…spontaneously fermenting

my grapes are healthy

Have you ever have one of those tasting experiences that leaves you feeling light, energetic, happy & humbled?  We were just in Piemonte harvesting grapes for our third vintage of our Felice wine. A wine we  first made in 2009 from healthy nebbiolo grapes without any additions during the wine making process or bottling.

After our harvest, we come back to the Felice homestead to return his crates, the ones we used to gather our grapes in.  As we get set to leave, Felice comes towards us with a bottle of the last vintage of his nebbiolo that he was to make, a 2006.  We sit down to taste, then drink. We are stunned, but not surprised, by the pureness of his unlabeled wine.  We ask him questions, he responds modestly.

“How do you make your wine?”

“I just pick the grapes and let it make itself.”

“What about sulfur?”

“Why should I use sulfur? My grapes are healthy. I never add sulfur when I make my wine.”

Then he goes back into his “cellar”, an outdoor barn/wine making facility.  A structure that at this late date in September was a quite warm 25 degrees or so.  He comes back with a bottle of his 1979 vintage, and it goes a bit like this:

“The year is 1979, the vineyards are in Barbaresco and the grapes are healthy. Felice Grasso goes out to harvest his nebbiolo grapes, something he has been doing for more than 20 years already. The grapes are brought down the steep hill into his very modest wine making facility, an outdoor barn like structure exposed to fluctuating temperatures between the seasons.  He destems, crushes lightly and lets his grapes ferment on their own, like he has always done, like his father did before him, and like he will continue to do up to that last vintage, 2006. He adds nothing, and why should he? “My grapes are healthy”

Back to 2011. It’s been about 30 years since he bottled that 1979.

Felice doesn’t add anything to his grapes. At all.

Felice doesn’t store his wines “properly”

Felice doesn’t label his wines for sale

Felice doesn’t drink other peoples wines

What Felice does is make great wine. Honest wine. Transparent wine. A wine that after 30 years of standing alongside other bottles and being subjected to sunlight and varying temperatures, was supreme. Yes we were in Piemonte. Yes it was a beautiful day. Yes we were drinking a 30 year old wine. And still, the wine was supreme.

You said it wasn’t possible. Well it was, it is and it will be.





Category: 1 WINE, 9 WINE THOUGHTS, my grapes are healthy, natural wine (100% living wine)


A tasting note: 2008 Porta del Vento Saharay

Azienda Agricola Marco Sferlazzo
Contrada Valdibella
90043 Camporeale, Sicilia

Certified organic Catarratto grapes grown with the help of biodynamic preparations at an altitude of about 600 meters above sea level. Grapes are harvested by hand and brought immediately to the winery where they are gently crushed and left to ferment spontaneously. The skins are left to macerate with the juices for about 30 days in open oak vats without temperature control and without the addition of sulfur. Punching down the cap is done by hand 3 times a day, followed by a soft pressing in a manual press.  Maturation in 2500 litter botti (oak barrels) for just under a year. Bottled without filtration and without the addition of sulfur, of course.

Date tasted (numerous times, but for this note):  Sunday September 11th, 2011 9:00pm

Appearance: Dark orange-amber with brownish reflexes (which increase with time in the glass). Shows a bit more age than the 3 years would indicate.

Nose:  spices, apricots, ginger, leafy, molasses and hints of volatility give this wine an interesting edge which keeps  you sniffing it for minutes and minutes before tasting it. Like many skin-macerated whites, this wine hints of sweetness which could lead the unsuspecting to expect a sweet wine on the palate. The last sniffs reminded me of Vin Santo (a sweet wine from Toscana made from dried grapes)

Palate:  I have tasted many skin-macerated whites and knew what to expect: a fruity, yet bone-dry wine. What I didn’t expect (and always surprises me with this wine) is the tannic structure. Owing to the long skin-contact and 10-12 months in oak barrels, this wine packs a tannic punch making it a perfect match for fatty foods such as Fois Gras, duck and some creamy cheeses.  I have also had success serving this with savory dishes like mushroom soup. Very spicy (cardomom, cinammon and ginger) with the usual yellow fruits like apricots and peaches. A semi-long and dry finish round out the wine nicely.

I like the wines of Porta del Vento and have tasted almost the entire product line. The prices are fair as well.  The Saharay I especially like because of it’s masculinity, a trait I don’t often find in skin-macerated whites making this wine more interesting to me. But I also have to point out a negative characteristic of the Porta del Vento wines I have tasted.  As far as I know, all the wines spend some time in oak and leave the mouth with this rather disturbing dryness. A dryness that can be attributed not only to the fruit, but to the oak.  Oak is certainly not dominant in their wines, in fact I would say that the oak is used judicially (it doesn’t “flavor” the wine).   I just prefer to have no oak in my wines letting the fruit shine through without any interruption, especially in wines that have such fresh fruit character, like the wines of Porta del Vento.  The other complaint I have is that these wines should be drunk up the night you open the bottle. Two or three days open and I find that the wines oxidize.

Back label detail - click on photo to enlarge

Category: 1 WINE, 3 TASTING NOTES, Camporeale, Italy, natural wine (100% living wine), orange wine, Sicilia




Vinosseur is the company name of sommelier Joseph R. Di Blasi. is his web page where he writes about wine, food, restaurants and other gastronomic experiences.

Joseph has a special place in his heart for quality wines from the old world, especially France & Italy, with a strong focus on Organic, Biodynamic and Natural wines.

Joseph grew up in Italy and California, but left The States in 2002 and now resides in Poland.

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