Winemaker blends old and new
A recent blog discussion on organic wines by Susannah (Avvinare) and Terry Hughes reminded me how some Italian winemakers I met at last spring at Vinitaly talked about the pull between organic and biodynamic wines and the desire to make so-called “international” style wines that appeal to the U.S. market.
While some Italians are adopting organic winemaking, or at least publicizing their existing organic winemaking, in efforts to add more U.S. market share, others go that way because they think it’s better for the land, themselves and their wines.
Other winemakers admit their wines wouldn’t be possible without modern technologies including pesticides and fertilizers.
One argument is that “organic’ winemaking is little more than a marketing phrase since Italians (and European winemakers in general) have been using what we now label either organic or biodynamic techniques for centuries.
It’s only since the development of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and the like that more-traditional methods of winemaking have been noticed to be less-intrusive, which some people consider organic.
During last spring’s Vinitaly, Susannah Gold introduced me to young (mid-30s) winemaker Alberto Tanzini of Roccapesta. Roccapesta is in the Province of Grossetto, about 100 kilometers south of Firenze and about 20 kilometers from the Mediterranean coast, where Alberto and his wife Maggie (Margareta) make only two wines, both Sangiovese-based versions of Morellino di Scansano.
One is a “typical” (his words) Morellino with 96 percent Sangiovese and 4 percent Ciliegiolo and the other a Riserva (100 percent Sangiovese) aged for 36 months (24 in French oak, 12 in bottle) before release.
(My notes from our conversation at Vinitaly say he also producing an easy-drinking wine called Masca that is 85 Sangiovese and 15 Ciliegiolo but that’s not mentioned on the Web site.)
Albert came to winemaking in 2004, issued his first vintage in 2006 and plans a trip to New York (where else?) to sell his wines.
“An Italian selling Italian wines to Italians should be easy, right?” he asked, none of us knowing at the time the world economy was about to sink faster than the Lusitania.
But my point is Alberto uses some pretty traditional techniques – manually green pruning, harvesting and even an old manual press – along with modern equipment, including steel tanks and the latest French oak barrels, to make his wine.
“We are a combination of the old and the new,” he said. “It gives our wines a wildness. We make our wines in the vineyard, not in the office.”
His wines are reminders that traditional methods of winemaking can co-exist with new technologies, producing lovely wines that taste of the province and the winemaker’s love for his craft.