Terre di Matè
Her name is Stefania Carrea and the authentic passion and true respect for the land that her family has taught her, especially her dad, has been essential to start to train by herself the vineyards in 2013, when she inherited part of the property, embracing a whole different adventure and professional path, although without a specific high level of experience. Stubborn and armed of good will, it’s fair to say that she has learnt quickly.
For this reason her little estate is inspired by the Dad’s name: “Maté” is just the dialectal variant of Matteo, the great mentor in Stefania’s life. Terre di Matè has been established in 2013 with the goal to farm according to the family’s traditional values, in harmony with nature and trying to achieve the best possible quality in the winemaking.
In the beginning she decided to sell nearly 90% of the fruit to other winemakers and keep the remaining 1.23-acres for her personal labor of love.
Stefania’s vineyards cover an area of 4.5 hectares entirely planted in 1990 with the famed grape Cortese variety which is widely worldwide known with the Gavi appellation. The geographical area is located in the southern Piedmont, on the border with Liguria, in the village of Tassarolo (Alessandria’s province). She farms everything by herself! Well … that’s a lot of work.
Her brother got the other half of the property. They used to work together, but Stefania prefers the organic and non-interventionist approach rather than conventional farming.
Useless to say Stefania’s wines express the character and the passion of her native land, because they are the result of a total and radical organic farming and a minimal approach in the cellar (starting with the fermentation with indigenous yeast only), often delivering gems with no added sulfites.
Yes, Terre di Matè produces authentic natural wines with a deep sense of place given by respecting and listening to the natural life’s cycles, both in the vineyard and in the winery, using authorized products from organic farming. Stefania’s friends and other wine growers have supported her in this adventure and are one of the pillars of the guiding principles behind the research quality undertaken by Terre di Maté.
In Gavi it would have been much easier for her to produce conventional wines with a bunch of additives and selling them easily. Stefania never thought to take this short cut. She did not start out as a winemaker and therefore was not bogged down by ‘rules’.
More recently Stefania’s estate is transitioning to the organic official certification, having realized since the very beginning, that many export markets can take more seriously growers investing time and money in an official certification. Her wines are currently vegan certified (check the back label) and will be organic certified starting from the 2021 harvest.
This tiny estate produces only two different expressions of the Cortese grape (Regaldina and Il Matè) whose total amount is roughly 10.000 bottles yearly. She could produce more property wine, but she keeps selling bulk wines and fruit to other growers. Maybe in the next future …
Stefania attends the main natural wine fairs including the Raw wine fair.
Gavi wines come from 11 municipalities which all benefit from the climatic influences from the Alps mountain ranges, but also the cooling influences from the Mediterranean, especially during summer. A border zone between Piemonte and Liguria, 30 – 40 Kms far from the sea, crossed by the Lemme river, behind the Ligurian Apennines and fading towards Alessandria’s plain.
The wines must come exclusively from the Cortese grape (no other grape is allowed). Stefania’s fruit comes from the village of Tassarolo and the proximity to the sea comes through in the wine’s distinct salinity. The Gavi DOCG is known for producing some of the best whites in Italy, and Stefania’s wine Regaldina is a great example, punching way above its price class.
Diversity of soils in this DOCG zone is a natural differentiator between Gavi wines from let’s say the Gavi municipality itself and Tassarolo (where her vineyards are located). In the Gavi village soils are calcareous, adding stony minerality to the wine. In Tassarolo the soil is red clay that brings a lot of irony aromas.
The red earth originated from the ferrallitization (turning ferrous) of the clay mixed the gravel coming from alluvial deposits. They are located north of Gavi, towards Tassarolo, Novi and Francavilla Bisio. Here the hills are milder and the vineyards alternate with oak and locust woods.
Cortese can be a highly productive variety, easily producing a lot of grapes if the vines are not controlled and looked after carefully. It’s also a very acidic white grape variety that can easily produce loads of bland and acidic white wine. Vineyard management nd low yields are key here.
This is why Cortese isn’t grown much at all outside of the Gavi area, because it’s not that good unless you have the very specific conditions for growing it, which they have in Gavi with mineral-rich soils that infuse a lot of flavors into the grapes, a warm-enough climate to ripen these grapes that demand a lot of sunshine, but some cooling influences from the mountains and the sea creating a large temperature variation between day and nights guaranteeing concentration of flavors, yet loads of crisp refreshing acidity as well.
Gavi wines have been granted of the DOC status in 1974 and the DOCG status in 1998. Probably one of the first Italian wine to be internationally well-known thanks to the specific “Consorzio” (founded in 1993) that promotes and enhances the products and the territory.
The natural beauty of its undulating landscape of hills and valleys, covered in woods and vineyards, in the past centuries brought Genoa’s nobility to the area in search of a peaceful region in which to relax. This wine region is currently dotted with impressive reminders of those families, including castles, villas and palaces. They also left behind their culinary heritage, a cuisine heavily tilted towards fish and vegetables. And the land beneath their feet was perfect for growing the native variety, Cortese, whose wines were a perfect match for their dinner. Once again this area is in Piemonte but the influence of the neighboring Liguria in huge all across different elements (history, cuisine, etc).
The grape was clearly of great interest to people in the area, not just for its taste, but also because Cortese is disease resistant. In 1869 the ampelographic committee of the province of Alessandria declared it suitable for sparkling wine, and today, nearly 150 years later, frizzante, and spumante wines are produced from the 1,500 ha of vineyards surround Gavi, along with the still and Riserva examples with which people are most familiar.
Outside Piemonte, the Cortese grape is planted in the Oltrepò Pavese area (south Lombardia), in Veneto as well in the Garda Cortese DOC and in the Bianco di Custoza DOC appellation, often under the local name Bianca Fernanda.
Both wines imported from Seep Hill are coming from the 2017 vintage and Stefania told us that from May to October rain’s levels were well under the average and the temperature was pretty intensively hot. Nevertheless she had the ability to harvest at the right time bringing at the cellar only the healthiest grapes. Both wines are bottled without added sulfites, which is usual for Il Matè and unusual for the Regaldina (all its’ previous vintages have always been sulfited before the bottling).
Once again both wines have the vegan certification on the back label.
Regaldina 2017 Gavi DOCG: This is the more delicate of the two with a clear harmonious floral note (think of hay and chamomile) almost oxidized, although keeping tons of freshness. The fruit is ripe on the palate. Stainless steel vats for 6 months.
Il Matè 2017 (no appellation): Usually Il Matè is an experimental wine which differs from vintage to vintage. The fruit for this wine is sourced from the oldest best plots and here the Cortese expression is different: the aromas are more intense and pungent, slightly spicy, bordering with a bit of smokiness. Lingering after-taste and very persistent. Aged in stainless steel vats for 6 months.
In a nutshell
terre di mate