Last week we profiled Cefalicchio, a biodynamic winery in Puglia. We also had a chance to speak with Fabrizio Rossi, who guided the winery towards organic and biodynamic production over 20 years ago.
You were the first in your area to practice organic and biodynamic winemaking. What led to that decision?
I came back home in 1985 and got involved in my father’s farm. We used to produce grapes and olives, and we used to sell them in the local market. I was interested in organic agriculture and I got in touch with the International Foundation for Organic Agriculture. They sent me to the Associazione per l’Agricoltura Biodinamica in Milan.
I did not know much about organic agriculture, and I knew nothing about biodynamic agriculture and antroposophy, but I was puzzled and somehow fascinated by what appeared to me a funny mixture of philosophy and agricultural engineering. I thought that the challenge was an interesting one and I started with the biodynamic method in my own little farm, and later in on my father’s farm. In 2003, along with my brother and sister, we decided to pool our energies and start a small family winery. We started with a blend of Nero di Troia and Montepulciano grapes.
How does your land lend itself to biodynamic production? Is the soil, climate and pest profile easier or harder than other Italian regions?
It is certainly easier to produce grapes in our area than in many other regions. The climate is very favourable. As far as pests and diseases are concerned, we have only a few key problems, but we solve them easily. The soil is very favourable too. It is sedimentary rock, a limestone born from the deposits of sediments in a marine environment.
But, of course, reality is more complex than we anticipate. In our climate, due to a fairly hot summertime and a very high solar radiation, the ripening process tends to be a little bit too fast and the acidity tends, in some vintages, to fall before the perfect ripeness of the fruit. So it is often difficult to spot that perfect day when sugar content, acidity and phenol maturity are aligned. This problem seems to be more relevant with international varieties, especially Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.
Even the soil, as I said, seems to be very favourable, and the grapes do like it very much, although it looks like a very poor soil. The good “minerality” of our wines is probably due to the soil.
Do you think biodynamic farming enhances the quality and taste of your wines?
I am convinced that biodynamic farming enhances the quality of our grapes in the sense that the grapes are more “faithful,” if I can use the word, to themselves, to the farmer and to the terroir. The grapes, after the harvest, undergo a very complex process where the components are decomposed, during the maceration process, and rebuilt again in a completely different way. The colour, the taste, the flavour of the fruit may tell us a lot about the life of the plant. However, the wine may tell us a different story, as the alcohol in it points toward a direction which may have been normal in different times, but not anymore.
What are some of the challenges that biodynamic farming have presented?
The main challenge is that I have to keep studying and thinking and, of course, making mistakes. But this is more a pleasure than a challenge.
Now that you’ve been Biodynamic for over 20 years, have other vineyards nearby followed your lead?
Not many in Canosa. In Puglia there are quite a few biodynamic wine producers.
Do you talk about your biodynamic practices in your marketing?
I admit, when I started with biodynamic agriculture the main interest was an economic one. But, after so many years, I think that if we survive economically, and if we have some success, it is mainly because people like what we produce. But, I only take care of the agricultural production. Marketing is my brother’s job.