How good is this Sangiovese, Porca l’oca! Online meetings between sommeliers, aspiring wine experts and connected winemakers.

Foreword

“Porca l’oca” is a popular origin, typical Italian interjection indicating our feeling equally towards bad or good things. Examples: “This wine is outstanding, porca l’oca!!”, “this wine is terrible, porca l’oca”. Something similar to “What the hell”, but less vernacular.

Recommendations: don’t use it in an everyday talk with an Italian people: she/he would ask you if you have heard it from his/her grandma…

This quarantine time has taught wine lovers that passion never stops in front of complications: online tastings were born according to this reason. When you are member of a sommelier association made up by people committed to wine and moved by a “holy fire”, the tasting becomes a get-together: the screen metaphorically breaks. Moreover, if the producer himself tells the story of his wine, that is the story of his life, the digital meeting turns immediately in a reunion around a table, which is however driven by a melancholy whispering you can still feel the love of a friend you’re missing even through technology.

Before starting the tasting, domestic scene

Episode 1 of 6 (Okay, you’re right, you can see two bottles. Give me time, I’ve already told you that the Porca l’Oca is the protagonist of the day).

We were about to taste Porca l’oca by Cantine San Biagio Vecchia in Faenza, 100% Sangiovese, kindly delivered at home by Laura and Andrea, owners of La Vineria Sonora in Florence. As I was saying, technology is physically dissociating – and we will be forced to use it for who knows how long – but the warmth of this wine succeeded in bringing us together. Everyone was in his home but close to each other. The power of wine works once again. No doubt about this.

Amarcord: the Riviera in Emilia Romagna. A blast from the past.

Most of the kids born in northern Italy have spent one summer at least in Emilia Romagna region, once they have finished school. They were under the responsibility of grandparents, who looked forward to the arrival of the parents in the weekend, so that they could some rest for a couple of days, before starting again their baby-sitting activity.

Perdoname madre por mi vida loca: among systematic ice-creams and piadine, life with grandparents was wonderful!

I keep the vivid image of my grandparents running behind me and trying to put a hat on my head under the sun. I remember well my frightened grandma looking at me having fun among ‘big’ waves or estimating the hours passed by since the last meal or forcing me to have the afternoon snooze – that I only pretended to have because it annoyed me looking for another swim.

A mini-me indicating misterious objects in front of my beloved resigned Granpa, during summer in Romagna

We get started with Lucia, the producer who runs the San Biagio Vecchia cellar together with her husband Andrea, who explained us their story. Her heavily-stressed vowels, that are peculiar of this area of Italy, reminded me of my childish memories, those memories I will keep as a treasure forever, thanks to the little girl that has never stopped to have fun with the high waves. I can assume for sure that this wine in particular is the most Proust-style wine I have ever drunk before.

Lucia is so similar to her wine! My friends and I agreed while listening to her, seducted by her authenticity!

Now, a few words about the cellar: it is located on the San Biagio Vecchia hill, 200 a.s.l. Her six hectares are the “first window” on sea: this means that from this place we can see the sea, after miles of flattish land. The vineyards have been facing the medieval tower of Oriolo dei Fichi since centuries. Terroir characteristics: it’s a mosaic composed by sand from Pleistocene, red clay and calcareous clay, positioned a few meters from each other.

The grape variety which is the heart of the company is the Albana di Romagna, followed by Sangiovese, the protagonist of the day and the Centesimino, that I want to talk about as soon as I can go visiting the cellar. The company also produces a local variety of soft wheat, the Gentil Rosso.

Let’s go back in time….

…when Rev Antonio Baldassarri, the priest of San Biagio village, was the former vineyard keeper as long as, in 2004, he welcomed Andrea. He was a student in law, totally inexperienced in the field of viniculture but eager to discover the same smells he perceived in his grandfather’s cellar.

These are unmistakable signs of life, when it suggests you to seize the opportunities!

Andrea acquired a lot of experiences thanks to an old peasant called Mario and thanks to his uncle Giorgio: he thus became a real winemaker, a vintner who takes the responsibility of the vineyard and the cellar.

Then, after four years, Lucia arrived and gave a further sense to those ancient smells. She was working as a sophisticated-taste sommelier in the restaurant across the road. She quitted her exclusive interest for Champagne to live a slow, happy life with Andrea and their large family, that come together to help him in the vineyard. Once again harvest is a celebration, sharing and songs!

Pier Claudio Pantieri, I vindêma (They are still harvesting)

They are committed to freedom: the practice is to leave the wine reaching its full expression in a natural way. Grapes come in the cellar to turn into wine without technical artifices; low levels of Sulphur dioxide and spontaneous fermentations.

In their words:

We stay a step behind; our presence is beyond the corner

Why resorting to plastic surgery if nature has given you beauty? That’s the only philosophy one can adopt in winemaking.

Let me be clearer: the wine I’m introducing you today is a 2018 wine, about 6.000 total bottles produced every year, the grapes come from la vigna del pozzo, northern east located, between two woods with thermoregulating functions. At the same time, the vineyard is crossed by a layer that allows the vine to cope with extreme climatic conditions.

When the grape comes in the cellar, to fulfill its heavenly destiny to be transformed into wine, the turgid bunches of Sangiovese grape don’t undergo harsh extractions, the maceration is short, no pumping-over. The wine rests in steel tanks without oxygen and the emerges as the most interesting result of spontaneous fermentation; it now deserves plenty of attentions!

Thanks to an almost complete absence of tannin, that one can expect in a Tuscan Sangiovese, this wine is characterized by a special elegance.

Lucia’s Sangiovese is fine and straightforward at the same time as it releases scent of violet; the final of liquorice is refreshing and fairly savory.

Why this name?? Its meaning is ambivalent. Indeed, two goose are used to live in the wood near the vineyard and this is the simpler reason. Actually, we heard from Lucia that the first vintage was produced in 2014, a very unhappy year for Italian wine: uninterrupted rainfalls. The decline of aromas. Bad luck, porca l’Oca!

Let’s arrive to 2018… How good is this fresh interpretation of Sangiovese, porca l’oca! It reminds me of an afternoon spent with friends, sitting on the grass. Can you smell the itchy herbaceous aroma while eating a salame sandwich?  A joyful, thoughtless pleasure.

Lots of efforts in the vineyard,

a few simple acts in the cellar

letting the time doing what no one knows.

Freedom is the biggest lesson we can learn from this way of working. Freedom is the perfect blend of natural processes and the work of the man laboring with the wisdom of his hands.

This is the operating philosophy of a company madly in love with life.

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