Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Vineyard Hopping - Prignano Cilento - Viticoltori De Conciliis

A hot August Tuesday morning. Cilento –Salerno province. I’m having a caffè with Bruno De Conciliis in a bar in Torchia, a 5 minute drive from his winery, Viticoltori De Conciliis. We are about to begin my Vineyard Hopping, Cilento edition. Bruno began our tour by stopping next to a church high on a hill where I could see his family’s various vineyards from a distance. Under the shade of an enormous tiglio tree, I saw how his vineyards are spread throughout the territory. And from this vantage point and throughout our visit to the vineyards, I imagined what it must be like to be a grapevine in the hands of De Conciliis.

If I were an aglianico grape, I could find myself growing in several of Bruno’s vineyards. Cuddled within the arms of a chain of mountains...enjoying the greenery.. the olive trees…the sea…I may have my home alongside an abandoned villa in his oldest vineyard (planted in 1979). My vines would go down deep into a compact, clayey soil with sparkling quartz. Sandy…silty…powerful. Or maybe in a vineyard known as Destre where the sun slowly sets between 4:30 and 5:00 in the afternoon. Here I would mature gradually. I could be situated anywhere within a 180° position embracing this hill with sun exposure to the north. I might even be found near Agropoli…close to the sea, where the air is fresh, salty, breezy and cool. I would ‘tan’ quicker here than any other location, logical due to my altitude…practically sea level with a western sun exposure.

De Conciliis would choose me for a variety of the wines he produces using aglianico. I might be harvested in mid August to become Selim, a spumante brut, the first spumante made with aglianico in Campania. Or maybe Donnaluna Aglianico DOC where, after vinification in stainless steel, I would rest about 1 year in a barrel. Maybe Naima IGT---De Conciliis’s grande elegant red. A red full of power and structure. Maceration 20 days in stainless steel before passed to a barrique (one that is anywhere from 4 to 10 years old), then to a larger barrel, back to stainless steel for six months before I find my place in the bottle for another 6. A Naima Riserva -1 year in stainless steel, 2 years in barrique and then another 18 months in a large barrel before I would be placed in a magnum size bottle. I might even be chosen for one of De Conciliis’s ‘experiments’ in his Fabbrica dei Mostri as he fondly calls it, his little shop of horrors. I could become Lato Scuro/Dark Side where I would ferment with Fiano to soften my tannins a little and give me a touch of fruity fragrance.

Fiano…If I were Fiano, I too, would have a various selection of vineyards to call home. My favorite vineyard, however, would have to be Destre. This location mentioned above, for its soil composition and its sun exposure is the best that De Conciliis has for me to thrive in. It is here where I would develop the elegant characteristics to become a Donnaluna Fiano DOC, gritty (as the brochure describes), but gentle. I would be harvested in late August and spend 8 months in stainless steel before I’m bottled. Perella IGT is another option for me but I would need 12 months in stainless steel or 12 months in a large barrel before waiting another year in the bottle. Or Antece IGT…that would be nice. I would ferment with my grape skins, then it’s 2 years in French oak barrel…12 months in the bottle.

Whichever grapevine or grape, I would be left alone to do my job…Alone in the vineyard, where I may have to put up with weather conditions such as lack of rain or hail. I would do my best to fend of diseases due to the fact that I am not touched by chemical products. I would be left alone in the cantina…Bruno will not add yeast, water, or anything else that might alter what I have to share. The barriques that I rest in will be older ones so that I will not be influenced by vanilla or toasty aromas. As an aglianico in some cases, during my aging, I may even get up to a 17% alcohol content. As an aglianico, I wouldn’t be filtered…I will have sediments in my wine that some consumers may not understand. I will be different year after year. No ifs, ands, or buts. This may make me hard to market, hard to describe…But that’s De Conciliis’s philosophy. Let the wine tell its story. If the past year was cool weather-wise, the wine will have a fruitier taste...drier, less. The natural yeast will do what it has to do and will be different every year. No ‘Stepford’ wines here…a wine world where everyone is tall, thin and blonde. No.

I enjoyed my day with Bruno and some of the De Conciliis team (Giovanni, Paola, and Antonio). Discussing wine and just about everything over a lunch of fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and zucchini. I enjoyed my brief glimpse into a winery with a philosophy that is different from some wineries I’ve visited before. AND I am curious to see one of Bruno’s next ‘experiments’…a vineyard 700 m above sea level where he will plant Fiano, Greco and Malvasia…no tractors, just donkeys and horses…But that’s another story for another time.

Viticoltori De Conciliis
Località Querce, 1
84060 Prignano Cilento (Sa)
0974 831090
0974 831334

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