The history of the farm of Luigi Grillo in Monterosso, amidst wines, grappa and honey. And a medieval olive grove.
Far from the holiday-making crowd in Monterosso, Cinque Terre, on La Spezia’s Riviera, in a natural amphitheatre where the senses of sight and smell risk to get knocked out, there stands Buranco, a very charming estate. It is the farm of Luigi Grillo, his “buen retiro”, five hectares destined, apart from wine production, to oil, lemons, grappa and honey, where he has been taking care with love of the vineyards for 12 years, together with six other people, of whom five foreigners. He regrets that in Cinque Terre 30 years ago the hectares under vineyards were 1,200, and now they are 100, with all the consequences of this situation (hydrogeological instability, landslides…). Buranco hosts also a wonderful holiday farm. One of Grillo’s daughters, Mary, works in it full time, helped by her mother, Mrs Loredana. As the location is extraordinary, many foreigners (90% of the customers) come to stay in this slice of heaven.
Let’s go back to the vineyard. Thanks to its good position, a particular microclimate allows vineyards to thrive. The terraced hectares under vineyards are three. The wines which are produced are two dry wines: basic 5 Terre Buranco DOC and 5 Terre DOC Magioa (both vermentino, bosco, albarola) and the well-known passito sciacchetrà: 5 terre Sciacchetrà Buranco (bosco, vermentino and albarola) and a red wine: Rosso Buranco (syrah and cabernet sauvignon).
The wine growing activity is looked after by a well-known young wine expert: Gabriele Gadenz. Starting from the white 5 Terre Buranco DOC, it is a mix of bosco (60%), Vermentino (20%) and Albarola (20%). It is a golden bright yellow table wine. The influence of the sea affects the saltiness and the vegetation, particularly lemons, is felt in the wine. The fragrance of aromatic herbs is strong. The white Magioa (from the name of one of the vines) is a definitely more important cru, with grapes of bosco (40%), albarola and vermentino (60%). It is a very structured white wine with the soul of a red wine, golden bright yellow in colour. Grapes are fermented in three separate barrels with alcoholic maceration of the skins. Chamomile, field flowers and yellow-flesh fruits stand out to the nose, while in the taste it is very mineral.
The sciacchetrà DOC 5 Terre, once a family wine for important occasions, locally called “refursà”, strengthened by withering, is made from bosco grapes (80%), vermentino (15%) and albarola (5%). The production process is complex and long.
Once the grape is selected in the vineyard, the best grapes are withered for at least two months in wooden boxes, piled up in an airy, wide and dry room and are checked every day. In December, the grapes are taken to the amphitheatre and picked grape by grape by hand. The grapes are also crushed by hand. With the crushing, the spontaneous fermentation takes place and then there is the maceration on the skins for one week. The skins are separated from the must and the fermentation continues for another week. The finishing process is in steel and the ageing is in oak wood for one year. The wine has a great balance of saltiness, acidity, tannin content and sweetness, which allows it not to be sickly sweet. The colour is that of amber and topaz. To the nose, it is complex and delicate at the same time and one can taste exotic fruits and wild herbs. The mineral quality, the taste of ripe fruits and apricot stand out while drinking.
The red Buranco, with a red ruby colour, is fragrant with the smell of currants, but one can taste also peppers and flint, in addition to saltiness. Buranco produces also a classical grappa, 5 Terre and sciacchetrà.
Luigi Grillo hopes to start soon the works to build a new underground cellar. As regards the hectare of medieval olive grove (850 trees), it produces a delicious light and fruity olive oil. He is thinking to build in it a gym for the customers of the holiday farm. From the 250 lemon plants, he produces a Limoncino, typical of 5 Terre. In an area with such a peculiar vegetation, wildflower honey could not be absent.