Winery of the Week: Organic Winemaking In Calabria – Azienda Vinicola di De Luca Vincenzo

Cantina De Luca

As yesterday was Earth day and I now write for the Organic Wine Journal, I have been thinking a lot about organic products, what we can do to help our planet and the like. A winery that I met at Vinitaly has been thinking about those issues for over 20 years. They come from an unlikely part of the country as well: Calabria. Calabria brings to mind many things but organic winemaking has never been one of them. In fact this winery, Azienda Vinicola di De Luca Vincenzo, is one of only two or three organic wineries in that region. The winery began producing wines in 1994. They are located in the province of Crotone in the town of Melissa. They work in the Ciro and Ciro Classico denominazione d’origine controllata (D.O.C.) areas of Calabria. Wines from Ciro and Ciro Classico are typically made with Gaglioppo, a grape thought to be of Greek origins. The Greeks, in fact, played a large part in the early settlements in Calabria. This region, as we know, is one of the most Southern Italian regions located in the “toe” of the Italian boot. I never think of Italy that way but I know it is a shorthand way to look at the country.
The core of the Ciro production is located in the towns of Cirò, Cirò Marina and Melissa. These ancient towns are located near the Ionic coast and benefit from wonderful sun and cooling breezes. They are not completely flat areas but instead have gentle rolling hills. The soil is a mix of clay, sand and calcareous deposits. The winery was founded by Abramo De Luca and is located at 300 meters above sea level. The vineyards have a wonderful microclimate with noticeable thermal excursion that allows the grapes to mature to full phenolic ripeness without becoming fruit bombs, not an easy feat in the hot clime of Calabria. Their winemaker is Giuseppe Liotti.

Vini De Luca

I tried a number of their wines at the fair, including a white, a rose and two reds. The white was called Donna Cristina and was made from Greco Bianco, a grape brought to Calabria during the period of the Magna Grecia. It works well in times of drought, perfect for this region. The wine was floral with citrus and stone aromas and flavors. It was rich and full-bodied thanks to lees stirring and this particular grape’s attributes. I also tried a rose, Donna Antonietta, made from Gaglioppo, the signature variety from Calabria. It had aromas and flavors of cherry and strawberry and an earthy, marine quality to it otherwise known as sapidity. Gaglioppo, they told me, is hard to work in an organic fashion because the grape bunches are so close together. Their Donna Caterina Ciro DOC made with Gaglioppo was a beautiful expression of the Gaglioppo grape with a cherry, strawberry, pepper, tobacco nose and similar palate. The wine macerates on its skins for 10 days and then spends two years in wood, followed by 4-6 months in the bottle before being released into the market. The final wine I tasted was called Melissa Ciro Superiore DOC and was also made from the Gaglioppo grape. This wine had more of a toasty, oaky aroma and flavor to it with the classic spice and vanilla notes and flavors associated with barrique aging.

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Italian Indigenous Varieties: Diolinoir Nero

Valle d'Aosta

This week’s indigenous variety from Italy actually has its origins in Switzerland. The grape variety was made as a cross from Rouge de Diolly and Pinot Noir. It was created in 1970 by Andrea Jaquinet. The grape has now been allowed in both the Valle d’Aosta and the Trentino. I found that it is allowed in an interesting Indicazione Geografica Tipica (I.G.T.) called Mitterberg from the Bolzano area. The other grapes that are allowed in the Mitterberg white, rose and red wines are the following: Cabernet franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenère, Diolinoir, Kerner, Lagrein, Malvasia N., Merlot, Moscato giallo, Moscato rosa, Petit Manseng, Petit Verdot, Pinot grigio, Pinot bianco, Pinot nero, Portoghese, Regent, Riesling italico, Riesling renano, Sauvignon, Schiava gentile, Schiava grigia, Schiava grossa, Sylvaner verde, Syrah, Teroldego, Veltliner, and Zweigelt.

I had never heard of Mitterberg until I started writing about this wine, or so I thought. Actually a fabulous white blend that I tasted at Vinitaly is a Mitterberg Bianco IGT, Manna from Franz Haas. I will write about the Franz Haas wines I tasted in a post tomorrow.

For today, that’s all the information I have about this grape variety.

As today is Earth day, I hope everyone is thinking about our planet and what we do to help preserve it.

