Producing grapes the “natural” way: the year 2015 at La Maliosa

The grape harvest has just begun with the Ciliegiolo and summer has already been preserved in the form of thin, elongated, skinny, very healthy clusters. Even the thick juice struggles to leave the crusher for the fermentation vat. It’s strong in colour and intensely fruity.

il Ciliegiolo

In the evening, although happily tired, I still feel the need to walk around the Santa Francesca farm, just outside Saturnia. It’s a dip in the dark, a necessary refreshment under a silent starry sky, where the concert of crickets and flapping of bats increase the beauty of the place.

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I think back to the summer just passed – powerful, imposing, long, without a drop of water. I so readily remember 2014, the year ‘without a summer’, with 21 days of rain in July. We’ve had two climatically extreme years that cannot be repeated, at least for a while, and which represent an opportunity to better prepare to commit to sustainable viticulture, to ‘natural’ wine, a strong witness to clearly defined environmental and climate facts.

In trying to best represent the temporal moment of the territory in the wine, the fundamental choices that the long drought of 2015 has taught us should include:

– the exclusive use of ancient varieties cultivated in their expression of acclimatised population. They are grown without water from artificial irrigation but must be skilfully managed with the available natural water sources

– locating vineyards in the most extreme zones for limited agricultural value

– soil protection, the management of natural rainwater, the conservation and enhancement of the soil’s biological lifespan

– cultivation with minimal intervention, a balance in grape yields that the year and environment allow.

– healthiness, authenticity of vintage, a complete testimony of the weather-environmental dynamics

We understand that the vineyard should almost never occupy fertile lands more suitable for other agricultural opportunities. That, to place vineyards, you shouldn’t undertake interventions that are variably devastating to the original soil such as levelling or massive earthworks, breaking down the soil and grinding stones. I still wonder why there aren’t regulations in the “Italic garden” that limit agricultural environmental havoc to produce not only a real wine but a commodity.

In the past, I’ve mentioned that we must tirelessly strive to nourish the earth, not the vineyard. ‘Good’ earth is found under a secular tree or in a consolidated woodland. In cultivating the vineyard, we greatly reduce the vegetal biomass that falls to the ground, exposing it to the sun’s power, the rain. The land degrades, loses its vital functionality. How can we? At La Maliosa, where the vineyard is located on extreme terrain to limit water and nutritional supplies, the cultivation technique is a totally vegetal closed loop. We don’t buy anything from the outside to fertilise or use animal manure. The land functions to retain water and biological life covered only with vegetal products grown on the farm. From the woodlands, we have come to understand that we must learn from this life source to get grape clusters with the taste of the place and the year. Confident and satisfied, we are reaping the year 2015.

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Lorenzo Corino

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