<< Hey Gianfra, how xea? >> I ask.
<< Continuous anxieties >> says Gianfranco just before being interrupted by one of the guys who are helping him with the harvest. The rains of this period have meant that some varieties such as garganega are unable to reach the sugar content necessary for harvesting.
But let's take a step back. When I was living in Brussels with some friends I went to a festival of natural wines and craft beers called "Rebel Wines and Beers". As soon as I saw some producers from Veneto, obviously I didn't miss the opportunity to go and talk to them and it was there that I met Gianfranco Mistrorigo, winemaker of the Santa Colomba winery. After several years abroad, don't ask me why, the garganega had gone off my radar. As soon as I tasted Gianfra's Gagà I had a flashback that took me back to Sunday lunches when my father offered me local artisanal wines, now called natural, based on Garganega. After the Gagà it was the turn of the Beginner and the Moro, respectively a sparkling white wine with a base and a red aged in barrique. I recommend you try them both if you haven't already. Continuing with the ciaccole that day I then discovered that we had both attended the Agricultural Technical Institute of Lonigo and that we shared the same vision of sustainable agriculture and natural vinification with little or no intervention by the winemaker. After that first meeting I always went to visit him in the cellar every time I returned to Italy and a beautiful friendship was born which then brought his wines to our shop.
But let's go back to our visit to the cellar, which begins while they are making the pumping over for the “bâtonnage” which consists in leaving the wine on the lees, ie in contact with its fine or noble lees. The purpose of this operation is to give more aromas and intensity of flavor to the final wines. << In two weeks, as if I were not already busy enough for the harvest, I will go to Paris for 3 evenings with restaurateurs and retailers >> he tells me and satisfied he shows the novelty that will be released this year: a wine made from macerated Garganega grapes that falls into the category of orange wines. A style of wine increasingly appreciated abroad that is not yet widespread in our country. I have been lucky enough to taste it several times during its evolution over the last year and it is truly an excellent wine (Given the limited number of bottles I will try to convince Gianfra to give me some so that you too can taste it).
Gianfranco then goes back to talking about the harvest. << The temperature today is excellent for harvesting, the problem is rain. I collected all the reds, it's the whites that worry me >> he tells me, and then continues with the legendary phrase << wait, I'll let you taste something >>. At that point I already know that, in addition to the excellent wine that I will taste, we will launch into a very interesting conversation during which I will learn something new. He is thinking of testing resistant vines, obtained from natural crossings of different varieties, which would drastically reduce the treatments (copper and sulfur that are allowed in organic). I taste the wine and I must say that the result is very interesting, especially considering that that wine would have a very low environmental impact for the reasons just mentioned.
As every time we end up talking about the vision of natural wine and this time it is the turn of maceration. He does not denigrate it, but he does not like the exaggeration of this practice as according to him it hides the essence of the vintage. You must know that Gianfra's goal is to bring the essence of the vineyard and the territory back into the bottle, intervening as little as possible. In its wines you will find aromas and flavors that will have different nuances from one year to the next, but one thing will never change: high quality.
<< Secodo bottle it for you? >> he asks me giving me a glass of “Passito?”, his passito wine that always strikes me for its extremely pleasant sweetness, not entirely cloying as often happens with that kind of wines. << They tell you that you have to manage the fermentation, stop it with sulfur or cold, so as not to increase the alcohol content too much. However, I use sulfur dioxide very little and only if necessary and as regards the cold I can manage it but then if the final consumer does not keep the wine in the right way I do not know how it can evolve. I let the fermentation go naturally before bottling. If I see that there is a need for sulfur, I put a maximum of 30 mg / l of it >> Think that organic allows from 100 to 150 g / l depending on the type of wine. I have always been struck by Gianfranco's firmness in not compromising when it comes to intervention in the cellar and this is allowed by his experience in the wine sector gained in the various harvests made in other wineries before relaunching Santa Colomba.
We then fall on the problem of the market price of grapes and how much it has dropped over the years. Keep in mind that for a small producer it is always a risk to bottle wine as they do not know how the market will go the following year, but unfortunately they have no other choice. << If I sell the Garganega grapes to third parties, they give me 20 cents per kg. With natural wines the average yield ranges from 50 to 100 quintals per hectare, just do the math to understand that it would not be sustainable. I should have very high yields to keep up with the costs but I define the result of that grape ... forget it! >>I'd be there talking all evening but it's time to go. We load the wine in the van and leave Gianfra to the last jobs of the day. He greets me saying << I promised my wife that I would come home at 19:00 tonight >>. It's always nice to visit Gianfranco. I already want to come back and visit him, because I come out of Santa Colomba more and more enriched than when I got there.