Why wine travel? Well, that’s an easy one. Wine takes on the taste of its environment. Great wines are made from surly grapes, grapes that struggle to grow. The same grapes make living wines that taste different anywhere you go; it’s the wanderer’s drink of choice. This is in great contrast to Cola drinks, whose makers spend millions assuring everyone that their flavored sugar water will taste the same on a bus out of Managua as it does soiling a leaded crystal glass in a New York Trump bar.
What makes a winery something to travel to? Isn’t every winery pretty much the same? I know, in America there’s the flash and sizzle of the winery’s architecture, then the walk to the shed-like building to see the tanks and cellars in which someone suitably scruffy drones on about the vaunted nectar dribbling into the stainless steel vats and…it doesn’t take you long to notice the sameness between all these places, the sameness of the vats, the sameness about the philosophy of making wine in great quantities for those who might appreciate fine wine.
So screw sameness. Let’s think biodynamic, off the grid, water saving wineries using 3000 year old Egyptian technology. Let’s think of wineries that have rooms for you to stay amongst the vines. After all, why put a drive to the liquor store between you and the libation that respects the earth?
I’ve had the pleasure of dropping in on some pretty surprising places on my wanderings through Italy. I think you might get a kick out of these 5 wineries that set themselves apart from the usual purple beverage corporations.
Valentina Passalacqua: A Bio-dynamic Surprise in the Gargano of Puglia
Valentina Passalacqua’s brand new winery rises like a noble version of a Masseria gleaming in the Puglian sun. As we drove following its rounded contours, it said to me, “This is not your usual farm upon which grapes are grown and made into wine without fanfare. The coddled wines poured here will sparkle with expensive clarity, being squeaky-clean versions of what international palates will find attractive enough to invest in.”
But then you hear Ms. Passalacqua’s part of the story and everything is suddenly better as we’re back to the dirty professions: farming, mining, extracting, psychology…
I believe my wines reflect my temper both in substance and in form. They are strong, firm, authentic, disheveled, without tricks, pleasant and long-lived wines. They are able to stimulate memories as those related to the stones which characterized those lands or related to the sea breezes which coming from the sea cooling the summer nights; or those related to the wind which dry plants. They are wines sons of the vine which draws juice from the flavor of this area located at 200 meters above sea level, on loose soils, dry and poor. They are wines that know how to thank the work done every day between the rows; they thank the sun that warms the fruits in the daylight; they thank the cool nights – peculiar of Gargano – enabling a temperature range unique and unrepeatable.’ Valentina Passalacqua
Here, for example, is what you might call an excavation wall. It’s part of the cellars.
The winemaker’s favorites? A white made from falanghina grapes called Cosi’ Com’e’, which means it is as is. The “autobiographical red is called Cosi Sono, it’s like that, and is made from the local Nero di Troia grape.
I leave you with a picture of the wines in proper celestial order. Not to mention the promise that you’ll soon be able to stay inside the stately winery building in rooms that reflect the wines and the home of their roots in the rocks and soils of the Gargano.
Valentina Passalacqua societá agricola
Località Posta Nuova
71010 Apricena – Foggia Province, Italy
Salcheto Winery: Organic and Off the Grid in Tuscany
The road to Salcheto winery is a bit of a challenge. You’ll have to go slow. It will prepare you for the stunning view of Montepulciano you get as a reward when you’ve arrived.
Then you stumble out of your car and see this:
You’re walking on the roof. Or is it the observation deck? The little bubbles are the openings that allow light to pass through tubes to the lower levels of the cellar. Between solar power to run the computers during the day and the use of bio fuels which they produce from the waste of the fields the winery is totally off the grid. It’s the first winery, in fact, to certify the carbon footprint of a bottle of wine. There’s even a carbon footprint calculator on the website so you can see how much carbon it takes to get that bottle to your door.
