Calabrese winemaker and former fighter pilot, Francesco de Franco of 'A Vita farms 8 hectares of land in the heart of the Ciro' Classico DOC from sea level up to ~200 meters. Farming is completely natural, certified organic. Francesco is a purist when it comes to Gaglioppo though he cultivates small amounts of magliocco, greco nero and bianco. His wines are very light in color yet incredibly tense and meaty, the ultimate in savory Mediterranean wine. Francesco is a very well respected winemaker in the natural wine circles, certainly the only one working this way in Calabria. He has been part of the Vini Veri association for many years and I am honored to represent his work in Massachusetts.
Caneva da Nani
Caneva da Nani is located in the hilltop village of Guia in the Valdobbiadene of the Veneto. The Canello family has been growing grapes in these mountains for 5 generations and making wine for themselves all along the way, since 1971 in an official way. Today Massimo is at the helm having taken over for his father Giovanni in the past 10 years though Giovanni remains an integral part of the farming and winemaking tradition ('Nani' is his nickname, hence the winery name. 'Caneva' is Venetian dialect for 'shady spot to sit and drink wine'...I'm not making this stuff up:).
Today the farm is 6 hectares, tiny by most industrial scale measures in the region, and all agriculture is organic though not certified. No herbicides or synthetic pesticides are used in the fields and winemaking is kept as minimal and pure as possible (natural fermentation in cement, re-fermentation in bottle w/o sulfur additions for the Col Fondo). 350-400 meters above sea level, soils are mixed clay and limestone with a local form of Dolomite granite called ' ' in abundance. 100% glera vines are planted on impossibly steep slopes, all farming and harvesting must be done by hand. No helicopters are used employed by the Canello family to spray chemicals on the vines, this is the regional norm.
Guia as a village has some historical significance in the role it has played in the foundation of the 'Col Fondo' style of prosecco production. It was in Guia that the very well respected Loris Follador of Casa Coste Piane (CCP as it's often called) began making his throw back 'col fondo' prosecco in the 70's. This is what the farmers always used to make and drink for themselves but it fell out of fashion as the big industrial producers took hold in the 70's and 80's. It was here in Guia that a small collective of producers, including Caneva da Nani, revived the Col Fondo style of winemaking.
'Col fondo' roughly translates to 'sur lies' and intends that the wine has done a partial fermentation in the bottle thanks to a small amount of residual sugar and living yeasts still in the wine when it's bottled in the early Spring. Though all of the Caneva da Nani property lies within the Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene Superiore zone (highest altitude, most respected terroir) he cannot call his col fondo by its DOC name. The DOC does not allow for the wine to be sold under the Superiore DOC if it has a crown cap. He has experimented with re-fermentation in the bottle under cork but without success, he sights that all Champagne is re-fermented under crown cap and he feels it captures the purity of the wine best. He could call the wine simply 'Prosecco di Valdobbiadene' but he feels that lumps his land in with the industrial wines being made in the valley below.
Massimo and his family generally decant the wine to help it open up and show the beautiful mineral and floral elements of the wine.
This tiny property acts as the purest, most rudimentary "laboratory" for Danilo Marcucci's natural wine designs. Here no compromise is taken. Given the exceedingly small scale of the property, 4 rows of vines that total less than 1 hectare, Danilo and his friend Riccardo can do things on a different wavelength...no time frames, no yielding. The beauty of Ceppaiolo is that it displays the classic "contrasto Italiano" with clarity...plain and simple, Ceppaiolo is a dump. Nothing more then a run down cement farm house that lies mostly in disrepair with bombed out old Fiats and farm equipment scattered around the property. There's no electricity, no bathroom. Just a 4 rows of some of the oldest, rarest and most 'antique' varieties of Umbrian vines, all white, that can be found in the region; trubiano (trebbiano dorato), malvasia bianca, grechetto, fumaiola (a rare variety of verdicchio), uva pecora, san colombana. Winemaking is beyond rudimentary...no pumping, nothing more then 1 old barrel, a couple resin tanks, a cement vat and some demijohns. Here the 'terroir' is not the soil or the altitude but the old vine material and the vision of Danilo and Riccardo, basta.
