Scinniri is made by Passopisciaro up on Etna's north slope. It's an amazing place: the side of an active volcano, nearly 3000' above sea level, the lava looks like a moonscape, and not too far from the African coast. It's practically like the garden of Eden here. Andrea Franchetti the long term project of restoring an old farm house and vineyards in Solicchiata back in 2000. I have a hard time believing it would turn into what Passopisciaro is today. I've never met him, but I've drunk a lot of his wines, talked to a lot of people that know him, and I've hung out around this winery. I get the sense that he's a thorough precise kind of guy: that's the common theme I've found in his wines and physically how the winery is set up and renovated. but he's not afraid to experiment and innovate. Along with Frank Cornelissen, Franchetti is a driving force in recognizing the different vineyards around Etna's north slope that have special characters to them. He and Cornelissen are moving towards something like a 1er cru system but using the Sicilian word "contrada".
This is Vincenzo the vineyard manager.
The Scinniri is a sort of rare open secret of a wine that he makes as an entry level intro to Etna. Also FYI, 2014 was an amazing vintage on Etna.
Andrea's vines are planted at super high density.
Aroma: the 2014 Scinniri has smells of smoke, cherries, also some dried cherry, and an aroma of charcoal. The more the Scinniri opens up the prettier it gets! Aroma's of roses start to become more noticeable. But still there's something a bit charred lurking in there. It's both a really inviting lovely aroma and also somehow very volcanic!
Taste: In the mouth the Scinniri has more of that lovely relaxed supple cherry flavor. The wine really has power to it; it's dark and focused and muscular, but the texture is really smooth. Nerello (the grape) has many faces, but this is a great example of some of the commonalities a lot of them have: dark, dry, with noticeable but really enjoyable alcohol. The texture is so smooth and the aromatics are really unusually pretty. the juxtaposition of deep dark volcanic power and lovely pretty aromatics with a smooth texture is irresistible. This is a great warming winter wine that tastes like a tropical volcanic island. And this vintage in particular is a great deal.
Pentimento is made by Michele d'Aprix, an American woman who after studying organic chemistry in college took a circuitous path to end up in Bordeaux. In 2004 Michele met Stephane Derenoncourt, a successful Bordeaux consultant wine maker who became her mentor. Michele has fallen in love with Bordeuax, but believes that what makes Bordeaux great, all the fun accessible juicy reds, are over looked in America because of the super expensive trophy wines and cultural baggage around the name "Bordeaux". Michele describes the Pentimento as a representation and tribute to all the people that have helped her along the way and the lessons she's learned.
The chemical equation on the Pentimento label is the equation for calcareous clay soil; the soil that gives the right bank of Bordeaux it's unique character.
Aroma: The Pentimento's aroma is dark and kind of gravely. There's blackberry and blackcherry fruit to the Pentimento but also cigar b (cedar, and old dry tobacco) and a hint of wild black peppery spice.
Taste: big and juicy but with good acidity that makes the wine taste more alive. The Pentimento is well balanced. It's got nice dry tannin that reinforces the wine but isn't too heavy. The wine is substantial, out going, knows what it's doing and has a plan; this is a real go getter of a wine! I love the balance: not too heavy but with enough oomph to work with a roast beef!
The Pentimento is a great winter red! It's lovely to drink and not too challenging. This is impressive, good with a range of foods, and very integrated and balanced. This is a great Bordeaux that is fruity enough to please non wine drinkers while also being a great layered complex Bordeaux that you can enjoy. this is available at the Rosemont Markets and the Lincolnville General Store
Thierry Puzelat is the wine maker at Clos du tue Boeuf. His family has been here in the central Loire for a long time. The name Clos du Tue Boeuf goes back to the middle ages. Thierry and his brother Jean Marie converted to organic viticulture in the early 90's and the family has a history of going their own way, planting traditional grape varieties that have been disallowed from the Cheverny AOC. When a wine get's vetoed from one of the AOCs they're in for not being mainstream enough the Puzelats sell it as VDF. For more back story check out Dressner's excellent page here: Clos du Tue Boeuf
So this may be one of those wines that Thierry labored over but the board of the appellation tasted it and decided it was too alive and fun for their tastes. So here it is. Insanely good ripe wild fermented Gamay.
