Friday, June 28, 2013

Italian Natural Wines

Picture: Vendredi du Vin #57 - Vini Naturali d'Italia

Italian Wine

Italy is home of some of the oldest wine-producing regions in the world. Etruscans and Greek settlers produced wine in the country long before the Romans started developing their own vineyards. Two thousand years later, Italy is world leader in wine, accounting for about 20% of world wine production. Italians also lead the world in wine consumption by volume, 59 liters per capita, compared with 8 liters per capita in the US. Wine is grown in almost every region of the country.

Picture: The Wine Regions of Italy

Vendredi du Vin #57: Italian Natural Wines

This posting is being published as part of the Vendredis du Vin, a monthly blog event in France. Participating wine bloggers - mainly in France - are all releasing postings today under the same heading. This month's Vendredi du Vin is orchestrated by Patrick Böttcher, a manager of a pharmacy in Brussels, Belgium. The subject is: Italina Natural Wine: “Petit rappel, les italiens définissent leurs vins comme naturels s'ils sont issus de sols respectueux de la nature, et s'ils sont fait en respect avec l'artisanat historique tout en intervenant un minimum afin de conserver les marques de leur fruit et de leur terroir. S'ils ont effectivement souvent très peu de soufre embarqué, il n'y apas de règle absolue, juste du bon sens.”

My contribution is a bit broader than Italian natural wines. After a short primer of different concepts of “green” winemaking, including natural I profile “Agricola Querciabella” is a leading winemaker in the Super Tuscan movement, i.e. ultra-premium wines sold as IGT wine as the wines are made outside of the DOCG regulations. Agricola Querciabella has become a leading winemaker in the cruelty-free biodynamic movement, i.e. the 100% vegan approach to biodynamic winemaking.

Patrick Böttcher’s List of Italian Natural Wine Producers

Here is Patrick Patrick Böttcher’s List of Italian Natural Wine Producers: “Bon comme on est sympa et qu'on sait que vous allez caler, voici une liste de gentils vignerons dont nous vous conseillons absolument les quilles : Luca Roagna, Belotti, Giuseppe Rinaldi, Giuseppe Mascarello, Augusto Cappellano, Bartolo Mascarello, Brovia, Trinchero, Sylvio Morando, Villa Terlina, Elisabetta Foradori, Musella, Corte Sant'Alda, Tenuta Grillo, Lo Zerbone, La Stoppa, Denavolo, Tenuta di valgiano, Podere le Boncie, Pacina, Colombaia, Fonterenza, Stella di Campalto, Montevertine, Pian dell'Orino, Paradiso di Manfredi, Fattoria di Caspri, Massa Vecchia, Podere Sanguineto, Le Coste, Emilio Pepe, Cantina Giardino, Ca del Noce, Lamoresca, COS, Occhipinti, Frank Cornelissen, Paolo Bea, et tous les inspirés de la Slovénie voisine, Gravner, Princic, Radikon, Vodopivec... et j'en oublie, forcément !!!!!”

Natural and Other Green Concepts of Winemaking

What are natural wines? Generally, the idea behind natural wine is non-intervention and a respect for nature. Natural wines are part of a group of wines that I would call “green wines”, wines made with an ecological concept in mind. There are several different concepts of “green wines”.

Organic: Organic generally means the use of natural as opposed to chemical fertilizers, insecticides and pesticides. The key is: no chemicals.

Organic wines are changing the look of vineyards, literally. Whereas vineyards of the past commanded neat rows rid of all insects, rodents and weeds, organic vineyards are now replacing costly and damaging chemical sprays with environmental partnerships. Pesticides are giving way to introducing low-growing plants between vine rows that host beneficial insects that keep the pest insects in check.

Unfortunately, there is no agreement on what organic wine making as opposed to organic wine growing means. The main issue is the use of sulfur in the fermentation process. In the US, organic winemakers are not allowed to add sulfites during winemaking; an organic wine is a wine with basically zero sulfur. In Europe, sulfites are allowed to be added during fermentation and an organic wine typically contains a modest amount of sulfur.

