Among the wines produced by Lino and Serena Roncone, we find Vermentino Superiore, which seduced Switzerland
For a few days a year, at the beginning of February, the town of Sanremo becomes the Italian capital of music, with its famous Festival and its melodies, which are destined either to become long-lasting hits or to fall into oblivion. But for the remaining part of the year, other notes are echoing in that land, notes which speak of hard work and tradition, tasty and fruity and heroic notes. Notes which come from Podere Grecale, a wine producing company based in Bussana, on the hills around Sanremo, where quality wines are grown in the respect of the environment, through the integration of the most advanced technologies with traditional methods.
Podere Grecale was set up in 2008 and was born from the passion for vineyards, passed on by Lino Roncone, who planted the first vineyard in the area, to his young daughter Serena. Father and daughter, together, have decided to take up the challenge, without being afraid of the unavoidable initial difficulties, with the aim to produce wines which can express the character and the peculiarity of the territory to which they belong, wines which have the taste and the fragrance of Liguria. Three vineyards are grown by the company, all on chalky, clay soil: Madonna della Guardia, from where everything began and which overlooks the sea, Lone, trapped in between the hills which form a small amphitheatre, Collette Beulle, the most exposed to sun and winds. Three different environments, which required triple efforts and three times more heroism. But this did not discourage the brave Ligurian family. “Growing grapevine in a harsh territory such as the Ligurian one is difficult and expensive”, Serena says. “Mechanisation is practically impossible, all the major jobs are done by hand because in our estate the only help which we can have is a very small tractor . Furthermore, it is very difficult to find large plots of land in a single block, which means that, in our case, we have 3.5 ha of land spread out in four different plots. The small tractor must work on all four plots and often, moving from one plot to the other leads to a great waste of time. Finally, there are high management costs for the maintenance of the dry walls which divide each area.”
Therefore, the wine which is produced at Podere Grecale is more the result of human labour, rather than machine labour. Father and daughter take care by hand of each agricultural job, from cutting the grass to pruning and harvesting. This peculiarity leads also to considerable advantages, which are registered starting from grape growing: “It is much easier to have a meticulous attention for every vineyard when working by hand”, Serena says. “Each plant has always the care it deserves and a deeper contact, relationship is created between wine grower and vineyard. Moreover, working whilst looking at the Ligurian panorama is much easier.”
In the farming methods, Serena and Lino use organic fertilizers, natural grassing and green manuring, by which they preserve fertility and biodiversity. In the fight against diseases, they rarely resort to sulphur and copper and prefer to rely on the modern findings of organic farming. Thanks to sustainable wine growing, where innovation goes hand in hand with tradition, Serena and Lino have not been dominating nature, but rather they have been operating in harmony with it, preserving its resources and receiving in exchange gifts of love, which are represented by a vast range of very diverse wines.
Above all, Vermentino, for which Liguria is historically suited and which is here produced in four varieties: the classical Vermentino DOC Riviera Ligure di Ponente; Maèn Vermentino Superiore, coming from the vineyard closest to the sea, which gives it its mature richness and fragrances; Passito di Vermentino, which grows directly on the plant from the wilting of the best bunches; spumante Frizantin, refermented in bottles, the result of an experiment of old and modern methods. But let’s not forget Pigato DOC, coming from the inland areas; Beusi Granaccia Superiore, produced via the maximum ripening of grapes with an excellent exposure to the sun; and finally Moscatello di Taggia, ancient replica of Moscato Bianco, produced in few bottles, following a tradition which dates back to 1400.
These wines, which are the result of extremely deep harmony and passion, can seduce every palate. Not by chance, just over a year ago in Lugano, Podere Grecale joined Wine Champions, a competition between Ligurian and Swiss wines, organized by Liguria’s Regional Wine Promotion Board, and its Maèn was the winner. “It was a very pleasant and well organized event, we tasted all the wines blindly and gave marks”, Serena remembers. “Many restaurant owners, sommeliers and journalists were present. After the victory, many of them came to congratulate me, to express their appreciation for our Maèn 2015. It was a nice surprise, because we participated without many expectations. But we knew that our Vermentino Superiore would have made us proud, sooner or later.”
The success in Switzerland seems to have paved the way for Maèn – even if it is strange to say so, when we are talking of something which originates from such a steep territory – as Serena confirms. “The prize in Lugano was the first official acknowledgement for Maèn and it will always have a special place in my memories. After that prize, there have been others, such as the 4 Viti in AIS’ guide Vitae.” After that competition, Serena has been getting to know better the Swiss market and has made several positive remarks about it, starting from the great knowledge of Italian wines and foods. “In Lugano there are mostly Italians and there are excellent places where to eat and drink high quality products”, she explains. “It is a very interesting market which looks also for specific wines”. It is not a mystery that Swiss people appreciate heroic wines, since they also produce them, with the aggravating factor that Swiss wine growing is not only extreme, but must also come to terms with very cold temperatures. These are difficulties which Liguria, with its mild breezes and hot sun, does not face.