Ceppaiolo Vivace: All the white varieties, harvested roughly 10 days early for higher acidity for the sparkling wine. Bottle fermented, no skin contact. No sulfur.
Ceppaiolo Bianco: All the white varieties, harvested fully mature. De-stemmed, skin contact for 2 days. Aged in resin and bottle.
Ceppaiolo Rosato: (the red grapes come from a nearby vineyard in the hills outside Assisi). 70% sangiovese, 30% vernaccia rossa. Direct press, aged in resin and bottle. No sulfur.
Ceppaiolo Rosso: Sangiovese, Vernaccia rossa, canaiolo. 10 days skin maceration, aged in old barrel and bottle. No sulfur.
Ceppiolo, Rosso del Pu: 100% canaiolo. 8 days skin maceration. Aged in cement. No sulfur.
The Mattioli family has been in the tiny hamlet the Roman's once called Collecapretta (hill of the goats) since the 1100's. For generations the Mattioli have been cultivating the rugged hillsides of southern most Umbria. Located just outside of Spoleto, in the near-impossible-to-find borgo called Terzo la Pieve, today's farm is a scant 8 hectares in total; 2 planted to a mixture of local olives trees, 2 ha of farro and other ancient grains and ~ 4 ha of indigenous old vines. Vittorio Mattioli, his wife Anna and their daughter Annalisa live together with 3 generations of their family inside the tiny village overlooking the valley below with the high Apennine Mountains and Gran Sasso looming in the background. The elevation is some 500+ meters and the soils are a mixture of calcium and iron rich clay with outcroppings of tufo and travertine limestone. Though the total production of Collecapretta is only some 8000 bottles in a good year, the family chooses to vinify many different cuvee's in hopes of expressing the vineyard and grape varieties at their best.
All the wines are made in much the same fashion: natural fermentation takes place in open-top cement containers without temperature control or sulfur additions. The wines then age for various amounts of time in glass-lined cement vats or resin tank before bottling in synchrony with the waning lunar cycle. There is no sulfur used at any point in the winemaking process. All farming in the vineyards is completely natural, only composts made from their own animals are used to aid vine health.
I am humbled to be working with this gracious family of true vignaioli in the heart of Umbria. Production is minuscule and the local demand and private, very guarded clients of Collecapretta easily over-fill the supply for these. We are honored to be the first to import the wines of Collecapretta beyond a 100km radius of the winery. Needless to say, small quantities are generally avaiable but don't miss out on your chance to get your first taste of these remarkably pure wines.
Diego Curtaz is a small scale vigneron located in the central northern Valle d'Aosta in the village of Gressan. With just 1.6 hectares of vines he is needless to say working on the familial scale of winemaking. His farming is organic, not certified (he doesn't want to be certified nor needs to be on his scale) and winemaking is natural with respect the local traditions (grapes are destemmed, naturally fermented in tank before aging either in tank or old botti before spring bottling). The Di Meun, which is roughly 50% petite rouge with the balance being a blend of local high altitude varieties from the Vallee (cornalin, fumin, mayolet, vien de nus, gamay, etc). This cuvee sees no oak aging and is his wine that expresses his highest altitude plot and is more fruit driven. The Valle d'Aosta Torrette DOC is Diego's most serious cuvee. 80% petite rouge with the balance always being the other local varieties this wine is aged for8-9 months in old botti before bottling. Deeper, spice driven fruit with that classic mountain smoke, this is his true 'terroir' wine.
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 and natural fermentations and low sulfur additions are key to their production.The OltrePo` Mantovano is, as the name suggests, on the banks of the Po` River Valley to the south of the village of Mantova.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.