Biodynamic: Biodynamic is similar to organic farming in that both take place without chemicals, but biodynamic farming incorporates ideas about a vineyard as an ecosystem, and also accounting for things such as astrological influences and lunar cycles. Biodynamic is an approach following the rules and ideas of Austrian philosopher-scientist Rudolph Steiner. In his 1924 lectures, he viewed the farm as an entire living ecosystem starting with the soil which is treated as a living organism and receives special applications to enhance its health.

Sustainable: Sustainability refers to a range of practices that are not only ecologically sound, but also economically viable and socially responsible. Sustainable farmers may farm largely organically or biodynamically but have flexibility to choose what works best for their individual property; they may also focus on energy and water conservation, use of renewable resources and other issues.

Natural: The idea behind natural wine is non-intervention and a respect for nature. For example, only natural yeasts are used, the fermentation is slow, there is little or no use of new oak barrels; and there are no filtrations or cold stabilization. Natural wines are minimalist wines produced with as little intervention as possible.

Vegan: Vegan refers to the process of "finning" the wine. Proteins, spent yeasts and small organic matter in wines are sometimes eliminated from wines with fining agents made from animal products. Fish bladders, egg whites, milk proteins and even bull’s blood (not allowed in the US or France) are all used as fining agents. As an alternative, Bentonite, a specific type of clay, is used for clarification in vegan wines. It’s important to note that vegan or vegetarian wines may or may not be made from organic grapes.

Fair trade: Fair trade wines first came onto the market the US in 2007, following trends in coffee, tea and produce. Fair trade refers to the conditions and wages paid to employees of the winery; it guarantees employees a fair and "livable" wage for their product. Fair Trade certification of wine has been around since 2003 in Europe. The certification means that wineries met certain standards for living wages, environmental sustainability and community improvement. Oakland's TransFair USA just announced that it has begun certifying Fair Trade wines from Argentina, Chile and South Africa for the American market.

Carbon footprint: The carbon neutral label comes from a different angle: global warming. All economic activites have a carbon footprint, including wine making. Carbon neutral wineries are trying to make a contribution to the general efforts of reducing the emission of carbon dioxide. A major aspect of carbon neutrality however is outside the control of wineries. It is the transport of the wine from the winery to the consumer. For example, the carbon dioxide emission of a Bordeaux send to New York City by ship is lower than that of a California wine transported on the road.

Water footprint: A new thing is water footprint, reflecting the concern that the planet is moving into a period where water becomes more and more scarce.

For more, see:
Organic, Sustainable, Biodynamic, Natural Wines … A Primer for “Green” Wines

Agricola Querciabella

From the Chianti Classico DOCG region in Tuscany, Agricola Querciabella has become known among wine lovers for taking the concept of premium wines to the extreme. Agricola Querciabella is a leading winemaker in the Super Tuscan movement, i.e. ultra-premium wines sold as IGT wine as the wines are made outside of the DOCG regulations. Second, Agricola Querciabella has become a leading winemaker in the cruelty-free biodynamic movement, i.e. the 100% vegan approach to biodynamic winemaking.

Agricola Querciabella was founded in 1974 by Giuseppe Castiglioni, a wine connoisseur and fine wine collector from Milan, who had made a fortune in the construction business, including in Mexico. Giuseppe Castiglioni initially planted vines as a hobby, but soon set about authoring with his Camartina—the flagship wine of Querciabella - a Super-Tuscan success story.

Money was not an issue when Giuseppe Castiglioni bought a run down estate in the Greve region. His main concern was to make wines that could match with the fine French wines from Bordeaux and Bourgogne that he liked to drink so much. The shift to vegan biodynamic winemaking was engineered by his son, Sebastiano Castiglioni, who took over the management of the estate in the 1990s. Under Sebastiano Castiglioni leadership, the trend of perfection is still the utmost priority.

