It’s time for Superitalians

Two or more autochthonous varieties used together: its seems obvious but until a few years ago the blend with  most success was made with Sangiovese together with international varieties, today though,  on the other hand the need for identity, of originality, of a distinctive character, pushes wine makers towards new solutions which associate traditional varieties from the same territory, but there is lots more …

Valérie Lavigne, Donatella Cinelli Colombini and Barbara Magnani (Archive Donatella Cinelli Colombini)

Valérie Lavigne, the wine consultant  that Donatella Cinelli Colombini has brought from the BordeauxUniversity into her wineries Casato Prime Donne in Montalcino and Fattoria del Colle in southern Chianti, explains her conception of winemaking. Something opposite to globalization but however able to compete at very high quality levels in an international scenario.

Her reasoning starts with a question mark that puts a doubt on the very same concept of “international variety”. For the French wine expert

“Autochthonous varieties, when combined with the image of a great wine produced in this region, Brunello Sangiovese for example, are always cultivated at their northern limit, therefore where it is always a little more difficult than elsewhere to get a full maturity. It is in these conditions that the grape expression is the most original and most inimitable. The international varieties like Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon or chardonnay, when grown in Bordeaux and Burgundy are at their northern limit.The aromas of these varieties, in these circumstances are very unique and identifiable. Grown in warmer or drier climates wines produced can be good but not very great wines. Their aromatic expression loses its unique character.”

In other words the concept of “Merlot is the same everywhere” is for her pure illusion. On the contrary it is only challenging nature, in extreme conditions, that one reaches excellence.

But this is where the “terroir” factor comes into it, or rather the imprint, the distinctive trait of the territory : “It is having a recognizable taste that makes a great wine, the taste which is the specific expression of one or more varieties grown in a certain region. Without this authentic imprint of the terroir there can be no diversity. The search for quality is consequently, in my opinion, inextricably bound to the concepts of territory, identity and consequently diversity.”

Autochtone variety Foglia Tonda (Archive Donatella Cinelli Colombini)

This concept puts the vineyard in the position of prime protagonist, and brings with it a question: in which direction should we go?

“I think that it is the time to study a blend among autochthonous varieties, therefore to produce wines tied to a specific territory and consequently with a recognizable and inimitable taste. Why not imagine the effect of combining the colourful, powerful, low acid and very tannic Sagrantino with the more delicate, most acidic and less colourful Sangiovese ? It is the tannin quality of each that will guide the blend. But there are probably other ways to explore or deepen in all cases. What about Colorino for example?”

A courageous point of view, that of the French researcher, who in her opinions, shows years of research on wine aromas, carried out in the most prestigious wine university in the world. Her ability as researcher and as wine taster have led her to be chosen by the Head of the Enology faculty in Bordeaux, Denis Dubordieu, to constitute together with Christophe Olivier, a group of consultants who advise excellent wineries such as Châteaux d’Yquem, Margaux and Cheval Blanc. Valérie, is not an ordinary woman, but an export who’s opinion counts greatly in the wine world.

So identity is essential, and so is the protection of the distinctive characters of the grapes of a specific territory obtained also through a different rapport with barrels.

“The wood must not disturb this authenticity, it must remain a support, an element of complexity.”

At the same time the vineyard must be “eco-compatible to produce great wines”. In her word a strong no towards those who pollute using as a justification the intent of making great wines.

“No residues of pesticides not only in wines but also in soil, water and air, unspoilt and adorned countryside. A countryside which is clean and beautiful. The producers of a territory defend the environment investing in the economic, social and cultural future of their children.”


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