Aroma: Puzelat's Gamay smells of juicy fun lively vivid raspberry and cherry fruit. It's a lovely jammy kind of aroma that has some underlying wild woodsey furry smells that are just text book wild Loire Gamay to me. This VDF almost smells like a lambic; a really good lambic. This Gamay perfectly walks the line of juicy and funky, just on the juicy side.
Taste: this Gamay has lovely vivid fruit. pop in your mouth ripe raspberry and cherry with more of the wild tension and pepper. The flavors linger, but it's very smooth and integrated. It's a delicious thirst quenching red. maybe the best most satisfying Loire Gamay I've had. I guess I should try that Noella Morantin.... the Clos du Tue Boeuf Gamay isn't a demanding challenging red, but it's lovely and full of life.
This is under $20 retail and Blue Hill Wine Shop and Maine and Loire have it.
Campanino is an old (and I mean hundreds of years) vineyard up in the Apennine mountains of eastern Umbria. It used to be a hunting retreat of a local noble family and now is run as still a retreat, but open to the public; or at least anyone who knows it exists, can find it, and book a room.
Above is a picture of the vineyards looking up at Mount Subasio. It's even steeper than it looks. The vineyards are organically farmed and many of the vines are actually planted on their own roots: ungrafted. As far as I know, at 3000' above sea level, this is the highest elevation Sangiovese vineyard in the world. Harvest here can happen 2 months later than vineyards just 15 miles away down on the plain.
Campanino is the vineyard and winery that Danilo Marcucci kind of cut his teeth on and started making wine at earlier in his career. Danilo is still the supervising/winemaking advisor.
Aroma: the Campanino Rosso smells like dark fruit, but it's fresh and vivid: fresh vivid black cherries, cranberries, currants, and also roses. It's a very pretty aroma and also a classic Sangiovese aroma, but not a Tuscan Sangiovese aroma. What I can't smell is just as interesting to me as what I can. I can't smell any dry dusty earth which to me is a hall mark of Tuscan Sangiovese.
Palate: Juicy, but in a fresh thirst quenching, gulpable kid of way. The Campanino Rosso has the acidity I associate with Sangiovese but it's a richer more substantial bodie than most are. The smoothness and integration of the wine is really impressive. The finish is very very smooth, but then there's a dry very soft tannic sensation that lingers after you've swallowed.
Here's a video of the vineyards ↑
The 2015 Campanino Rosso is more substantial, riper, and broader on the palate than Campanino's wines usually are due to the hotter vintage. That's no bad thing though. This is a fantastic wine. It's not a big extroverted slap you in the face kind of wine but it is so, so well made and delicious. It's pretty ridiculous it's about $20 per bottle. I don't know how Danilo Marcucci pulls this off. He told me in all seriousness as we were running that he puts his soul into every wine he makes. Watching him in the winery I believe it. All I can say is the guy must have a lot of soul!
Every year Thanksgiving some how sneaks up on me. I always think it won't happen this time, and then it does. But here we are now with the sun setting around 4 and just 4 days until Thanksgiving! As many of you know, Thanksgiving is pretty much my favorite holiday, what with the focus on food, wine, and celebrating with friends. So I wanted to share some of the wines I'm excited to drink. These are different kind of off the beaten path wines that I've tasted in the past few months and thought "Ah ha! This would be killer at Thanksgiving"
You're probably asking "Has Ned gone crazy? All those broken cars have gotten to his head" No, I really am recommending Barbaresco for Thanksgiving. The Glicine is an integrated traditional Barbaresco; all tar and roses with lovely floral aromatics and that jazz. Seriously, this is a beautiful Nebbiolo with integrated mature tannins that will work with Turkey, gravy, and all those supporting actors. The Glicine Barbaresco is around $36 retail and available at Browne Trading, The Blue Hill Wine Shop, Cumberland Food Stop, and Sawyers Specialties in South West Harbor.
