This time Luciano takes the stand:
Lisa Gilbee and Gaetano Morella came to biodynamics though love. First of all that that grew between a young Australian winemaker who came to Italy for a stage, and later for their children, who were enrolled in the Sternian school of Manduria, the only one of its kind in the South. Thus, from the need to raise their children well came the desire to leave the lands they bought in Manduria better than they found them.
To begin at the beginning, in conventional agriculture grass between the vines is the first sign of abandonment. In biodynamic agriculture it instead indicates healthy soils.
Gaetano has me get into his car and we slowly leave the cement of Manduria to enter, as if in a dream, in vineyards, them Mediterranean scrub forest, and finally among the Alberello, or bush-pruned vines that yield 20-25 quintals per hectare , except in 2011, when yields dipped below 20 for the first time.
Lisa and Gaetano settled upon bush pruning because it is only by concentrating on the biodiversity present in the vineyards that one can think of the future in the currant, ever smaller global wine market. The relationship between bush and espalier pruning is the same as that between stone and cement houses. In other words, since the 60s cement has become popular because it's more practical, less expensive, and often dominated by organized crime, and therefore has devastated the hearts of a great many historic cities and towns. In like manner, the Alberello system is being fought by the authorities, who finance those who rip it out and replant to the spalleira system.
It is obvious that the selection of the pruning system shouldn't be dictated by ideology, but just as obvious that it shouldn't be legislated. Rather, it should be dictated by the land, climate and wine that one wants to make.
Now, with their more than 14 hectares, which are almost all together in a single block, they have the largest vineyard area in Manduria. And to return to our architectural simile, their situation is that of a stone house surrounded by cement buildings in a city.
Gaetano, son and grandson of farmers, says that their goal is to return to the craft practiced by his grandfather, following the foray into chemistry of his father's generation. Organic and conventional are not that different in terms of mindset, because they both expect the plants to feed themselves regardless. Byodynamics instead give the vines the opportunity to do so, but don't force it.
From their land in rural Manduria Lisa and gaetano make Primitivo Old Vines, a wine of considerable energy that is quite long lived, evolving with time.
In 2008 it was declared a Slow Wine. We enjoyed the 2009, which was still aging in bottle, as its release is scheduled for this July.
Oak and fruit are well integrated, the nose is rich with heady ripe fruit, hints of Mediterranenan scrub forest, and carob. On the palate it displays terrific energy, freshness, and length; it's concentrated but not heavy, sweet but not cloying, and has a long pleasantly dry finish that makes it easily pairable with foods.
Lisa and Gaetano's new project, given how packed they are in their garage sized cellar, is to build something new in the heart of the vineyards, to give their Primitivo an even better opportunity to express itself in a manner that's not forced, but rather natural, direct, immediate, and clear.
Another story of the South, where the vineyards make the best of its drawbacks: stubbornness and individuality.
Published Simultaneously by IGP, I Giovani Promettenti.