Towering over the alpine city of Trento, at some 700+ meters of altitude, are the tiny parcels of vines tended by Matteo Furlani. Matteo is the current custodian of his family plots high in the Dolomites; he is a fourth generation winemaker.
After studying agronomy, not winemaking (he learned that from his father and grandfather) Matteo set his sights on working his land in the most natural of ways. Chemicals were never a part of what Matteo's predecessors used to tend the vines yet Matteo took an even more rigorous approach, incorporating biodynamic preparations and methodologies in the vineyards today.
Soils are surface clay over schist and broken granite, known as sasso dolomitico, planted in several small parcels surrounding the village of Povo, directly above Trento. Vines are trained in the traditional 'pergola trentina' allowing for proper ventilation, drying and sun exposure. Local varieties are prized above all though there is a small planting of pinot noir and chardonnay used to make the "metodo interrotto" sparkling wines.
Wines are fermented either in cement tanks or small glass demijohns with no temperature control, no yeast, no sulfur. To clarify the wines they are often racked into demijohns during the winter and placed outside in the snow allowing the wine to naturally settle. The "Metodo Interrotto" or Interrupted Method cuvee's essentially refer to an unfinished method champagnoise, bottle refermentation.
Roughly 50/50 pinot noir and chardonnay, these wines were fermented as still base wines, aged briefly until the Spring before they were bottled with unfermented must (conserved from the harvest). Following bottle fermentation they are aged 24 months on the lees; no sulfur, no disgorgement, no dosage.
Filippo Rizzo and his wife Nancy met over a decade ago while 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 had ties to Sicily and he was truly passionate about the preservation of the land 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.While reviving his own olive groves and vines, Filippo spent several vintages with his comrade and fellow winemaker Frank Cornelissen making wine high on the slopes of Mt. Etna. La Moresca is the only winery for roughly 50 square km’s and Filippo and his farm hand Gaetano work the land endlessly by hand. 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.
The history of the wines of Conestabile della Staffa is truly a window into the history of the Umbrian paradigm. Wine and culture collide under the guidance of master natural wine-whisperer, eno-artisan Danilo Marcucci. La Staffa is of his wife's family ancestry, this is made clear every time Danilo speaks of the property...he is merely a guest, married to the vines and his wife Alessandra's noble lineage.
The family history of Conestabile della Staffa is long and complicated, as one would expect for a noble family that dates back through the middle ages. The Conestabile families originated in Orvieto, the southwestern corner of Umbria just north of Rome. The Della Staffa family dates back to antiquity and is from Perugia, just several kilometers from the winery.
An arranged marriage in the 1700’s brought together these two important and noble families, both interested in consolidating land and influence in what was a very poor region. During its heyday in the 1800's, the Conestabile della Staffa property totaled over 700 hectares of mixed agricultural land, of which over 100ha were under vine in traditional 'promiscuous' agriculture. During this period, in the late 1800's and early 1900's, Conestabile della Staffa was the most important social cantina in the Trasimeno-Perugino area; at its height they produced over 10,000 hectoliters of wine per vintage. You can see remnants of this historic winemaking in the castle/homestead located at the top of the hill in the village of Monte Melino.
In the 1920's the hamlet of Monte Melino was home to over 20 small families, each relatives of the Counts of the Conestabile della Staffa. Danilo's wife, Alessandra is the descendant (great granddaughter) of one of these Counts. The village essentially was a self-sufficient commune/fiefdom at that point. Work and profit sharing among the families was divided equally in all sectors of the farming; raising cows, growing and drying tobacco, making wool & silk, a cobbler, a school, a metalworker, and of course olive oil and wine.
In the post-World War era wine production dramatically decreased due to the reduced workforce for farming as people moved into the cities. The last produced vintage from the old cantina was in 1956. From 1956 until 2015 no wine was produced on the property, instead the grapes were sold off to the local co-op for this entire period.
