On the Hello, Grappa press tour in May, Michele and I visited the Bonollo Distillery in Tuscany. We had lunch with Giulia Di Cosimo, the daughter of the owner of the distillery. At lunch Giulia offered us wines from Argillae Winery, also owned by her family.
Giulia was getting married in two months and someone at the table suggested that Michele make a “Grappa Cake” for the wedding. Michele agreed and when we returned to NYC Michele contacted Giulia to discuss the cake.
As we stood on a hill with a view of Orvieto and the vineyards, Giulia told us about the Argillae estate. Argillae was established by Cavaliere del Lavoro Giuseppe Bonollo, her grandfather and founder of the biggest Italian Distillery, Bonollo, Spa. Today Giulia manages the Argillae estate.
She said the estate covers an area of about 220 hectares between the hills of Allerone and Ficulle, northwest of the town of Orvieto. There are 38 hectares of vineyards. The soil is mostly clay (40%), limestone and rocks but what makes it unique she said is that the area was once covered with water and it contains a lot of fossils such as seashells from the Pilocene period. These fossils enrich the soil with mineral components, which pass into the wine.
The terroir is mostly clay-calcareous and Giulia said this type of soil stays cooler than other soils and works well in hot regions like Umbria. The clayey part retains the water and this helps the grapes during the dry season, while the calcareous part drains well, avoiding diseases caused by stagnation and humidity. Argillae in Latin means clay.
Giulia said that Argillae is a family winery with a clear focus on quality. They do everything they can to protect the environment; to her it is not a philosophy but a way of life. From the hill it was difficult to see the winery and Giulia’s house as they blended in with the surrounding countryside. All of the tanks in the winery are below ground.
Primo D’Amfora 2016 made from Grechetto di Orvietto Drupeggio (aka Canaiolo Bianco) and Malvasia (3% of the Malvasia is late harvest.) The 3 varieties are in 3 separate amphora with skin contact. After two weeks the wines go into stainless steel tanks where they are blended. Then the blended wine goes back into the amphora for another 8 months before it is bottled. Giulia said this is her project because she wanted to produce wine close to the way the ancient Etruscans did. This was the first vintage of the wine and she was waiting for the labels to arrive. This is a full-bodied wine with citrus aromas and flavors, nice minerality, good acidity with a pleasing aftertaste and a long finish.
It went very well with the food we were served.
The owner/chef is Carlo Alberto Cerrini and when I saw “una cucina semplice per persone semplice” written on the menu I knew I would like the restaurant. What even made it more interesting was that Carlo and Giulia are to be married next month!
Orvieto Classico Superiore DOC “Panata” made from 50% Grechetto, 20% Procanico and 30% Chardonnay. There are 4,000 wines per hectare for the Grechetto and Procanico, and for the Chardonnay 3,333 vines per hectare and the training system is guyot. Harvest is by hand and takes place in September. The grape undergoes a brief cold maceration process to obtain the ideal extraction of the aromas and is then pressed very lightly. The musts ferment separately in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. A small potion of the Grechetto must is fermented and refined in oak barriques and everything is then blended together. The wine remains on the lees until it is bottled in March/April. This is a well structured, elegant wine with hints of yellow flowers, grapefruit, nice minerality and good acidity. Giulia said the wine is named for a medieval pitcher used for pouring wine and water traditional characterized by a prominent beak and decorated with animal, floral or mythological motifs.
Umbria Rosso IGT “Vascellarus” made from 85% Montepulciano, and 15 Cabernet Sauvignon. The training method is guyot and there are 3,333 vines per hectare. Harvest is by hand in October. The grapes are crushed and destemmed and there is a 25/30-day maceration period with frequent pumpovers on the skins, accompanied by several rack and return procedures. Alcoholic fermentation is in steel tanks at a controlled temperature and malolactic fermentation takes place in barriques. The wine is aged in French barriques with racking on a regular basis, depending on the need. The wine remains in the bottle for another 8/12 months before release. The wine has hints of ripe red fruit, spice, black pepper and vanilla notes.
Giulia said the Vascellari were medieval pottery and ceramic producers in Orvieto. The pieces mainly featured floral, animal and mythological motifs. As a tribute to the craftsman, the label of the bottle takes inspiration from one of the works and it displays the shape of a dragon. In the lower section there is depicted an ancient contract related to a selling of a group of ceramics.
The meal ended with cafè and the best Sambuca I ever tasted made by the Bonollo Distillary
We thanked Giulia and Carlo for a beautiful afternoon and wished them good luck on their upcoming nuptials.