Be aware that you don’t have to take a tour and tasting and hit the wild and narrow road right away. You can have a bite to eat (simple food that might have been consumed by vineyard crew, expertly sourced) in the enoteca:
If you want to stay longer, you can bed down in a 13th century farmhouse smack in the middle of the wine estate. Sleep tight.
Via di Villa Bianca, 15
53045 Montepulciano (SI) – Italy
Madrevite: Etruscan Tombs, Heritage Beans, and a Strong Sense of Community in Umbria
Madrevite is one of those feel-good stories. The young’uns transform grandpa’s winery into a place that makes fine wine using some indigenous grapes in addition to bulk vino sfuso for grandpa’s customers. In addition, they’ve opened the winery and the Etruscan tombs on the property for community visits and special events. They’ve also thrown their new wineries weight behind the revival of Fagiolina del Trasimeno, a slow-growing bean favored by the Etruscans that you don’t have to pre-boil and have oodles of taste.
Read all about it: Madrevite.
Tenuta del Barco: A Winery in Your Masseria in Puglia
It’s been a while since I’ve enjoyed the pleasures of Tenuta del Barco. It featured a masseria that hadn’t been restored to death; you could eat in the animal stall and see the little room where the owners could fix dinner in the winter, warmed by the body heat of their animals. Of course they’ve cleaned it up some from those olden days…
There is also a pine wood and cabins to stay in if you wish, all near the sea and the establishment’s private beach.
The Tenuta keeps getting larger. Last time we were there there were plans for a huge winery right on the premises, using an ancient technique derived from the Egyptian practice of using papyrus to clean the water supply. Now there are ample wines to taste: four reds, a white and a rosé.
So if you like great cooking and need to have a winery close by so that you don’t always have to drive to one to replenish your vacation supply, the Tenuta del Barco would fit the bill for sure.
Tenuta del Barco
S.P. 123 Pulsano – Monacizzo, Marina di Pulsano, Salento
Cà du Ferrà : Liguria Relax
If you take up work in the tourist biz it doesn’t take you long before you notice that while Americans can’t seem to resist take liberties with the Italian language and its easy-as-pie-but-not-easy-enough-for-Americans pronunciation, Italians fight back by using the word “relax” as a noun. It makes an odd kind of sense, since verbs usually denote action and “relax” is rather the opposite of that, but to each his own. Relax is an art form in Italy, stai calma.
Cà du Ferrà is “a farm and relax” on the Italian Riviera in Liguria, not far from the Cinque Terre and much more relaxing. The owners care mightily about the health of the land and have begun to grow organic grapes on the undulating terraces of the farm and are planting more. Among the staked vines, in little micro-locations where grapes might not flourish, you’ll find blackberries staked and treated the same way—to be used in organic ice cream. Yes, those bramble bushes you hack away at before they take over your backyard in California are treated like fine vines at Cà du Ferrà.
And the grapes, the blackberries, and the guests of the B&B all have a view of the sea.
Some of you will ask for credentials before wanting to stay in a “farm and relax”. Soooooo, here:
Cà du Ferrà Farm & Relax in Bonassola, the closest Agritourism to the sea of the Liguria Region, was awarded by the Regional Tourism Councillor Giovanni Berrino with a prize as the most appreciated Agritourism of the Liguria Region. In fact, the Agritourism has won the 1st place in the overall standings TripAdvisor Farm Liguria and now ranks among the ten best Farm in Italy. ~ CA’ DU FERRA’ FARM & RELAX IN BONASSOLA AWARDED THE BEST AGRITOURISM IN LIGURIA!
Sbaffi – Sparkling Wine and Music in Le Marche
Italian brothers find an ancient grape, then find an ancient recipe for sparkling wine that existed 50 years before Dom Perignon saw his stars, and put them together to make a new wine experience from old traditions. Then, being musicians, they bring music to recent earthquake victims in the Le Marche region. If you want to visit a tiny winery in a region that’s only lightly touristed, this is the one.