Today Conestabile della Staffa is literally being reborn, re-envisioned by the work of Danilo Marcucci. It's an undertaking of epic proportions. Over 12 hectares of vines, many of which have been in disrepair for over a decade, but were planted in the early 1970's. Luckily the land was never touched by chemicals.
The wines are made in the most natural way, adhering to methods that Danilo has learned over the course of 20+ years of winemaking and farming experience from some of Italy's great 'masters' (Lino Maga, Eduardo Valentini, Cappellano, Vittorio Mattioli and others). Native grapes (grechetto, trebbiano, ciliegiolo sangiovese, Gamay del Trasimeno, canaiolo, sagrantino) are the backbone of the property, a truly inspirational project with a bright future. No yeast, no chemical corrections, no sulfur. "No technology", as Danilo would say.
Brioso Bianco Frizzante: Grechetto and trebbiano. Direct press, no skin-contact. Partial primary fermentation in stainless steel before early bottling and refermentation in bottle. Not disgorged. No sulfur. Crown cap finish.
Brioso Rosato Frizzante: Sangiovese rose`. Direct press. Partial primary fermentation in stainless steel before early bottling and refermentation in bottle. Not disgorged. No sulfur. Crown cap finish.
Conestabile Bianco: Trebbiano and malvasia. No skin contact. Natural fermentation w/o temperature control in open-top resin vats (500 liters). Aged in fiberglass and/or stainless steel. No sulfur.
Conestabile Rosato: Cabernet franc. Direct press, 'fior di mosto'. Natural fermentation w/o temperature control in open-top resin vats (500 liters). Aged in fiberglass. No sulfur.
Conestabile Rosso: Sangiovese. De-stemmed, 4 day maceration on the skins before pressing and aging in fiberglass. No sulfur.
La Staffa, il Bianco: Grechetto and trebbiano. Old vine selection. No skin contact. Natural fermentation w/o temperature control in open-top resin vats (500 liters). Aged in fiberglass and/or stainless steel. No sulfur.
Bianco degli Innesti: Extremely rare trebbiano variety; locally called 'trubiano'. A descendant of verdicchio from grafted (innesti) vines. Skin contact for 10 days, natural fermentation in open-top resin vats (500 liters) before pressing and aging in old barrel. No sulfur.
La Staffa, il Rosso/Rosso da della Staffa: Sangiovese, Canaiolo, Sagrantino. 10 days skin maceration. No skin contact. Natural fermentation w/o temperature control in open-top resin vats (500 liters). Aged in old (120 years old!) 1500 liter Hungarian oak barrels. No sulfur.
Rosso Due Colli: Old vine parcel (planted in 1955) Gamay del Trasimeno (which is actually grenache/alicante). 8 days maceration before press. Natural fermentation w/o temperature control in open-top resin vats (500 liters). Aged in old (120 years old!) 1000 liter Hungarian oak barrel. No sulfur.
When I first met Marco Sara I felt an immediate connection. Then we lost touch for a couple years but I always remembered his quite tone and deep rooted passion for wine -- and of course his inspirational wines. We were destined to meet again and work together as we do now.
They say that the wines a producer makes can tell a lot about who makes them. That they are a reflection of each other. The wine is like the producer and the producer is like the wine...a unique alchemy that forms when a farmer spends his or her life in the fields, cellar or on the wine route selling their product...this could not be more true than with Marco Sara's wines. They are quite, subtle, elegant and soft-spoken, you have to truly listen to them when you drink them or their secrets won't be revealed. Unlike so many things in the wine world these days, Marco's wines don't have any tricks up their sleeves or gimmicks to grab your attention. No, these wines rely on a listening to the silence and enjoying their intriguing simplicity.
As for the usual technical stuff, here you go:
Marco is a third generation winemaker, having taken over from his father some 15 years ago. Marco and his wife Sandra live among their vineyards, which are scattered around their village of Povoletto in the Colli Orientali of Friuli.