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Wine of the Week: Conte Giangirolamo from Tenute Girolamo (Puglia)

Tenute Girolamo

This week’s wine of the week is from Tenute Girolamo. I met Piero Girolamo some three and a half years ago at a Vinitaly show in New York City. I have followed the family winery throughout the years and always make a point of stopping by when I am at Vinitaly. Harried as I often am at that large show, running from appointment to appointment, the Puglia pavilion always brings me a sense of calm. The same was true this year when I stopped by to try the Conte Giangirolamo. The person who served me designs the packaging for the company. He looked me in the eye and said, “relax. We’re from Puglia. You know the sun, the sea. I had to laugh because he was right and my wine experience, despite the inherent chaos at Vinitaly was all the better.

Their winery is located in the Valle d’Itria, the heart of the area with the famed Trulli. The Trulli are stone houses with round thatched roofs which are unique to Puglia. The Trulli and the town of Alberobello were declared a Unesco World Heritage site in 1996. The winery is located in Martina Franca, a town founded around 1000 A.D. The winery was started in 2001 and they own 40 hectares spread among eight vineyards. The vineyards are all located at between 350-450 meters above sea level. Their winemaker is Benedetto Lorusso.


This wine, Conte Giangirolamo, is made from a blend of Primitivo 50% and Negroamaro 50%, two signature red varieties from this region. The grapes grow in a vineyard at 450 meters above sea level in calcareous clay. The wine ferments for 15-20 days at controlled temperatures. It is subjected to both pumping over and delestage and then stored in 10,000 liter oak casks where malolactic fermentation takes place. It then ages in barriques for 18-24 months and in the bottle for a further six months before being released.

It was opaque in color with aromas and flavors of spice and red and black fruit. It was full-bodied and rich on the palate with rich, sweet juicy tannins that were enveloping. It also had quite a noticeable amount of minerality and sapidity or marine flavors. I thought it was a harmonious and elegant wine. The oak was not overwhelming either.

It would have been a nice complement to a traditional Easter meal as well. As today is Pasquetta (Easter Monday) and people are generally on a picnic “fuori porta” which literally translates to outside of the city walls but means somewhere outside of your home, this wine came to mind as a possible one to accompany a picnic with hearty fare. I gained three kilograms on a vacation in Puglia in one week a number of years ago, almost seven pounds, so I never think of their food as particularly light but maybe it was the company I was keeping and the hours at which they ate.

Giangirolamo is the name of a local legend who was responsible for bringing the Trulli to the Itria Valley and good governance to the land. The wine and its label pay tribute to this figure and to Puglia, made with the typical red grape varieties grown locally.

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Women In Wine Fridays: Ilaria Pettito from Donnachiara (Campania)


It’s been a very busy couple of weeks with Vinitaly and my Italian trip in the middle as well as the holidays. So much to tell but for today I wanted to post an interview with Ilaria Pettito from Donnachiara. I met Ilaria about four years ago at an event in NYC and have seen her numerous times throughout the years as she is always traveling and promoting her wines. I was able to say hello to her at this year’s Vinitaly as well in the Irpinia Pavilion. As always, Ilaria was lovely and gracious, just like her wines. The above picture was taken at VinoVip2013 in Cortina this summer.

I also think Aglianico is a great wine for the Easter meal if one is having traditional fare.

1. How did you get into the wine business?

I’m in the wine business since 2007 when I decided to give up with my career as lawyer. My mother some years before inherited the beautiful farm from the grandmother and she was producing wines.

2. What has been the hardest part of the wine business for you in terms of gender issues, if any?

I do not think that the difficulties were due to gender. When I started there were already many women in wine. Certain generally for a woman is always more difficult to be taken seriously in business. And I’ve always noticed the comments about my physical appearance before than the comments about the quality of the wines we produce. But this is a men’s problem, and it is not related to the wine sector.

3. What trends and changes have you seen since you started? What do you see happening in the next 5-10 years in your sector of the business? In Campania?

What I saw is that: in conjunction with the fact that the markets were becoming increasingly global, in the local market, the small grape growers began to produce wine, thinking that bottling and labeling was enough to become a winery.
This has created some confusion at least in an area such as that of Campania, where these companies have begun to market their products without knowing the right pricing policies and market dynamics. I believe that wine is a very complex field that should be dealt with a lot of preparation and corporate culture and not just having a good product. I believe that in the future if these small improvised realities don’t have real organization perhaps, trying to team together, only a few will survive in global competition. The future in this business is to do research, to increase quality, is sustainability.

4. What is happening in terms of varietals? International varietals?

The trend is definitely to bet on native vines. This is the richness of Italy and now each region is focused on typical variety. Of course the challenge is to introduce these wines to international consumers. It is a long process but I think that this is the future. Today traveling is much easier and everyone is wanting to know an area even from its typical food and wines, this is speeding things up …

5. What wines are truly selling?

I believe that at the international level France is still very strong along with the wines of the new world, Australia and New Zealand, such as Chile or Spain, that in some markets such as Asia, is stronger than Italy. But we are gaining market share in strategic markets such as the US. In short, we never arrive first, but since we do a good product and we are more competitive than the French, then we can carve out a good presence in the international markets.

