Portraits of Bardolino
The group was formed in 2008 to help secure agricultural legislation sustainable for independent grape growers. FIVI is supported by the larger group, Confédération Européenne des Vignerons Indépendants ((CEVI) European Confederation of Independent Winegrowers).
CIVI and its national subsidiaries are unique in Europe, specifically working for independent wine growers, rather than agriculture in general. FIVI includes 900 members from throughout Italy. France’s branch of CIVI includes 6000 members. CIVI as a whole includes 13,000 members.
As president of FIVI, Matilde Poggi has worked to build consortiums across Italy, and with leaders from countries throughout Europe in order to successfully lobby the European Lobby in Brussels for the sake of viticultural policy. Such lobbying has successfully shifted planting policies that better support long term wine quality, as well as economic health.
Poggi’s influence in this way cannot be underestimated. At the same time, she has built Le Fraghe into one of the most regarded wineries of Bardolino.
Following is part of the story she shared with us on our visit. She spoke with us in English.
We asked Matilde to share an example of some of the issues CIVI-FIVI have focused on changing.
We have worked on plantation rights. In Europe, you cannot plant where ever and when ever you want. There are planting rights established for vines. They can be used, or transferred, or bought, or sold, but they cannot be created.
A man in the Netherlands wanted to remove the rights program. We lobbied to keep controls. We want some controls to make sure to keep balance on not over planting.
In Italy, if you do not want to replant, you can sell to someone else that wants to. In France, you can plant, or replant, but you cannot sell the right. If you do not replant, you will lose it forever.
Some appellations do not allow any new plantings. In Valpolicella, the book is closed, in Brunello di Montelcino, in Barolo. In some parts of those areas, though, you can plant to other varieties, other types, but not to those that are closed.
Before, you could have Southern Italy rights and use them to plant in Northern Italy. Some areas could get over-planted by people from outside that region. Now there is some regional movement allowed, but it is controlled.
In January 2016, there will be a new plantation system.
We are lobbying for private sales on wine. In Italy, we cannot sell directly to private consumers and deliver it, as you can in the United States. We can sell it at the winery.
Because of tax differences, if you deliver it you need to pay a tax representative, which is very expensive. These are the tax laws. We are lobbying to make sure we can sell directly.
We begin tasting Matilde’s Bardolino. She opens the current release, 2013, and then shows us the 2008 and 2009, to illustrate how the wines age. Bardolino generally ages around 5 years. While the 2009 still carries some freshness, the 2008 is still drinkable but has passed its peak.
The soils are very different here versus in Valpolicella. We have some of the same grape types, but soil differences.
We ask Matilde to discuss her winemaking history.
2014 was not a happy harvest, not a happy vintage. It was very rainy all summer, very cold and very rainy. It was nice in September but too late to make ripe tannins. I do not think 2014 was very good for the reds. It was better for rosé and whites.
The next day we would visit the Bardolino Anteprima and have a comprehensive tasting of all the 2014 Chiaretto (rosé) made from the region. Many producers recognizing early the struggle of the 2014 for red wines chose to increase their rosé production and choose to make Bardolino from only the best blocks. The best of the 2014 Chiarettos show wonderful freshness, and concentration of flavor in a crisp, mouthwatering style.
2014 was my 30th harvest. I started in 1994. It was not a good harvest. Neither was this one.
We ask her what she has seen change in the market for Bardolino.
We sell 60% of our wine abroad, to the United States, Scandinavia, Germany. It used to be the US was not very interested in Bardolino.
The US sales have been increasing because people are looking more and more for wine of this type — very fresh, with fruit, and easy to drink, with not much oak, not much alcohol.
The US market opened up in 2000. Now the US is more interested in organic wines.
She pours us the 2014 Le Fraghe Bardolino.
Le Fraghe 2014 + 2013 Bardolino
This wine, I think, shows my 30 years. Every year, I try to change something.
30 years, you could think is a long time, but it is not a long time in wine. We make wine only once a year. Wine, I think, goes very slow.
In these 30 years, I change first the training systems. Then, I start changing varieties.
In 2014, I had wanted to do some skin contact for a short time just one day but I could not because of the grape quality. So, I have to wait a year. I think wine, it is slow.
We left Le Fraghe as the sun was close to setting. As I was taking this picture one of our friends moved at the last moment and cast a shadow. The shadow is unfortunate, but still I love the purity of her smile here. That purity captures her countenance, and the expression of her wines.
I comment on the freshness and mineral tension of the wines, and we ask her to talk about her winemaking.
The freshness and mineral tension is distinctive of the soil, and climate of Bardolino. I prefer to use more corvina. The other grape types do not ripen as well.
We use indigenous yeast from our own vineyards, but not spontaneous. We make a small batch of fermentation from the site, then when we harvest, we inoculate with that.
We use very cold, very slow fermentation. With selected [commercial] yeast, it is very difficult to make temperatures not so high. With indigenous yeast it is much easier. To keep slow, and cold fermentation you have more complexity. There are fresher flavors with cooler temperatures.
We ask her to discuss her viticultural methods.
Being organic – we just use sulphur and copper, and these do not affect your aromatics. With chemicals in the vineyard, grapes do not grow so well, and it affects the taste.
Now we are organic in winemaking and the vineyard. Only half the sulfites are allowed in organic winemaking as for conventional wines.
We have been organic in the cellar since 2012, and in the vineyard since 2009. Organic in the cellar is a new certification in the European Union since 2012. It is the first time the European Union is talking about vino biologica, organic in the cellar.
Le Fraghe was one of the first vineyards to become part of FIVI in 2008. I think it is a good thing. The group is just for winegrowers [so it understands what winegrowers need].
So, when they asked if I wanted to join the board, I said yes. Now I am president. It is for 3 years, until 2016.
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