Conestabile Della Staffa Rosso Conestabile
This is made by Danilo, the guy I went and visited in Italy last month. Danilo makes wine using no modern technology; believe me, I helped him and it's a lot of manual labor. His 400 year old stone barn doesn't even have heat or A/C, but the wines are brilliant. Particularly this wine is brilliant! This is a lovely thirst quenching red made from Sangiovese, but Danilo makes this from Sangiovese that he's learned from experience have less tannin to the grapes they produce and fresher juicy characteristics. The Conestabile is a fun lively medium bodied red that is so refreshing and uplifting that I seem to always want another mouth full. Those are perfect qualities to go with the gamey flavors of turkey, gravy, and potatoes. This is about $21 and available at Maine and Loire, The Rosemont Markets, Blue Hill Wine Shop, the Brooklin General Store, Vic and Whit's, Maine St Meats, The Farm Stand, Meridians, Tess's Market, Local Market, Treats, and New Morning Natural Foods in Kennebunk.
Arianna Occhipinti SP68 Rosso
This may not be too big a surprise, everyone already knows Arianna's wines are killer, but they're hard to get and they're really legitimately brilliant. This Nero and Frapatto blend is really actually the perfect weight for Thanksgiving. It's bright and juicy, medium bodied from the ripe fruit, but the tannins aren't rough. Overall, this is actually sort of like a ripe fruit driven Oregon Pinot Noir. The SP68 Rosso is about $25 and available at RSVP, Sawyer's Specialties, Bangor Wine and Cheese, The Blue Hill Wine Shop, The Lincolnville General Store, and Maine and Loire
Eloi Lorenzo Vino Tinto Brancellao
This is an eye catching unorthodox looking bottle. The label is held on with a string around the neck and glued onto the bottle in a strip right down the center so that it sticks out like a flat placard. The wine is a brilliant thirst quenching red from Galicia. It's bright and juicy with lots of ripe cherry and vivid raspberry to it. The juicy thirst quenching character will off set rich fatty foods like gravy and sweet potatoes. This is just a flat out delicious and exciting easy drinking red. This Brancellao is about $22 and available at Oak Hill Beverage and Maine and Loire
Erbaluce comes from the root words "dawn" (Erba) and "light" (luce). it's am ancient indigenous grape variety of Piedmont. Remo Cieck founded the winery back in 1985 and has been working to build the profile of this unknown noble grape. I opened one of these a week ago at a big party and was reminded how serious and deep a wine this is. It's very aromatic and has perfumy aroma, but then on the pallet the Cieck has great acidity and a salty minerality that wakes up and the whole wine. Think fuller bodied mineral driven alpine or Alsatian style wine and you'll be right on the money for how this drinks. It will be a super good and fun pair for Thanksgiving. The Cieck is about $18 and available at The Farm Stand in SoPo, Maine and Loire, Spruce Creek Provisions, and Browne Trading.
Tiberi is a little family winery in central Umbria. For many years they'd just grown grapes and sold them off to huge companies, because that's what the wine industry tells people they have to do if they don't have the scale to afford modern wine making equipment and technology. So the Tiberi family was selling their grapes and even though they have old vines on a great southwest facing hill top they couldn't make ends meet. They started to think about selling their farm, but then heard of this crazy guy: Danilo Marcucci.
Danilo was impressed by them and their vineyard so he agreed to help teach them how to make wine with no modern technology. It's much more work fermenting wild and not using sulfur, but on their small scale it works and allows them to make a value added product so that they can make ends meet and keep the farm. Yay natural wine making!
Danilo and I went on a crazy 25 mile run to Tiberi and then drank wine in their driveway.