Farming is completely natural; no chemicals, no pesticides, no herbicides. Marco owns just 4 hectares of vines but rents an additional 3-4 ha from his neighbors and retired farmers in his village. Vine age is important to Marco, most of his vineyards are 'historical', having been planted in the early part of the 20th century. He has also planted his own vineyards in the past several years with ambitions of continuing his steady growth and preservation the traditional wines of the Colli Orientali...namely (Tocai) Friulano, Schioppettino and Refosco.
Winemaking is straightforward and natural with attention to every detail while maintaining local pride and tradition. No skin contact on the white wines, as is the tradition in the Colli Orientali...if you want orange wine go about 2 hrs west to the Collio. The white wines are direct pressed with a very gentle, slow pneumatic press before natural fermentation and aging in stainless steel on the lees until bottling during the Spring following harvest.
The red wines are destemmed, basket pressed and naturally fermented in stainless steel before aging in old barrels (5-15 years), generally 500 liter tonneux and bottling after 1 year.
I cannot emphasize how special Marco's wines are. They embody simplicity and subtlety while being firecly tied to their land and the person making them. They are true 'terroir' wines and deserve your attention, so seek them out and drink them up!
Wines we work with from Marco Sara:
Refosco (el Re)
Cabernet Franc (Frank)
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.
Paterna is a commune-collective-coop winery and fully functioning farm.In 1985 a small group of friends sought refuge from the encroaching tourism market that we know today as Tuscany.They began with a couple hectares of land and a dilapidated farm house, known locally as a ‘casa colonica’ (basically a self-sustaining village where contadini would live and work their land).Today not much has changed.Paterna continues has grown slowly over the years to what they have now, which is roughly 15 hectares of truly mixed agriculture.Today a group of three young couples guided by Marco and Tamara Scarpellini now inhabit the commune and work with their neighbors (old, toothless Italian guys) to cultivate grapes and many other local products (cheese, honey, salumi, etc).The farm is located at the base of the Pratomagno massif, which is an isolated corner of central Tuscany near the source of the Arno River outside of Arezzo.The elevation is quite high and temperatures in this micro-region are some of the coolest in Tuscany.Paterna works only with local, indigenous grape varieties and is has some of the oldest plantings of the exceedingly rare Pugnitello vine.The farm has been certified organic since its foundation in 1982 and goes beyond that by working completely naturally both in the vineyard and cellars.All fermentations are carried out without added yeasts and little, and more often zero, sulfur is used.Much of the winemaking takes place outdoors in cement vats without temperature control.
Fausto and Cinzia Cellario are 3rd generation winemakers in the village of Carru` on the western outskirts of the Langhe. The family believes in only 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 I would consider them Dolcetto specialists. Vineyard work is organic (soon to be certified) and all the fermentation take place with indigenous yeasts. Sulfur is only added in tiny quantities at bottling if necessary (a practice not common with a winery in this mid-size range).
Podere il Saliceto
On the outskirts of Modena in the tiny village of Campogalliano is the small estate of Podere il Saliceto. GianPaolo 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 petillant 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.
Hidden on the outskirts of Castiglion Fiorentino, in the eastern corner of Tuscany is the tiny farm of Marco Tanganelli. Marco is first and foremost an agriculturalist, garnering a regional reputation as the best source of advice when it comes to tending vines. Carlo Tanganelli, Marco's father, established an agricultural nursery over 40 years ago in order to preserve and propagate the local grape, olive and orchard varieties. The Tanganelli family always made wine, mostly for themselves and locals but didn't start to bottle and sell their wine until the late 90's.
Today Marco farms some 5 hectares of very old trebbiano, malvasia and sangiovese vines, with some new plantings being made in the past few years on some high altitude terraces far above the village. Marco's wines are made in the mold of the old-school Tuscan peasant style wines, yet they show the care and skill of a true craftsman. Natural fermentations, long elevage and zero or minimal sulfur are paramount methods of Tanganelli.
