Reportage of the last two days of the AIS Master Course, between Riomaggiore and Campiglia
What is there behind a glass of wine from Cinque Terre? This is the question which has accompanied the meetings of the territorial educational Master Course on vine varieties and territories of the Park. Whilst walking along the rows of the vineyards and the pergolas, whilst listening to the histories of the producers and looking at their hands, one discovers the complex cultural value hidden behind their wine of Cinque Terre.
After the first two meetings in Manarola and Monterosso, the third day of the Master Course started at the foot of the hill which leads to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Montenero in Riomaggiore, in the company of Orlando Cevasco, from the farm Azienda Vitivinicola Cantine Litàn. We huddle up in a small parcel of land, while looking at the vineyards of the farm which stretch along Costa de Sèra, as Orlando talks about his project: “It was the desire to bring the Garden of Litàn ( as Grandpa Giulio used to call it) back to life which led us to start this adventure in 2000.”
Being a wine grower in Cinque Terre is really an adventure. Even before preparing the soil, planting the layers and following the growth process of the vineyard, we must get to work to recover the abandoned land. “As of the first day, we have been busy with the tireless job of recovering the vineyards”. This is also the duty of a wine grower, according to Orlando. “The people from Cinque Terre are farmers, not fishermen. The terracing was created first, and then the villages were built.”
We taste, among others, Costa de Sèra 2014. At first sight, it appears clear, with a straw-yellow colour, while the nose smells fragrances of Mediterranean scrub and citrus fruits. The taste reveals a distinct freshness, as a whole gentle and delicate.
We leave the hill of Montenero to climb down towards the vineyards where, among very low pergolas and aromatic herbs which follow along the path, we find all the scents of Costa de Sèra.
We leave Riomaggiore behind us and arrive in the afternoon at the Cellar of Walter de Battè, a building entirely made of local sandstone dating back to 1860, just above Campiglia, the last village of DOP Cinque Terre. We hear Walter repeating: “ take the territory inside the glass” and we understand that behind these words, there are years of study on the structure of the soil, on the vine varieties which are most suited to the microclimatic conditions of the area and on the ideal oenological approach to exalt the peculiar features of the grapes.
From this research, the idea was born in 2002 to enhance the red seaside vine varieties with Çericò, the red wine of Cinque Terre. Çericò, with 85% Granaccia, a native vine from the northwestern areas of the Mediterranean, and 15% Syrah, looks dark, ruby red, going towards garnet colour. The nose smells spicy, balsamic and mineral notes, which are confirmed in the taste. A deep, elegant wine with a great structure.
On white wines, Walter expresses a clear opinion: “throwing away the skins means to throw away the territory, because grape skins are the territory.” That’s why he has chosen the skin maceration process also for white wines. According to Walter, this long contact brings to the glass the strong connection of the wine with a place, its history and its terroir.
The last day of the Master Course takes us just above the village of Riomaggiore, in the valley of Possaitara, where there is the largest parcel of the vineyards of Azienda Agricola Possa. The two hectares of vineyard of Heydi Bonanini, the owner, are spread on the slopes of the various hills, from Volastra to Schiara. We go down following the perimeter of the dry walls, patiently rebuilt along the years, until we reach a small house, from where we can admire the vineyards which dive into the sea.
We taste the wines: the saltiness and mineral quality remind of the wind and the sea which we face, while the nose smells distinct scents of broom, rosemary, myrtle, which take us back to the fragrances which are around us, as we walk in these vineyards. It is the terroir which talks on behalf of Heydi. From the whites Er Giancu and Cinque Terre DOP, both left to macerate on the skins ( the first for nearly five days, the second for 24 days) , to Rosato, Sciacchetrà and Passito Rosso, Heydi’s wines are non-filtered, sincere and determined to represent a hard and unique territory.
In the afternoon, we go back to Riomaggiore, to the small cellar of I Magnati, where Riccardo Fino, the owner, is waiting for us. Riccardo goes straight to the point, just like his wines. He talks about Cinque Terre DOP, 1,500 bottles per year. A precise, soft wine, produced classically in white, without temperature control.
He takes us quickly to the company jewel: Passito and its variations. It starts from Sciacchetrà, Bosco grapes and a very selective harvest and passes through the old ritual of removing the grapes by hand, one by one, to leave the grapes to wither in a humid and airy environment. Once the wine making process is completed, Sciacchetrà is left to rest in oak barrels for at least 18 months. The final colour is dark amber, thick and full-bodied to the taste. Then there is Passito Rosso, the illegitimate and younger brother of the famous Sciacchetrà, made with the grapes Canaiolo, through early harvest and withering. Finally, we taste a project which Riccardo has decided not to market for the time being, Passato sulle Bucce.
“We have recovered an old tradition of the farmers of Cinque Terre”, he tells us “while they were making Sciacchetrà, of which they always sold almost all the bottles, they reused the discarded skins and put them to re-ferment with more wine”. Now, Passato sulle Bucce has a yellow amber colour, the almond-like scent of passito and the sweet taste of memories.
A few steps away, we conclude our day in the cellar of Andrea Pecunia, from Azienda Agricola Terre Sospese. From the very start we understand that Andrea is an independent wine maker. Somebody asks how much is the overall area of his vineyards, he answers ironically: “luckily you are asking in metres, usually they ask me in hectares and I understand how much work must still be done to make people understand this territory.” Only one white wine, handcrafted and “primitive”. From a blend of Vermentino, Albarola and Bosco, the white wine of Terre Sospese is processed according to an approach which is respectful of nature, both in the vineyard and in the cellar, and is loyal to the tradition, with maceration on skins and the use of only native yeasts. Before bottling, the wine stays for 9 months in terracotta amphoras. The result is a wine which is different each year and which represents in the glass the impact of the seasons and of the natural events on the life cycle of the wine. It looks sharp golden, with citrus scents, mineral and aromatic fragrances to the nose. A powerful wine which gets discovered little by little.