Ten years of wine
A new year, trying to take stock of the past ten years of my life
My vineyard was founded long ago, vines were planted about 100 years ago in Tenuta Belicello, but my life in the wine world has really started at the end of 2006, after my father died. Before that, I was involved in marketing, promotion, accountancy, and I used to help during harvest and winemaking, but had no direct responsibility in adopting any of the agricultural methods, nor in deciding any of the winemaking protocols.
When my father suddenly passed away, my heart was not only filled with sorrow, it was also overwhelmed by the concern of what would happen afterwards. And it was not fast, nor easy. Moments there where when I wished to just let it go, run away from Menfi, go somewhere else and find another job, maybe in the same wine business that was familiar to me: promotion, sales, organization.
I knew very little of viticulture, and even less about winemaking, and the mere thought that I should take that enormous weight on my shoulders was devastating. My mother gave me the strength to remain, and the faith to imagine that I could make it.
I started to plunge my hands in the wine one day after the other, trying hard to find in my land the motivations for a brand new life. I tried to learn from all and everything: from my winemaking consultant above all, the one who had worked with my father until his very last day, the one who taught me everything had I been able to learn. A very conventional winemaker with two mandatory points: extreme attention to terroir and a radical respect to the vine. He – born and raised in Langa - transferred to me his experience in making slow and long-living wines, his obsession for cleanliness, and his attention to details.
He is the one I owe everything to.
But that was not enough for me. I started to drink everything, never satisfied, always asking for advice and confrontation. I started chatting with all kinds of producers and winemakers (from big industrial tycoons to the stinky-extreme natural crowd) and I soon discovered that I did not like the wines we were doing, nor the way we were doing them. That was a horrible discovery.
It was 2010, and it was the time for me to walk on my own, and to do it my way.
A long way in front of me, not straight nor sweet. I experienced many sharp slowdowns and many u-turns. I started to experiment whatever I had not done until that moment: spontaneous fermentations, skin macerations, no sulfites and no additive winemaking. I have stuffed cow shit into horns, and fought with neighbors about burning borders. I have fermented with stems and no stems, with skins and no skins, with seeds and no seeds, I have made wine in all and every material I could put my hands on: steel, wood, plastic, glass, and fiberglass, I have made wine in new oak and in plastic buckets and in the lees bins. I have made stinky disgusting wines that went straight to trash, and not-so-good wines that I open once in a while when I am alone, telling nobody about them, trying to understand where I went wrong.
I have learnt to love what I do, and I have learnt to love to make wine with no consideration of any labels, or individual choices, or winemaking philosophy. I chose my path, which is now very different from the one I started to walk ten years ago. I still keep on asking advice to whoever likes to share their winemaking ideas, their choices, and their experience. And, that is still not enough.
A few months ago, I noticed a conversation on social media. I did not intervene, just watched. A wine producer was talking badly about my wines, he did not trust my work, he was not even going to give me a chance. Not a surprise, shit happens. I was just hit by these words from him: “I do not understand who changes her way to winemaking on the hoof”.
I was struck because I otherwise do not understand who always remains the same, who never asks himself any questions, who thinks he holds the revealed truth in his hands.
Making wine is an amazing travel, and the best thing is that you are never going to arrive to the end of it. Not even close. You can only raise your glass when you reach one goal, one goal after the other, accepting your timing and your rhythm, knowing that there is one more harvest in a few months, and that there is one more goal after the hill, but not knowing how you will reach that goal, nor when.
Ten years have flown away, and I feel I am just starting to walk.
I hold my father’s smile in my heart, and many wise advices in my head, and great wines that I love in my glass.