Musticco is Italian for Mosquito; that was Federico's wife's name when she was young. This is a blend of Gamay de Trasimeno (which is genetically Grenache) and Ciliegiolo. The wine is bottled during it's initial fermentation when the yeast is still eating the natural sugar. Because the fermentation finishes in the bottle the CO2 dissolves back into the wine and makes it fizzy. It's how sparkling wine was made way long ago before Champagne became Champagne. This is a living wine with yeast in it, no sulfur, and no additives.
Aroma: Cherries, cranberries, beeswax, cooked rhubarb, maybe some mint, some black pepper; it's a really interesting smell that has aromas of tart red berried right superficially, but it also has aromas of spices and food. It legitimately smells like the holidays to me.
Taste: The fruit flavors are ripe! It's a fuller bodied rose, but totally dry. The effervesence is great: just enough to perk up your pallet and give the wine some fizz, but not full on and it takes a back seat to the fruit. The Musticco also has a bit of salty minerality on the mid palate. It's savory and really lingers; this is such a cool wine. I really think this would be killer with turkey, or a ham, or bacon, or some kind of salted pork roast! Now I'm making myself hungry. This is so good!
And this just came way down in price due to closer connections between us all and volume (thanks Matt Mollo!). This is about $20 retail.
We've picked up new importers, Ned went adventuring in Italy, and we've been inundated with new wines! Here's the list of what we really don't want you to miss out on in our expanding book.
Also, as you may notice up there we have a new logo. I wanted something that more accurately referenced that we focus on wines that particularly taste like the place that created them. So yeah, Devenish Wines Taste Like Dirt.
Koehler Ruprecht Pinot Blanc (Weissburgunder) Kabinett Trocken About $20 Retail Link to Website
Koehler Ruprecht is an old school star in the Pfalz that has worked without herbicides or fertilizers forever. The 2015 vintage is a steal! The vintage was big and warm, and Koehler just did everything right with these ripe grapes to create a completely dry but oh so lush wine. The Weissburgunder is ripe and overflowing the glass with tropical fruit but there’s proportional minerality and acidity! This white is so dynamic and just rocking up on the tips of it’s toes it’s so full of energy.
Vieille Julienne Cotes du Rhone "Lieu-dit Clavin" 2014 About $30 retail
Well, damn. Vieille Julienne. Jean-Paul Daumen’s family has owned this land since 1905. He’s gotten 100 points from Robert Parker not 1, not 2, but 3 times. Usually I don’t go in for that kind of wine, but...I was really impressed. This really tastes like the southern Rhone and in a beautiful way. You’d never imagine that hot, sun baked rocks and scraggly wind desiccated bushes of rosemary could taste so good! This is such concentrated bit spicy gnarly warming but balanced and deep reflective Grenache.
Perrini is an excellent organic family winery in Puglia, the heel of the Italian boot. Negroamaro means dark and bitter and this is a great example. It’s medium bodied and has lovely cherry, apricot, blood orange, and fig flavors followed by eastern baking spices like cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves.
Conestabile della Staffa il Rosso 2016 About $20 Retail
Danilo has spent 20 years searching out elderly farmers to re-learn winemaking techniques from 100 years ago. This just hit America and there are only 50 cases. It’s Sangiovese with Sagrantino and Grenache aged in super old barrels. This is deep, meaty, bloody, with densely packed juicy cherry fruit. The wine is thirst quenching thanks to Danilo’s obsessive focus on clean precise winemaking, but it’s a chewy meaty mouth full of flavor. This is a ridiculous price for this kind of wine.
Filippo Peppucci’s family winery is in central Umbria adjacent to Montefalco, but out in the hills of Todi. They have a beautiful west facing hill top planted to local varieties and he takes particular pride in his Grecchetto. Filippo’s Grecchetto is lush riper, but mouth watering with salty minerality that follows on the heels of the ripe citrus fruit. The medium body and long lingering minerality would be great with meatier white fishes.
Andrej Razumovsky founded the winery 13 years ago on the far outskirts of Lujan de Cuyo, where the roads sometimes aren’t even passable. Driven by a dedication to farm biodynamically and as sustainably as possible Andrej is making wines that are true to the dry, warm, sunny Argentine climate, but with impressive balance and complexity. This has the some of that peppery spice hallmark of Cabernet Franc balanced by sleek elegant dark fruit and polished tannic structure.
