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One Brilliant Bottle

organic/biodynamic/natural wines in Vinland

Cantina Giardino Gaia

Italy (Campania)

fiano

www.cantinagiardino.com

The roots of their winemaking go back to 1997, when Daniela De Gruttola and winemaker Antonio di Gruttola were touring the Ariano Irpino region of Campania in southern Italy. They discovered several farmers with patches of old vines untouched by modern treatments. Old vines, Antonio contends, are better able to defend themselves against disease and climate change. They have stronger immune systems than seedlings cloned in laboratories. “Their diversity is their strength for survival; no disease will kill them.”

Spurred on by the possibilities for winemaking at its most natural, Daniela and Antonio, with four friends and relatives joined forces to vinify about two thousand bottles for their own use, all in the garage of Pasquale Giardino, the senior partner of the group. By 2003 Cantina Giardino was born, the commercial enterprise began, and today production is up to about 24,000 bottles annually, with 90% of it exported. It is made up of ten different bottlings, both red and white, each enhanced with a label designed by one of their artist friends. At this scale there is not a great deal of profit to be made. So why do it? The answer — “Because  it makes us feel better.”

They view their approach to winemaking as fundamentally a “philosophical-cultural” concern. It embraces respect for the environment and the consumer, emphasizing “originality, craftmanship, and authenticity.” Central to that approach is the restoration of varietals indigenous to the region, including Aglianico Irpinia, Fiano, Greek, and Coda di Volpe.

Our bottle of Gaia is all fiano, from vines 40-70 years old. The various organic growers from which they purchase grapes work their vines only by hand. Once harvested in mid-October, the grapes undergo a rigorous selection process. A four-day cold maceration on the skins is followed by manual pressing with a wooden press. Fermentation on the lees extends to three months, in barriques of chestnut and acacia, and then in oak barrels of 600-litre capacity. Only indigenous yeast. A year-long aging on the lees. Bottling with no fining or filtration. Minimum addition of sulphites, and in some years, none at all.

Recently the group has purchased two hectares of their own vines. There is increased use of 200-litre terra cotta amphorae (manufactured locally) for the vinification. This has led to a new enthusiasm. The heart grows fonder. 

Cantina Giardino Gaia 2009

The natural qualities of the wine are immediate, in the golden haze in the glass, and the exciting, uncommon aromas. Rich and earthy, a complex menage of brackish smoke and spice. In the mouth it is no less lively, with a cut of tannic sourness that makes for an authentic, unstripped, thoroughly memorable encounter.  $$

[Thanks, Elena, for the wine photos, and the food!]

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