The two white wines, Anatrino and Anatraso both come from one very old vineyard that's about 3 hectares in size. It is believed, both by Marco and the University of Siena, that these are the oldest parcels of trebbiano and malvasia in Tuscany; many vines are nearly 110 years old and the entire plot has never been touched by chemicals or pesticides...a rare find anywhere in Tuscany or Italy for that matter.
Campanino is a mountain sanctuary high in the central mountains of Umbria. This refuge was founded over 30 years ago by the Baroni Campanino and created as a mountain reserve deep in isolation amongst the highest peaks of the Apennine range. Vines were planted largely on un-grafted, piedi franco rootstock on several extremely steep vineyard plots that now total some 4.5 hectares total. These are the highest elevation vineyards in Umbria, siting at 800-900 meters above sea level. A full biodynamic regime is used throughout the vineyards as at these altitudes any grape will struggle to ripen and frost/hail pressure is extreme. Soils are intensely laced with silex and quartz with dense clay laying over deep granite some 10 meters down. The 'winery' is little more then a bunker on the top of a mountain. Here the grapes are harvested, de-stemmed, vinified without temperature control or sulfur before fermenting and aging in cement and glass demijohn. The wines are bottled by hand with no sulfur additions often after one racking in early Spring.
The 3.5 hectare estate of Iole Rabasco is located in the village of Pianella, province of Pescara, in the heart of Abruzzo. The area offers a unique set of meso and micro climates particular to this north-central corner of Abruzzo; the Adriatic is some 40 kilometers away while the base of Gran Sasso flanks the western edge of the Rabasco property. Iole benefits from inheriting her family’s small vineyard and olive grove both of which are soils that have never been treated with chemicals.
The vines across the property, almost all montepulciano with a couple rows of trebbiano, are also quite old, 40 years average and rest at some 450 meters above sea level. Soils are calcareous clay mixed with alluvial sediment and fossil remains. Vines are trained in the traditional tendone style pergola, all worked by hand. Yields are kept low but not excessively low as Iole prefers her wines with more acidity and freshness than power and extract.
The story of Danilo Marcucci is not a simple one. He's not famous, doesn't seek the limelight, and yet is behind perhaps the most important and influential producers that is the greater Italian Natural Wine Movement.
Danilo is not a just a winemaker. He's a visionary, an enabler, a wealth of knowledge and experience gleaned from over 20 years of viticulture and cellar work. Marcucci didn't grow up in a 'winemaking' family, in the sense that his parents and grandparents indeed made wine, but it was for themselves, from their land and grapes...'vino contadino', farmer wine. As old fashion and simple as it gets.
As a young boy Danilo can remember watching and helping his rugged, Umbrian grandfather make the wine in the old fashion way...yet something was missing. During the post-World War era even 'vino contadino' had been infiltrated by 'modern' manipulations and shortcuts; selected yeasts, sulfur dioxide tables, chemical pesticides and fertilizers. All of which were sold dubiously to the hard working old-timers in their small vineyards while being guaranteed that the results of the wine would be the same but the labor it took to make it would be half...easy to see why people chose the easy way out...it's human nature.
Over a decade later, as an early 20 something, Danilo found himself once again entranced by wine. Captivated by the growing openness of 'International' producers...wine from France and northern Europe began becoming available in Italy for the first time in any tangible way. Danilo was in love, but not for long. He too was eventually let down by the amount of additives and correctives being used in what were being sold to him as 'the greatest wines in the world (ie Burgundy, Bordeaux, Champagne, etc). He needed to change something and he wanted to take action.