Only the best of everything is used, like stainless steel tanks with computer control, peristaltic pumps, 100% natural yeast and only the finest of the fine oak barrels. Quality is something that the Castiglionis do not compromise upon. Also, over time, they established an elite winemaking cadre, including winemaker Guido de Santi and famed consultant and Super-Tuscan specialist Giacomo Tachis.

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller and Giorgio Fragiacomo from Agricola Querciabella at a Tasting at

Agricola Querciabella Portfolio

Agricola Querciabella produces four wines from its vineyards located in the Chianti Classico zone:

Pictures: Giorgio Fragiacomo and his Querciabella Wines

Batàr, a blend of Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay; Camartina, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese; Palafreno, a monovarietal Merlot; and Querciabella, a Chianti Classico DOCG made of 100% Sangiovese. From the vineyards in coastal Maremma, Querciabella produces Mongrana, a blend of Sangiovese, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Camartina—the flagship of Querciabella—was Castiglioni’s first contribution to the Super-Tuscan movement. Camartina continues to be a defining example of the Super-Tuscan genre. While Sangiovese was the predominant varietal for the greater part of Camartina’s early career, the percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon has increased gradually over the years, with recent vintages favoring Cabernet.

Batàr is Querciabella’s high-level Tuscan white, inspired by the white grand cru wines of the Bourgogne. Initially, Batàr was a Pinot Blanc and Pinot Grigio blend. Today, it is a 50/50 Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay blend. Its stylistic orientation altered with the 1998 vintage, when the use of new oak was reduced, bringing Batàr within much closer range of its Burgundian archetype.

The portfolio’s penultimate wine, Palafreno, is monovarietal Merlot, debuting with the 2000 vintage. Its vinification regimen entails a fairly lengthy maceration period of 18 days and aging in 100 percent French oak (60% new and 40% first passage) for approximately 18 months.

For more, see:
The Ultra-premium Querciabella Wines and a Taste of Tuscany at Open Kitchen in Virginia, with Querciabella’s Giorgio Fragiacomo

schiller-wine: Related Postings

Organic, Sustainable, Biodynamic, Natural Wines … A Primer for “Green” Wines

Visiting Jared Brandt and his Donkey and Goat Winery – Natural Wines Made in Berkeley, California

Excellency and Ecology: The Wines of Gebrueder Dr. Becker in Rheinhessen, Germany

The Millesime Bio 2010 in Montpellier, France: A Discovery of Organic and Biodynamic Wines at the one of a Kind Wine Trade Show

At the Forefront of Biodynamic Winemaking: Visiting Werner and Angela Michlits and their Weingut Meinklang in Austria

One of Oregon's Pioneering Winemakers - Myron Redford - with his Amity Vineyard Wines in Washington DC

Natural Wine Bars: Terroir in San Francisco, Terroirs in London and La Cremerie in Paris

The Ultra-premium Querciabella Wines and a Taste of Tuscany at Open Kitchen in Virginia, with Querciabella’s Giorgio Fragiacomo

FairChoice Certified Wine in Germany: Weingut Joachim Flick in the Rheingau

Judging at the ECOVIN Ecowinner 2012 Contest in Oppenheim, Germany

Blogging for Organic Wine – New Ways of Wine Experience: The Organic Wines of Oekoweingut Hubertushof at Prowein 2012 in Germany 

Visiting Jared Brandt and his Donkey and Goat Winery – Natural Wines Made in Berkeley, California

Wine Event: President Obama and the First Lady eat at the "Green" Restaurant Nora and have a "Green" Spottswoode Wine

Benzinger Wines Served at the 2010 "Green" Annual White House Correspondents Dinner

The Natural Wines of Terroir in San Francisco

Julia Zuccardi from Familia Zuccardi in Argentina Visited the US to Introduce New Santa Julia Wines

Headwind (Gegenwind) – A Protest Wine against the Unbridled Exploitation of Culture and Nature

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