Matt and Eric have worked at a range of other wineries including Flowers and Cristom where they were heavily involved in converting to biodynamic farming and seeing the benefits of using natural yeast. This is the result of all that practice and work over the years. This comes from an organic vineyard in Sonoma.
Nicolas took an unusual route to winemaking, starting his professional life as a concert pianist. One day he noticed an ad for a professional degree in winemaking and decided to make the leap! In 98 he bought a 56 acre domaine, and then sold off 46 of those acres, only keeping the best old vines in a particular clos. This is delicious mouth watering Cabernet Franc that’s ripe, peppery, juicy, and has just the right amount of acidity to be vibrant and lovely. Farmed organically and made with very low intervention.
Kiko Calvo grew up in Toro but then worked all over the world to get his winemaking chops before coming back to work his family’s vineyard. This handmade organic Tinto de Toro is full of dark juicy fruit balanced with dry meaty structure that you can sink your teeth into. The acidity is just right and keeps this wine from being too dry. This is a lovely sunny piece of Spain in a bottle!
I've been fielding a lot of questions about how Umbria was and what I was there for so I thought I'd try to make a clearer explanation. You can read through below....or just watch this video I made of myself drinking Glenmorangie and eating potato chips!
I was in Umbria for 5 days, including the day I arrived. I drove 900 miles in a flat black Abarth Spider and gave it a real workout through the mountains. I ran 70 miles across Umbria via a 34 mile run toMoretti Omero in Montefalco, a 12 mile fun run with Danilo, and then a 25 mile run with Danilo from Magione to Tiberi. I visited 7 wineries in total. I helped Omero Moretti bottle olive oil. I opened and re-sealed barrels with Danilo and pressed grapes with him. Here's why;
I wanted to visit those little family wineries one on one and get to know them better. I wanted to better understand why these different individuals are rebelling against mainstream wine making and going their own way. By building more personal relationships it opens up more possibilities for business in the future. I doubt most of the people I visited knew where Maine is, and they still may not, but they definitely remember that there's a really passionate guy from there with a big mustache who showed up in a ridiculous sports car, or ran to them. That's useful for me and getting more cool wine into Maine in the future.
I wanted to learn more about Umbria, wine making in Umbria, Umbria's history and landscape. Running and driving in a convertible, connecting with that many local people and relying one them, that allows me to get an idea of the land and plants and culture in a much quicker space of time than if I was riding on a bus or a tour.
There's a lot of marketing value in a trip like that. The photos are useful, it get's attention, and those videos are handy. I also have better stories and first hand knowledge of those wines now and that's really useful to sell more of the wines here and pass on those stories.
Maybe the biggest reason was that I needed a good opportunity to get myself out of my comfort zone. Portland is super comfortable for me, so dropping myself into Italy without really having a plan or trusting the Italian Hertz to actually give me a car worked pretty well to scare myself a little. It's good to push your limits and force yourself to improvise sometimes.
Back in March 2017 on a visit to Italy with Matt Mollo I decided to run the long way around Lake Trasimeno (50K) from Montemelino to the winery of Danilo Marcucci. I got there and immediately jumped into a wine tasting and Danilo didn't even realize I'd run there until the next day. He was so surprised that he decided that he had to go do long distance runs as well and said that when I came back he'd be ready.
So after a few days of helping him make wine at Conestabile Della Staffa he said that Wednesday was the day and we were going to run to Tiberi, a small family winery that he's helping make wine. I should have realized I was in for an adventure when, just before departing on the run he said he needed to consult the GPS and his friend Marco to figure out how to get there. The route Google suggested was just 16 K. "No!" Danilo said "That's too short for us, we need somewhere further and more exciting!" I told him that after my 7 hour run to Montefalco I didn't feel up for too long a run.
We set off at a comfortable pace of about 8 min per mile.
