Thursday, March 15, 2012

Garantito IGP: Sergio and Francesco Arcuri, Artisans of Cirò

This time Roberto Giuliani Takes the Stand:

The Cirò Appellation is probably the best known of the nine present in Calabria.

It has recently been the subject of considerable debate, argument, worry, and the taking up of sides for and against, because some thought it time to change the blend to meet the "needs" of the (foreign) markets: Gaglioppo by itself was no longer sufficient, they said, and indeed it was to blame if Cirò didn't sell briskly enough.

A flash of forward-looking "genius," this, that led to the decision to allow Gaglioppo to be accompanied by the standard varietals known the world over, such as Cabernet and Merlot (yes, the list also includes Sangiovese and Barbera, but it's easy to guess how many will use them).

Despite a great deal of protest, within the Consorzio too, the decision stood, and the required percentage of Gaglioppo was reduced from 100 to 80. Obviously, and this is an exclusively Italian problem, we devalue our products all by ourselves, and are the first to believe our varietals lack the quality and personality necessary to interest the rest of the world. We have seen the efforts to make changes of this kind at Montalcino, and also in Langa, where they were fortunately unable to change either Barolo or Barbaresco. And we wait patiently to see the same policies emerge in France, Germany, Spain, Portugal, etc....

Sergio and Francesco Arcuri's family has some of the oldest winemaking roots in the Cirò area, though this history almost came to an end when their grandfather sold everything he had inherited from his father. Fortunately their father Giuseppe, who had helped his grandfather cultivate the vines, loved them and the wine they gave too much, and his desire to return to winemaking proved stronger than the economic and health-related hardships he faced.

Thus he began to buy small parcels of land planted between 1948 and 1980 in the alberello or bush style, as tradition dictates. In 2005 they added 1.75 hectares trained to the cordon spur system, for a total of 3.75 hectares. The first bottlings were in 2009, when they finished renovating their father's cellar.

Sergio told me, "We cultivate vineyards panted in 1948 and 1980 to the alberello style that we have no intention of ripping out despite the EEU contribution of 18,000 euros per hectare given those who replant. Rather than give money to people who do so, they could give them to people like us, who care for them lovingly and with a great deal of patience. Cultivating an old vineyard takes twice as much work, all by hand.

"We don't cut corners in the vineyards, but do everything necessary to maintain the land and therefore the vineyards. We still use hoes to break up the ground around the vines, have never used weed killers, nor fertilizers, and our treatments are limited to sulfur and copper, the latter used as sparingly as possible because of the limited rainfall we get. The last sulfur treatment is usually 50 days prior to the harvest, which begins at the beginning of October, and is manual.

"In the cellars we still do things by hand; we ferment our red, "Aris," the way our great grandfather Giuseppe did, in an open-topped cement tank with submerged cap for about three days, without temperature regulation. For the rosè, which takes its name from the "Il Marinetto" vineyard, the grapes are picked around September 20; the must macerates briefly on the skins, and is immediately racked to cement tanks and kept at a temperature of 17 C. The vineyards are being declared officially organic (though they have always been cultivated organically) , and the only thing left to certify is the cellar." Sergio also told me how they settled upon their logo: "the circle is the imprint left by the bottom of a wet wine bottle, while the branches are the tendrils of a vine.

"I picked the tendrils because I think of them as the hands and arms of the shoots; it's exciting to see how, in the month of May, day by day the shoots, with the assistance of the tendrils, grip the guy wires and the canes, because in the old alberello vineyards every vine has its cane; I remember when I was a boy, watching my father break the tendrils and tie the vines with shoots of ginestra (the broom plant) where he wanted them to be, bringing order to the shoots, and I would ask "Why are you doing this?" And he would answer, "The shoots already have strings with which to hold themselves; they may not stay where you want, but leave them be because they are alive."

The Tasting

As Sergio told us, thy only make two wines, Cirò Rosso Classico Superiore Aris and Rosato Il Marinetto, both exclusively from Gaglioppo grapes. For the former wine, from the 2009 vintage, 2600 bottles, and for the latter, from the 2010, about 2600.

Il Marinetto Rosato 2010

  • Blend: 100% Gaglioppo
  • Alcohol content: 13,5%
  • Cellar price: 6,50 euro

Calabria boasts a long tradition of rosè wines, especially in the Cirò zone. Gaglioppo "en rose" has considerable allure, because it keeps its structure and energy, remaining quite recognizable, but gains fresh liveliness without becoming humdrum. Il Marinetto 2010 is garnet pink, an ancient color that brings to mind the evening colors of some freshly plowed grounds ready to be seeded. Nose with crunchy cherries, raspberries, red orange accents, pomegranate, and intriguing floral notes. The palate has nice fleshy fruit and vivid freshness; the tannic timbre reflects the vine that is the symbol of Calabrian winemaking, and all flows cleanly and pleasantly, stimulating salivation that will in turn stimulate the appetite, and we have no intention of not satisfying it!

Evaluation @@@ (83-84/100)

Cirò Rosso Classico Superiore Aris 2009

  • Blend: 100% Gaglioppo
  • Alcohol content: 14%
  • Cellar price: 10 euro

One can tell the style of Casa Arcuri is traditional simply by looking at the wine in the glass; it's a crystalline garnet quite reminiscent of the Nebbioli from Gattinara. The nose displays the aromas characteristic of the varietal, with ripe cherries, prunes, and spice, though there are also underbrush, ferns, hints of dried mushrooms, licorice, slight leather and tobacco, and an underlying sweetness that invites one to drink. On the palate is has very juicy, creamy fruit; one can taste the quality of the grapes, there's nice freshness and pleasant savory accents, while the tannins are perfectly integrated and do not disturb. A warm, long finish; everything is "classic" but in the positive sense of the term, there's nothing contrived from the cellars, just the grapes transformed into wine. One could call it a perfect example of the confluence of man, grapes, and land. I personally find it inspiring.

Evaluation @@@@ (88-89/100).

Published Simultaneously by IGP, I Giovani Promettenti.

We Are:
Carlo Macchi
Kyle Phillips
Luciano Pignataro
Roberto Giuliani
Stefano Tesi

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