From surfing waves around the world to a passion for wine growing. In ancient Luni
After several travels on the Atlantic coasts of the Basque country and around the isles of Cape Verde, looking for the perfect wave, Luca Menconi got in touch with the world of wine growing almost for fun, together with his father Giuliano and brother Nicola. As of the first grape harvest in 2003, it was love at first sight and Luca decided to devote himself full-time to the newly set-up family firm Cantine Bondonor, based on the sunny hills near ancient Luni (La Spezia). As of that moment, Menconi started his life path in the vineyard and in the cellar, made of hard work, research and sacrifices. Today, Luca’s wines express the territory in its different visual, aromatic and flavour aspects.
Tell us more about Cantine Bondonor…
This wine producing company was set up almost for fun, when in 2003 my father decided to buy the land where the firm is now based. Coming from three generations of marble producers in Carrara, my family had absolutely nothing to do with agricolture.
The idea was to build a countryside residence and produce grapes, to sell it to various local producers. In those years, I was a 20-year-old surfer who was travelling around the world and, after a three-months trip to Australia and South East Asia, I came back home and my first grape harvest knocked at my door. It was love at first sight, as with a beautiful woman. As of that moment, I decided to take over the family firm and, after several maceration attempts, in the spring of 2011, the first label came out: Lunaris 2010 Vermentino DOC Colli di Luni. Thus, a period of tireless research and trials started, aimed at improving wine quality and building new projects, which generated labels. Apart from Vermentino, Lunaris, Rosso Atrum and Rosato Rosaluna, I produce two Vintage Vermentino wines: “Aegidius” and “Aegidius I”, the crus of the company.
How does the territory reflect in your wine?
The territory reflects a lot in my products. The Ligurian land is very harsh and difficult. The vineyards of Cantine Bondonor rise up on a hilly, drained land, rich in minerals and flaky rocks. The climate is mild in winter, but with strong thermal excursions from the moment of the budding of the vineyard to the harvest. The sea is quite close, at 7 km, and in stormy days, the strong northwestern Maestrale and southwestern Libeccio winds blow the salty sea smell across the vineyards. The mixture of these elements is felt in the glass: my wines are structured, with body and minerals, like the land on which they are grown, with an important alcoholic strength, due to the climate, and with a slight saltiness given by the sea.
In your production, you also have a Rosato, tell us about this choice…
There is no sure information about the beginning of the production of Rosato; in 1943, the firm Leone de Castris for the first time started to produce and market it in Italy. Its history is a recent one, but there are news of its production in many wine producing areas, such as Apulia, Abruzzo and Provence. From the latter I took inspiration to create RosaLuna, which is very different from the classical Italian Rosato wines. Harvest takes place in the first days of September, with nearly unripe grapes, in order to obtain a very light and feeble colour, good acidity and an aromatic bouquet which it would not be possible to get otherwise. In my opinion, Rosato must be a very gentle wine, maybe more delicate than a white wine, pleasant in the warm summer aperitifs and ideal to accompany fish dishes, particularly raw fish.
Atrum, a red wine in a land of whites: tell us more about this wine….
Atrum, together with the vintage white range, is my passion. I am nonconformist by nature, I like to experiment and create new products with character, as it was for Rosaluna. I believe that a high quality red wine can be produced even in Colli di Luni.
Atrum is the first child, the “illegitimate”child of Cantine Bondonor, because, despite the fact that the first official harvest took place in 2010, there were maceration attempts of Atrum after the harvests of 2008 and 2009. Atrum was initially processed in steel containers with long fermentation/ maceration phases on grape skins; in the next harvests, the long fermentation/ maceration on the skins was followed by the ageing in small oak barrels used for the fourth, fifth time, of a small part, so as to give the wine a slight flavour of wood, without completelty changing and flattening the characteristics of the grapes. As of this year, it will be aged in slightly toasted 1,000-litre barrels of oak. Atrum is a product which is suited for long ageing processes and, precisely due to a company choice, it comes out of the cellars after many years. Only since September 2017 it has been possible to taste Atrum 2011.
Communicating about wine is fundamental for a company, which cannot do without the Web. What is your opinion about this, including e-commerce?
Promoting and spreading information about a wine is maybe more difficult than producing a good wine. There are many excellent wines made by small cellars which are almost unknown. The Web is a global communication tool and nowadays it is almost indispensable in our lives. In the world of wine, obviously, the Net is very useful, but one must not think, according to me, that this communication tool is the only means for promotion; it is in any case to be considered an effective tool to get in touch with people, whom otherwise we would have never been able to reach easily, in order to create human relations and, in some cases, friendships. I don’t believe that in this sector, e-commerce is very effective, particularly when companies set up a page dedicated to e-commerce on their websites, except for aristocratic labels or for wines with good reviews, made by different guides and experts. In these cases, it is clear that the label is sought-after and bought. I believe that sales services which offer “multibrand” e-commerce portals are more effective, but only the most popular ones, precisely because, through their authority, they convey the quality of the product which they offer to the final consumer.