variety. All the agriculture is done organically and natural vinification and re-fermentations take place in bottle to make their lambrusco’s. A plot of sauvignon blanc is also planted and made into a pétillant-naturel wine. The Malbo gentile in vinified by itself in old oak barrels and produces a dark and savory wine capable of aging for 5-10 years.
Azienda Agricola Serragghia
In a former life Gabrio Bini was an eccentric architect in Milan. Now, he’s a an eccentric winemaker in an eccentric place: the tiny volcanic island of Pantelleria. This rugged sliver of land, 15km long, population 7000, is closer to Tunisia than Sicily and is known more for its hot springs and capers than wine.
This is a fitting backdrop for Bini, who ferments 100% naturally with no sulphur and in buried clay amphorae.
He works with Pantellerian natives pignatello, catarratto, and zibibo, all of which see extended contact with their skins.
His wines are wild expressions of this wild place and tend to evolve dramatically in the glass.