At the moment, wine that cost very little is selling, and this is a great evil, unfortunately, the wine market is full of speculators, who do not like wine, but believe they can earn a lot around it. Fortunately there are still many companies who work hard and continue to convince the markets that good wine and very low prices cannot coexist. If I have to indicate what varieties, beside the international one, are selling well, I think all the good white wines from Italy, for instance, wines from the North and from the South, such us the white wines from Campania, and the Vermentino di Gallura from Sardinia, which is becoming more popular, or the Lugana from Garda Lake. Than of course all the reds from Piedmont, Tuscany and Veneto….for us with Aglianico and Taurasi is much more difficult everywhere.

6. What do you think about the level of wine education on Campania Wines in general in the US?

Surely the American market is very ahead to other international markets.
Especially in same States, it is easy to find also some very unknown varieties. But there is still a lot of work to do, because the US market is mainly based on sale off the shelf, and I believe that the final consumers know very little about the wines of Campania.

7. Do you think we are still too Tuscany and Piedmont focused?

Of course, but this is normal I think, it is everywhere. Piedmont, Tuscany or the Veneto started making wine before us in a professional manner and especially the wineries there are better organized compare to our territory not to mention the great work that the Regions have done to promote those products compared to the Campania Region.

8. Who is the average wine drinker today?

Wine is no longer a product just for aficionados but has become very popular among young people and among women.

9. Where are women going to be in the industry in the next 10 years?

At the top! I believe that wine is an area where women can really make a difference even at smaller level, in a small company I mean. We have a more professional and serious approach, we are more precise and accustomed to doing things in the proper way. We are consistent, persistent and patient….

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Lugana wines tied to the soil, culture and heritage


Nice piece Dave. Interesting comment about the salts dissolved by the glacial seas.

Originally posted on Wine Openers:

DECENZANO DEL GARDA, BS, Italy – The grand expanse of Lake Garda , all 51.6 kilometers (about 32 miles) of it, laps gently at its southern end where it surrounds on three sides the peninsula of Sirmione, a finger of land just east of Decenzano del Garda.

Luca Formentini of Podere Selva Capuzze in Brescia shows a visitor how difficult to work are the clay-rich soils in the region at the south end of Lake Garda.

Formed by glaciers during the last Ice Age, the lake not only moderates the Mediterranean climate of the region but also provides a near-constant breeze, warming in winter and cooling in summer, which makes a key difference if you’re one of the 120 or so members of the Consorzio of Lugana winemakers.

“Look around and see, we are 110 meters above the lake,” said Luca Formentini, whose father bought the farm that now is

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Winery of the Week: Mannucci Droandi, An Organic Winery From Tuscany

Mannucci Droandi is a winery in the Valdarno area of Tuscany near the town of Montevarchi. The Valdarno is an ancient wine making region and is part of the province of Arezzo. Wine has been part of Arezzo’s history for centuries. The people living in this part of the peninsula were the mysterious Etruscans. An official registry from the 15th Century indicates that wines from the Valdarno di Sopra (on the hills) were considered to be of superior quality while the wines from around the piano di Arezzo (in the valley) sold for a lesser price. In fact, in 1716 Cosimo III de ’Medici announced ‘ a “Bando” designating four areas dedicated to the production of quality wine, – Chianti, Pomino, Carmigmano and Vald’Arno di Sopra.

The Mannucci Droandi family has been farming their land for many years, but used to sell their grapes until the 1990s, when they began making their own wines. The owner Roberto Giulio Droandi and his wife Maria Grazia Mammuccini run the estate They have two properties: the first is the Campolucci that has 6.5 hectares and is located on the eastern slopes of the Chianti Mountains at about 250 meters above sea level. The family has owned this property since 1929 and its alluvial, sandy and silt soils are organically certified.

If you want to continue reading this article, please click here.

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Italian Indigenous Varieties: Dindarella Nero from the Veneto


This week’s grape variety is from the Veneto and is called Dindarella Nero. It is generally used in blends but can also be made into a mono-varietal wine. It has a very thick skin so is quite good for drying and for the making of Recioto.. It is often used in the D.O.C. wines of Garda Orientale, Valdadige, and Valpolicella.

I found one winery, Azienda Agricola Brigaldara, which makes a 100% Dindarella. Apparently it is a low-alcohol, high acidity variety that is good for both light reds and rose. I have never tasted it. They will be at Vinitaly though and I hope to have the chance to do just that.

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