Determined to learn the secrets of 'true wine', 'real wine', 'natural wine', or whatever we call it these days, Danilo set out visiting some of the most mythic 'masters' of the old guard of Italian wine. Often times these were names and producers that only a few dedicated consumers knew of, truly cult producers. Remember; no internet, no Instagram, no publicity. Often just word of mouth is how the lore of these producers was transmitted. Today some of Danilo's great masters (Valetini, Maga, Cappellano, Massa Vecchia, Maule, Mattioli) are enjoying the limelight, but 20+ years ago they were almost complete unknowns. This was the foundation of Danilo's formidable experience.
Guided by his vision Danilo began his next project. Find producers, families, pieces of land that had immense potential, yet that potential was being unrealized. First, Danilo turned to his family's generation's old neighbor in the Colli Martani of southern Umbria. There he found the Mattioli family of the tiny but extremely well respected Collecapretta winery. He learned the ways of completely natural winemaking hand in hand with Vittorio Mattioli. From farming with only compost produced by their own farm animals, to pruning the vines to vinifying without temperature control, added yeast, enzymes...nothing. The wines were the purest he'd ever known and they served as an inspiration and a starting point for expanding his vision of natural wine with a fierce sense of local tradition, hyper-regionalism.
From here Danilo's journey slowly took more shape. Firstly with the alpine wines of Matteo Furlani, a young and excited producer of sparkling wines in the high Dolomite's of Trentino. Together they mastered the techniques of natural bottle fermentation, eschewing the modern technology that had taken hold of the valley below. Today Furlani is considered among the best producers of bottle fermented frizzante wines in Italy, maybe anywhere.
Next (circa 2006) it was to the southern Adriatic coast of southern Abruzzo, where Danilo had spent years learning the lands and wines of the late Eduardo Valentini. There he found an inspired woman, Iole Rabasco, at the helm of her father's commercial winery. They had all the right pieces of land, but their winemaking was completely conventional at that point. Something had to change. Together with Danilo's vision and Iole's courage, they sold off all the 'modern' winemaking technology in the winery, leaving only the old basket press, cement tanks and some 54 liter damijohns....materials you would find in a winery from the turn of the last century, and nothing more. Today, Iole is making some of Abruzzo's purest and vibrant expressions of wine; truly one of very, very few in her region, she's a true pioneer.
Now, Danilo is Umbrian...through and through. It's important to understand what being Umbrian means if you're going to understand who Danilo Marcucci is. First off, the region is, and has always been, a place of tremendous tranquility. Tied closely to the ancient and holy Roman Empires. The mighty Tiber River flows directly through Umbria, a fertile valley providing important agricultural land for millennia. It's also a tiny, poor, land-locked region where trade and contact with the outside world has historically not existed. It was a land owned and operated largely by monasteries and cloisters, not noble Dukes and wealthy merchants like their neighbors to the north in Tuscany. This all adds up to an Umbrian paradigm that is known for being suspect of outsiders, reserved and quite, resistant to change. Danilo at once is purely Umbrian, proud to be of his land and tradition, yet he is quite simply 'not normal' in the classic Umbrian sense. Danilo's personality is contemplative, precise and operates on pure instinct. This has allowed Danilo to guide so many great and inspired winemakers to forge new paths, change their old-conventional ways and break the mold to achieve greatness in their own work.
Today Danilo works with roughly 10 small-scale, hyper-natural producers, largely concentrated in Umbria but with extensions to the Dolomites and Rome. These projects and collaborations are intimately tied to one another. All the producers know each other, taste eachother’s wines, travel and learn together. It's a rare, nay nonexistent, element of Italian Natural wine that contributes to the overall betterment of all wines.
I first met Danilo on the phone. He called me shortly after I had finished my first (of many) visits with the amazing Mattioli family at Collecapretta. They had mentioned I should meet their longtime friend and neighbor, Danilo Marcucci. That he could be a great resource for a young and inspired importer. I've known Danilo for over 7 years now and not only do we work hand in hand but we have become fast friends. He is an unending fount of knowledge that I am grateful to have both in my professional and personal life. The rest, well, it is history in the making.