Wine belongs, together with bread, to the basic elements of European and Western food culture. Few products can boast so many millennia of history and leverage so much wisdom. The art of winemaking migrated to Italy probably in the second millennium BC. The peninsula proved perfectly suited to the cultivation of grapevines, so much that it was called Enotria, meaning “the land of wine”.
Today, Italy is still the “land of wine”, being at the forefront of the new trends that are changing the way we produce and enjoy this extraordinary drink. In recent years the production of wine has grown worldwide, but the main producers have focused on the so-called “international taste”, i.e. the taste of the wine produced from a few grape varieties that are well adapted to any climate, a taste artificially tuned to the average palate thanks to chemical interventions during the processing. The result is a wine tasting almost the same everywhere. This “globalization” of taste tends to erase the local memory, the wisdom and the traditions, only to make a mass product, technically perfect (in some cases) but without soul.
Against this trend, in Italy and elsewhere some winemakers have taken a different path.
Another way is possible…
When wine was first made some 8,000 years ago, it was made simply from crushed grapes that fermented into wine. No use was made of selected yeasts, enzymes, reverse osmosis, cryoextraction or powdered tannins – some of the many additives and processes used in commercial winemaking. Today, an informal alliance of people is determined to add as little as possible to their wines. This usually means no use of chemical pesticides to grow grapes, low-yielding vineyards, hand-picking, no added sugars, no foreign yeasts, no adjustments for acidity, no additives, minimal or no fining or filtration, no heavy manipulation, minimal or no added sulphites. Are we talking about ‘organic’ or ‘biodynamic’ wine? Not exactly. As regulations stand, organic and biodynamic certifications are primarily concerned with regulating the use of synthetic chemicals in the vineyard, rather than additives in the winery. By contrast, we seek to extend this philosophy to the whole wine lifecycle and specifically into the cellar.
This movement is a relatively new phenomenon and there isn’t yet any strict or legal definition. However, there is little abuse, because there is no financial gain in advertising your wines this way. And the main wine fairs specialized in this types of wines put in place very strict controls. But in the end it’s a matter of trust. A network of trust made by the many passionate winemakers and supporters of the movement. Probably the best way to test your trust is to visit some small wineries who share this philosophy, and to talk to the winemakers themselves. You will discover beautiful places, warm hospitality, and great passion, and you will understand the deep roots that tie these people to their land.
…but where does it lead?
At Casè we have taken this way. However, we don’t much care how our wines qualify according to some formal regulation. What we do care is to produce wines as carefully as possible, practicing traditional forms of viticulture, for a number of reasons.
- Health. Because of lack of research, we have no precise idea about the long-term consequences of some additives used in winemaking on our health. We prefer to stay on the safe side.
- Tradition. The importance of history and traditions in Old World wine heritage lies in the fact that it emerged before the era of modern technology, when winemakers had to solve problems using only natural means. Much of the pleasure we feel when tasting a good glass of wine comes from cultural reasons.
- Diversity. It makes sense that wines that are not manipulated reflect their vineyard origins better: they are a honest representation of a piece of land in a particular year. Therefore they enjoy an extremely wide range of diversity in space and time. Commercial wine on the other hand is more standardized, made almost to a recipe. And this leads directly to the last point.
- Fun. We don’t blame commercial wine. Commercial wine has never been better, thanks to the application of advanced technology. But we find much more fun, as winemakers, in trying to creatively obtain the best possible output under varying circumstances using only our knowledge and natural means. And, as wine consumers, we enjoy being surprised by unconventional solutions and unexpected tastes.