Since spending much of the last year in Italy, just south of Piedmont, I have become very much enamoured with the Cortese grape for it’s freshness and suitability to drink with seafood dishes that are served in abundance, here in Liguria.
Made in Italy
The size and scope of Italy’s winemaking prowess is beyond comprehension and yet there is a progressive attitude in Wine production here that acknowledges the threats posed by climate changes and works diligently to ensure that the wine quality is not impacted.
Made in Gavi
In recent months I have visited Donnafugata in Sicily and Pantelleria, Pasqua Wines in Verona, and now, I have the pleasure to present this interview with Ms Chiara Soldati of La Scolca Wines, in Gavi.
This is a producer who, much like the previous two, understands that relying on knowledge gleaned from the past is not going to provide environmental resilience as we move into this period of great changes.
Relying on the past experiences opens up the possibility for failures of imagination in terms of what nature might throw at us. La Scolca, the word itself derives from a meaning to look off into the distance. This distance can be across time as well as the vista of the estate.
La Scolca and Italy
Last week in the Italian Alps I glanced across the restaurant in our hotel and saw the waiters outstretched arm pouring a glass of La Scolca’s Black Label into the glass of a fellow diner. It is not an uncommon scene in restaurants I have frequented in the last year, whether in Sanremo, Rome or an antique town in Piemonte.
The Black Label Gavi Dei Gavi, made from Cortese grapes, has a stone fresh and light fruity character, set against the most gorgeous acidity that means one glass is never ever enough. It is easy to understand why this wine pairs so well with seafood dishes and a variety of salads in the warmer months.
La Scolca’s D’Antan Gavi 2008 is a wine I have not seen to so much out very likely due to its more rare quality and seductive style. The 2008 vintage has just been released and it is the perfect showcase for how the Cortese grapes of gave Dei Gavi responds to the 10 years of ageing in the cellars of la Scolca. It is a delicious wine, expressing itself with rich hints of buttery, tropical and then lime citrus, held together with the trademark youthful backbone of acidity. A luxuriously charming wine for special occasions.
Interview: Sustainability questions for Chiara Soldati, La Scolca
|Ms Chiara Soldati | Holding the Black Label La Scolca wine made from Cortese grapes|
Nick Breeze: Gavi is located on the border of Piemonte and Liguria. Have you noticed any climatic changes or extremes that you have had to respond to? If yes, then how have you responded?
Ms Soldati: The ongoing climate change puts the winegrower in front of new challenges. From 2003 onwards there has been an increase in temperatures and the appearance of extreme rainfall events. Just consider that in 2014 420 mm of water fell on the territory of Gavi in 12 hours. In recent years we have therefore had to reinterpret our role in the vineyard, protecting the bunch with new techniques.
Nick Breeze: Sustainability is the defining issue of our contemporary life everywhere in the world. How do you internalise the issue in the business and winemaking process?
Ms Soldati: As I said before, the challenge of climate change is won in the vineyard not only by modifying the protective actions of the plant, such as the greater coverage of the bunches with leaves, but also by reconsidering the proper harvest times in order to reach the right balance between aromas, tannins and grape ripeness. Even more important it is to implement all those actions aimed at reversing the course, and here a drastic reduction of chemical interventions in the vineyard is essential, for this reason we have been working for years to make our viticulture sustainable for humans and the environment.
Nick Breeze: La Scolca Black Label is widely recognised among the classic white wines. Have there been changes or adaptations to the making of the wine in recent years that reduce the environmental impact of its creation, or, help preserve the style and character of the wine?
Ms Soldati: The Black Label, like all our wines, represents an authentic story of our territory and our vine, the Cortese. Our wines have always been the result of meticulous work in the vineyard, our motto is in fact “excellent wines from excellent bunches”. Choosing to avoid chemical products for plant growth, and using only natural fertilizers and copper sulphate, allow plants to grow naturally and healthy.
As far as the cellar is concerned, over the years we have modernized the machinery in order to follow the wine in its fermentation and aging phase. We also use only natural yeasts for fermentation in steel tanks; this reduces the use of sulfur which is well below the permitted limits and allows us not to make clarifications.
Nick Breeze: How do you express your brand values through public engagement, marketing, or other activities?
Ms Soldati: The values we transmit are those that have characterized our path as a family and as a company for over a hundred years. Attention to the territory, valorisation of the vine and its potential, care for the environment in which we operate. Values that allow us to present authentic wines capable of lasting over time.
Nick Breeze: Over the next decade, what do you anticipate as the big challenges that you will face as a wine business?
Ms Soldati: The fundamental theme for the next few years is that of sustainability and it is a challenge that we must win from today, which is why we are working for a sustainable development of the company. We immediately adhered to the Council Regulation (EEC) no. 2078/92, of 30 June 1992, on agricultural production methods compatible with the needs of environmental protection and landscape maintenance. Every time we acquire new hectares, we also buy the surrounding woods in order to maintain the micro-ecosystem that will protect our grapes in the future. We also decided to equip the company with solar panels in order to self-produce green energy that we need to power our company. We have activated control processes that help us not to wastewater, a fundamental resource to be protected, and we are working on the issue of packaging to make our production chain increasingly sustainable.
Nick Breeze: La Scolca D’Antan is a fascinating wine that travels through time very well. With a warming climate becoming more pronounced, do you think the fingerprint of climate change is becoming visible in the wine?[*]
Ms Soldati: Surely the rise in temperatures can have a greater influence on wines with a long aging, as I said previously, it is essential to identify the right day for the harvest, this ensures that you have all the elements that will allow the wine to challenge the years with complexity and freshness
Nick Breeze: What one characteristic do you think best defines the house of La Scolca and why?
Ms Soldati: Il fatto di essere una famiglia unita che di generazione in generazione è stata in grado di trasmettersi l’amore per il Gavi e per il territorio, di portare avanti tecniche di produzione rispettose della vigna e dell’uva e di avere radici ben salde nel passato senza perdere mai di vista il futuro.
The fact of being a united family that from generation to generation has been able to pass on the love for Gavi and for the territory, to carry on production techniques that respect the vineyard and grapes and to have solid roots in the past without ever losing sight of the future.
[*In a recent conversation with a producer in Champagne, he said that the climate changes will soon start to show themselves in the reserve wines. I thought this was an interesting point to consider and wanted to ask if a wine that is aged over a decade is starting to show signs of climate evolution.]
Questions by Nick Breeze