Traveling with intermittent internet access and limited alone/free time has meant that every minute of Internet I get is usually dedicated to planning my next stop… couchsurfing, WWOOFing or otherwise. This leaves me with quite a backlog of updates, so sorry for the long gaps between long posts!
On Sunday (yes, back in October), I sat down with my fellow vendemmia workers, Sonia and Stefano to taste Cascina degli Ulivi’s full range of wines. Granted, I’d tasted most of them already at lunch or dinner, but those were spontaneous blind tastings, drank from unlabeled bottles without much understanding of each wine.
Us WWOOFers asked Sonia if she could tell us a bit more about Cascina’s wines during her “free” time (she has none. This woman drives to the cantina at 11pm to clear out the press, gets up by 6am to juggle winemaking, administrative work and running tastings at Cascina, all while having a family she commutes to in Firenze). Before we knew it, this small tasting turned into a last night, multilingual goodbye party/tasting for all. Laura, Francesco and some of the other workers brought down waves of bruschetta and other aperitivo. As per usual, I assumed all that bread, veggies and cheese were dinner, only to be greeted by a giant vat of pasta (and I can never so no to al dente).
It’s incredible what variety of wine you can get from the same grapes, taken from different vineyards and treated differently. Several of Cascina’s whites are made from Cortese grapes, the predominant white grape in Gavi and Tessorolo, and each has its own very distinct character. The Montemarino (2008) was made from grapes with white clay (I need to research the exact science is regarding how each type of clay affects the grapes…), which sat with their skins for three days before going to press. The extra contact with the skins – the rest of the whites go straight to press before barreling – results in a striking golden yellow hue. Sonia also mentioned that its fermentation is more oxidative than reductive…another variable I need to research. Leave it to say, oxidative fermentation tastes a bit like cherries.
The Filagnotti (2006), on the other hand, is made from Cortese grapes from a red clay vineyard which went straight to press and then to acacia wood barrels for one year. These grapes have a more reductive fermentation, leading to a meatier mouthfeel. Then there’s the Demua. If you didn’t know that these grapes stay with the skin for one month (like the reds), the amber color might seem a little suspect. It’s big and bold, yet still elegant, like polar bears or Queen Latifah.
A few more whites and reds later, we came to the Nibio Dolcetto. When I asked Stefano (the winemaker/owner of Cascina degli Ulivi) which his favorite wine was, he started to say he didn’t have a single answer, but after a couple of minutes came to the conclusion that the Nibio is where his heart is. Hopefully none of his explanation was lost in translation, but what I got from him was that he believed in the power and beauty of Dolcetto grapes (just like he believed in making natural wines) a good twenty years before it was en vogue and respected. People think of Gavi as a place where you get young, fruity affordable white wine, so they often brush by quality Gavi-bred reds like Nibio.
Stefano’s passion for this one was enough to make him express himself directly to me in English, something he generally avoided: “Nibio is a pleasure of the eyes before pleasure of the mouth. It has a long life. Normally, you’re supposed to drink Dolectto within four or five years, but this one is good for twenty. In twenty years, it will still have the same deep ruby complexion and the smell of cherries.”
We polished it all off with Laura’s seriously delectable apple cake paired with a bit of Passito, Cascina’s dessert wine. Both sweet and dense, but not syrupy sweet. A perfect finale to what felt like the shortest two weeks of fourteen very long days.