I think these are about an hour in as we were running along the 599 beside Lake Trasimeno.
I know. Danilo's eyes are closed. But it's the best pic we got.
Here's a video I took right as we hit the half marathon mark at just about 2 hours in. Notice Danilo says just one more hour to go. That was decidedly optimistic.
This was about when the dehydration was setting in and I could feel my body starting to shut down, heat up, and sweat less.
Here's what dehydration looks like. Something a bit over 3 hours in. We finally found a little convenience store and bought Gatorade, water, sodas, and more Gatorade. I sat on the pavement outside and drank about a litre and a half of fluids and started to feel functional again. I think we'd run about 20-21 miles at this point.
We finally made it to Tiberi! They were out in the driveway waiting with bottles of fizzy wine and water as we ran up the hill to their house! Danilo collapsed by the house but I choose the shade of this tree to collapse.
That 2016 Tribulato was pretty awesome!
The second bottle of Tribulato
Tiberi is an awesome little farm winery in central Umbria. 2017 is the fourth vintage they've made and bottled themselves. They have some really ancient vines on their little hill top and farm completely naturally. The wines are made completely traditionally with no additives. It took a while for the blood to leave my legs and lungs and really be able to taste wine and eat, but the 2016s we were tasting were great! I particularly liked the l'Rosso: their more simple representative red blend. Of all the wines I had in Umbria it smelled the most like the rich ripe landscape I was running through.
After an awesome lunch Federico gave us a ride back to Danilo's. He was getting into their Audi A3 when I saw this Fiat Mini Truck and said "I'm going in the back of that!" They didn't believe me at first but here's the proof.
Late last night I got back from a ridiculous trip through Umbria. A primry reason for the visit was to hang out with this guy pictured above: Danilo Marcucci. Here's how it went.
I wanted to do Italy right so I rented a Fiat Abarth 124 Spider: a loud, rear wheel drive, turbo charged convertible with lots of flat black on it. I pulled up to Danilo's winery (a 400 year old stone warehouse) at about Noon and he couldn't get enough of the car! That was the plan, that aside from being super fun to drive, the Abarth 124 would certainly help make me memorable to all the wineries I was visiting.
Danilo grew up in the hills outside Spoleto where he started making wine with his Grandfather at 6. He didn't stick with it and became a wine salesperson instead. He sold a lot of super expensive Burgundy and Bordeaux until after a multiple Bordeaux tasting left him really sick. He had a physical and blood work found traces of pesticides in his blood. Knowing haw industrial grapes are grown and how many chemicals get into mass produced wine Danilo swore wine off and became an architect. But a chance tasting of a no sulfur wine from a nearby legendary farm winery (Collecapretta) changed his life. He dropped architecture and started learning how to make wine, reviving the early lessons his grandfather had tried to impart.
Danilo started out working with Collecapretta and soon at an old vineyard way up in the Appeninnes called Campanino. Danilo sought out other older traditional farmer wine makers to discover more old traditional ways of making wine and solving different problems that may arise as wine ferments and ages. He's a very passionate, driven, and charismatic guy.
It wasn't long until Danilo had learned a lot from a lot of people and was starting to make waves in Umbria. Making wine without sulfur, pesticides, additives like tartaric acid or coloring, avoiding even temprature control in the winery is pretty revolutionary and challenges the very large industry of modern conventional wine. A generation of wine makers across the world had been taught that they couldn't make wine without expensive equipment and chemicals. Generations had learned in Oenology school that the old ways of farm wine making were dangerous and would only result in wines with flaws. The idea that you could make great wines with out all that expensive equipment and education makes wine making accessible to smaller lower capital family farms who always thought exporting wine was out of reach, but it also challenges a huge industry.
