A taste of Aleatico grape


Aleatico is an ancien grape variety appreciated by Romans, although its origin is not clear. DNA profiling has shown a relation with Moscato Bianco and some genetic relation with Lacrima di Morro d’Alba, Sangiovese and Gaglioppo, but genetic is a complicated game and as the last three grapes have little in common the relation seems quite improbable.  Vigorous with good tolerance to drought, it prefers well ventilated sites and Bolsena Lake, in Lazio region, seams to suit perfectly its necessities.

Andrea Occhipinti belongs to a new generation of producers devoted to Aleatico grape. His vines are sloping along the side of the volcanic lake in a breath taking scenery, the soil is dark rich of minerals, all the vines come from an ancient vineyard and were propagated through selection massale, Andrea has now his own private nursery. The spontaneous fermentation takes place in small cement tanks to control the temperature, no oak is used and stainless steel is only for storage prior bottling. All the wines remain on lees and undertake malolactic fermentation. Fining and clarification are avoided, only a gross filtration is applied before bottling.



Alea Viva 2014 was my favourite taste. 100% Aleatico grape purple transparent with floral scents, red roses and black berry juice dominates the nose with hints of dark spices. The wine is dynamic with crisp acidity and soft tannins, the floral and fruity character remarks the palate leaving that pleasant feeling of “I want some more”.

Impressive Alea Rosa 2015, 100% Aleatico with 24 hours maceration to provide an attractive light pink colour, the floral flavours are the main dominant: rose, lili and violet with fresh fruits scents. Linear  and well balance, the gentle tannins and crisp acidity offer a pleasant drink to be served chilled.

WP_20160801_014Antonella Pacchiarotti hosts her guests in the historical town of Grotte di Castro, very impressive the underground cellar and the winemaking cellar. Since 2009 Antonella has dedicated her time to Aleatico grape: a tradition learned from the family, but without specific studies. The three and half hectares of land are dedicated to the local Aleatico: there is a lot of experimentation going on and the line of wines has jet to find a clear direction.

Impressive Antonella enthusiasm: a woman full of bubbles and energy, however the wine is missing her input and from one bottle to the next there is little continuity. I would personally reduce the line and let the territory and grape variety express more. Too often the choices in the winery were emerging from the glass, leaving aside the true soul of Aleatico grape.

Antonella has energy to spare and I am sure she will be able to find a true identity soon.

Podernuovo località Palazzone

Attention to details like a precious stone counts very much at Podernuovo winery. The Bulgari family (the famous jewellery company) has been here since the early 2000, dedicating their passion to a territory not far from Siena. Impeccable vines dominate the scenery the “potatura dolce” taught through Simonit and Sirch “Potatori d’uva” school, is an effective pruning style that allow the plant to develop without imparting dramatic cuts subject to future trunk diseases (Esca here does not exist). Heavy clay (the famous “Crete Senesi”) characterises the soil, precise attention on when and how to work the soil is necessary, inter-row management is crucial to aeriate the soil, minerals are not always available and addition of nitrogen, iron and cobalt sometimes is essential. They do not combat problems they try to prevent the problem. “Induttori di difesa” are used to build up the natural immune system of the plant to strengthen  natural defences. The grapes this year look healthy and promise a good harvest.

The winery  is a master piece of architecture: modern, spacious with the latest technologies. Geothermic energy is utilised to provide energy for the entire building. Experimenting recently has moved the team to vinify in terracotta anfora made locally by Sirio Anfore. Open fermenters are used through spontaneous fermentation and natural yeasts.

And the wines? There is space to grow.

Sotirio 2010 100% Sangiovese revels notes of mature fruits, dark spice and tobacco, but the tannins are dusty and the finish is slightly bitter.

Argirio 2013 mainly Cabernet Franc with 10% of Cabernet Sauvignon is much more harmonious although the alcohol stand out at the nose with piercing pungency (15%). Powerful, rich, opulent but I can’t stop noticing the slight bitterness on the finish.

Terra 2012 is a blend of many grapes including Sangiovese, Montepulciano and Merlot is considered their entry level label,  however I think the opposite: mature fruits, dark cherries and sweet vanilla anticipate a full extractive wine, mouth filling and rich. Out of all the other wines is the one that leave a fond memory.

All through the wine tasting  I feel the estate still searching for its own identity, I am lacking a sense of place and vibrancy, all the potentials are there to offer a great product, however it is just a matter of time, try and errors..after all there is only one harvest per year!