Monday, April 4, 2011

A life amongst flowers and clay - from wd 11/3/2009

Back in late 2009, I had a great afternoon tasting and discussion with one of the Vodopivec brothers, of the eponymous winery in Northern Italy. Because I am into purposeful obscuration and the building of suspense, I didn't post up this reminiscence on my blog until now.

Some of the takeaways...

The Vodopivecs run a horticultural concern based around flowers. That is actually their main business interest.

As far the wines were concerned, they had experimented with Spanish Anfora, but had been unhappy with the results. They had also been unhappy with the results of skin-contact, long maceration wines made from white grapes macerated in wood. There had been a problem with the equilibrium of the wines, which I took to understand as an unbalance of wood tannins.

The Vodopivecs had decided to turn to Georgian Anfora. There are apparently NO books in Italian indicating how to make wine in Anfora. Numerous searches at the library only confirming this for them. So trips to Georgia were required. I asked if they spoke the Georgian tongue, "of course, my surname is Vodopivec" was the quite apt response. But Mr. Vodopivec did anyway employ a Georgian/Italian translator and guide to help him with introductions and government documents and such. How many of these sorts of people do you suppose there are out there, these translator folks? Someone who can help an eager Italian through the byways of regional Georgia? That's right! There is just one, uno, singular! I expressed surprise at this, as the countries are close to one another. "After all," shrugged Mr. Vodopivec "it is a very small place we are talking about."

And so it was that Mr. Vodopivec visited the Caucasus. The Caucasus are Anfora World Headquarters, apparently. I asked Mr. Vodopivec if he had visited the wineries in the region as a stagiare or a tourist. He responded that there was no such thing as a tourist for this region. Score another point for Mr. Vodopivec and the True That Team. Apparently, much drinking is involved in the patriarchal Georgian winemaking family. Much drinking. We are talking about 2-3 litres a day of wine per person. Serious numbers. This was a major obstacle for Mr. Vodopivec: how not to appear impolite, and still drink the glass empty at each (numerous) toast? Mr. Vodopivec seems to have survived, although the memory still makes him shake his head in disbelief of that fact. The folks in Georgia drink the wine, he said. Sometimes okay, sometimes not okay wine, but they drink the wine. A lot of wine. And then he said it was like 250 years ago over there. By which I think he meant more like 250 years ago in Carso, rather than 250 years ago in NYC. But who knows.

There are apparently 7 or 8 producers of Anfora. The actual Anfora vessels. You order one year ahead of the date of completion for your Anfora purchase. I'd tell you who to order from, but the name is only in cyrillic. So you order your anfora, you wait a year, and then you must pick it up. Which is a problem, because the local mafia types like to shake down the foreigners at gun point, as they did Mr. Vodopivec, when they took his truck from him. There was a bit about paying off mafia types and then having only so many hours to load up the truck in the middle of a forest before high tailing it out of Dodge City. Fraught with danger and genuine concern for safety seemed to be major themes of the retelling at this particular point of the story.

Mr. Vodopivec did make it back to Carso with his Anfora intact, of course. Which means those Anfora have to be cleaned, apparently quite the chore, as it must be done entirely by hand, using only water. And the issue of burial. Mr. Vodopivec is a staunch supporter of Anfora burial, not giving any credence at all to Anfora left above ground. Apparently, both the temperature control and the life forces are thrown all out of whack by leaving the wine in anfora above ground.

Currently Mr. Vodopivec is macerating his wine for 6 months in anfora. He hopes to extend that period to 1 year. But there are concerns about reduction. Apparently, Vitovska can get mighty reductive if you try to macerate with the skins for two years or so.

As a side note, there is no Solo / MM wine being made at Vodopivec at the moment, as it has been produced in the past. They may make this reserve wine again in the future, however.

How many times might a wine caretaker use an anfora to produce wine, you have perhaps wondered? 300 years seems to be a realistic response, as Mr. Vodopivec has tasted wine out of a 300 year old anfora located in Georgia.

Also to note, the Church was a big influence in keeping anfora winemaking alive in Georgia.

Some answers I have perhaps forgotten, and might remember later. Some questions I forgot to ask.

Hope you find it all as interesting as I did.

This man grows flowers.

On a related note, you have seen this and this, yes? Because they are important to see.

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