Danilo makes wine himself at Della Staffa using only ancient technology that wine makers from a hundred years ago would recognize. Those wines are great and shock people when they learn they're made with no modern technology. But that's not what makes Danilo so noteworthy. Danilo is a noteworthy figure in the wine world because he actively wants to pass on and share all this knowledge! At this point he's working with about 10 wineries including Collecapretta, Tiberi, Campanino, Rabasco, Ceppaiolo, Ribela, Furlani, etc. That's a lot of other people who are now making wine in a very natural no chemicals way and it exponentially increases the spread of these ideas. It's a kind of a revolution and it's amazing for me to be able to see it in real time.
Back to actually working with Danilo
Danilo pretty much immediately put me to work:
That's me stirring a vat of fermenting Colorino grapes with a 100 year old tree branch that his grandfather had used and passed on to Danilo.
Tangentially, here's a video of Danilo and I driving around in an Abarth 124 Spider. It's not too relevant but it shows more of what Danilo is like out of the cellar. In the cellar he's all business.
Making wine with out using any chemical additives, sulfur, or temperature control, takes a lot of manual labor on the part of the wine maker and constant attention to detail. In this kind of wine making there's no safety net. In addition to fermenting with wild yeast and using no additives Danilo defines true natural wine making as wine making in which the wine maker invests a piece of themself and their soul in each wine.
Here's a video of Danilo opening up a 150 year old cask to clean it from the last vintage that aged in it and prepare it for the new vintage.
The analogy we both kept coming back to is that having a small natural winery like this is very similar to having a whole lot of kids. Danilo was very focused and quiet all the times we spent in the winery. There were always 5 or 6 things happening at once. We would be cleaning and preparing a barrel while at the same time aerating some fermenting wine and at the same time transferring wine from one tank to another. If you put all your attention on one of your children you run the risk of another one making some kind of trouble while you're distracted! They all need to be watched all the time so that you can do each wine making step at exactly the right time.
We pressed all the colorino grapes that were in the primary fermentation and it was a whole afternoon of slowly scooping them into that ancient wooden basket press until it was full, pressing them down enough to make more room, scooping more in, then pressing, and repeat over and over until all the grapes were pressed and we had the wine in two open vats.
Here's a super attractive pic of what fermenting grapes in an old wood press looks like. It's not too pretty but let me assure you, at least it smells great!
As we pressed the grapes the fermenting juice drained out of the press and through a metal colander to catch any large solids and we then pumped it off into the open vats to keep fermenting for a couple days.
After the wine had had a couple days to continue fermenting we put it into a pair of old wood casks to finish fermenting and to evolve. Wooden wine casks have to be kept and treated in very particular ways to make sure the bacteria you want stay active in them and keep any other bacteria from colonizing them. A trick he told me about was to leave behind a few litres of the wine you had most recently aged in the cask so that the yeast stays and has that wine to live off of until the next vintage when you put more wine in. Generally you don't want to leave a cask empty for too long anyway.
After you take the door out of the front of the cask you have to clean it thoroughly with water, scrub it, and then remove all the water. Once it's all cleaned out you need to re-install the door.
First you clean all the putty from around the door.
Then you clean all the putty from around the inside of where the door will seat.
Then you prepare the door by putting fresh putty holding in some kind of long vegetable fiber (I don't know my Italian isn't that good), and some waxy lubricating substance around the edges of the door. Also, check out that shot of my mustache!
Once you fit the door back in as much as you can, you re-install the yoke that sits over a bolt protruding from the front of the door. With the mechanical force of the nut on the bolt you can draw the door back up into place. The door gets larger on the back side so that it wedges tighter and tighter as it is drawn forward.
Once you get the door seated you start putting wine into the cask. Then it's a process of waiting and watching to see what leaks develop. Like an old wooden boat taken out of the ocean casks dry out when there isn't wine in them and then they take some time to re-expand and seal once you put wine in. But you don't want to let them leak too much, so Danilo and I spent a good hour watching, and then sealing small leaks with bits of more fibre and putty until he was satisfied.
I have pretty good video footage of all this and will eventually get it all edited and up on Youtube.
Danilo has had a huge impact on natural wine making in central Italy and I'm super lucky to have been able to go spend that time with him and see some of how he works. Look out for more info and videos as I get organized now that I'm back!