VINICA was established in 2007 with the aim of developing a full project for organic farming and eco-sustainable development of a territory, where long time abandoned lands and vineyards with ancient documented vocation were suitable to produce excellent vegetables, fruit and wine.
The idea sparkled from the collaboration and natural ideals shared by three men: the owner Rodolfo Gianserra, the agronomist and winemaker Pierluigi Cocchini, and Giuseppe Tudino, the company’s administrator. The name VI.NI.CA. comes from the names of Rodolfo’s 3 children: Vittorio, Nicholas and Carola.
Vinica sits on the hills of Ripalimosani, a small commune of the Molise Region and it extends over an area of 220 hectares, which is now divided into vineyards (approximately 30 hectares), olive groves (about 20 hectares), indigenous orchards (about 6 hectares), organic arable crops (about 50 hectares of spelt “farro dicocco” and wheat) as well as forests and pastures (the remaining 100 hectares) which characterize the landscape.
Owner Rodolfo Gianserra: “At the moment we have 30 vineyards hectares planted but not all are active production wise, as we started planting vineyards in 2008 and we have been continuing to plant an average of 3 hectares per each single year. Basically at the moment the hectares really producing our wines are roughly 20. Useless to say that as the time passes our vineyards perform much better. Trained under strict organic practices, our vineyards, regardless the variety involved, need 5 years to produce good fruit”. Therefore Vinica can be considered a pretty brand new project with young healthy vines yet to reach depth in the soil. Rodolfo continues: “The oldest 4 hectares plot has been planted in 2008 with 2 hectares of Tintilia, 1 each of Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling”.The altitude ranges from 550 to 750 meters above sea level. The territory is ideal for quality driven agriculture due to the incredible nature and soils’ varieties: limestone / clayey, marne, sandy and pebbles formed over 50 million years ago. Ideal sun facing vineyards, along with remarkable temperature excursions even during the warmer seasons plus windy breezes make Vinica estate truly blessed. The whole property is certified organic and works with conservative cultivation techniques in order to preserve the ecosystem and only with the use of natural products.
The farm embraces a truly uncontaminated territory, rich in vegetation and dense forests of oak trees and part of the ancient Via Francigena is within the property. Dating back the middle age, this pilgrims beaten path at the time was linking the most important religious destinations. Even the ancient Matese-Cortile trench, used by shepherds for transhumance between Apulia and northern Molise, flows for a while within the estate property.
“How come I never heard of Molise region in my life?”. This is a classic question that rises within wine lovers every time there is a bottle of Molise wine standing on the table. Well … Molise is small and pretty obscure. Situated in the mountainous, sun-drenched area between Abruzzo and Lazio to the north, and Campania and Puglia to the south, Molise is sandwiched between the Apennine Mountains and the Adriatic Sea, and is an underrated little gem producing wonderful reds, whites, and roses. Overshadowed by Abruzzo, of which it was politically a part of until 1963 (Abruzzi y Molise), the split, which did not become effective until 1970, makes Molise the youngest region in Italy. It finally gained two of its own DOCs (Denominazione di Origine Controlllata or Controlled Designation of Origin), Biferno and Pentro di Isernia, in the 1980s.
Bottles that come from Biferno, named for the river, produce mainly blends of rossos, biancos and rosatos. The main grapes are Trebbiano Toscano and Bombino for whites, and Montepulciano (the prevalent Abruzzo red grape) and Aglianico (common in Campania) for reds and rosatos. Pentro di Isernia also produces the same sort of blends with the distinction that its reds are Montepulciano and Sangiovese, and the wines tend to be lighter in body and more acidic than those from Biferno. These are each hilly growing zones, with good sun exposure and favorable weather conditions for grape-growing.
The good news is that Molise has fought hard to rediscover his ancient indigenous variety: Tintilia (the local hero!) which has been granted the DOC status in 2010, nowadays produces excellent classy wines.
Tintilia is an autochtonous grape of Molise, for long time highly considered by the local population. The introduction of fashionable international varieties in the ‘90s, along with its “nervous” attitude (low yields compared to more productive grapes such as Montepulciano and prone to several disease) severely threatened the variety which risked to disappear. Fighting against the stream, the expert agronomist Giuseppe Mogavero, in his own winery founded in 1975 in Petrella Tifernina, resumed the cultivation of the native grape variety Tintilia del Molise with a considerable effort that lasted throughout the decades till the Doc status was reached. For a long time, Tintitllia was considered related to the Bovale Grande or another Andalusian same name grape. The etymology presents a clear Spanish root, whereas “tinto” indicates the intense red shining in the glass. Today, following a research at the University of Molise, any connections with present and recognized Spanish varieties has been ruled out. For sure this grape varietal was introduced in the second half of the eighteenth century, during the Bourbon domination, thanks to the trade between the kingdom of Naples and Spain.
“Nature knows how to behave and as careful wine growers we have to adjust”. Rodolfo Gianserra makes the point. “It is nature to scan the production steps and we truly believe that the vine and its terroir are in symbiosis needing, above all, respect and care”.
In the vineyard Vinica adopts conservative and eco-sustainable cultivation techniques with particular reference to the green manure (sovescio in Italian) on the entire surface. Dry framing and no irrigation system also causes the roots to descend into the soil in search of nutrients and minerals. Vinica’s vineyard presents two key elements: high altitude and wide temperature excursions. Above all … no chemistry at all, no pesticides, herbicides, etc.
Healthy grapes are the only ingredient here. Once hand harvested, grapes are brought to the cellar, destemmed and pressed. Fermentation starts spontaneously and usually takes place in steel tanks. The estate doesn’t add yeasts outside those present in the grape skin and doesn’t control the temperatures, refusing any chemical agent during vinification, except for a minimum of sulfur. Vinica’s wines are also neither filtered nor clarified as both operations affect the vineyard’s pure expression.
Rodolfo explains: “We practice a low yield policy and in 2016, we produced 30,000 bottles, but this year, unfortunately, drought has reduced production by 30% despite the fact that younger vineyards have continued to grow, but the fruit has not come. We do sell in Italy, but foreign markets are rewarding our efforts, specifically Canada, United States, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Ireland”.
According to local and specific wine market culture, the choice of using the screw cap guarantees consumers of the freshness and quality of young everyday wines, taking away the risk of oxidation and external contamination, also clearing the risk of “plug failure” that may result from the use of natural TCA cork. This type of closure completely blocks the oxygen intake and slows down the evolution of wine in the bottle while keeping intact all its organoleptic characteristics. Obviously Stelvin closure is replaced with natural corks when it comes to high end wines or when a specific market rejects it from a wine cultural standpoint.
The varieties cultivated in the farm, all trained with the Guyot system, are Tintilia, Merlot, Sangiovese, Aglianico, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon, Riesling, Moscato, Trebbiano and Garganega.
Useless to say Tintilia represents the most planted variety with a low density of 3500 plants per hectare. 2011 vintage was the debut one with vineyards capable to produce fruit forward wines. Vinifications for the first 3 vintages are pretty similar with slight changes referring to the maceration’s length. Tintilia needs to be moved frequently by racking, yet avoiding punching downs.
2011 has been a mild year and the wine isn’t shy with spices prevailing over the fruity boquet. It has now reached a fine balance and also a great elegance due to a mature tannin. Reducted at first when uncorked, it might seem a little closed but a bit of oxygen helps lifting the wine.
2012 has been decisively a warmer year and the wine reflects it allowing more fruit and more softness at the palate.
2013 vintage tends to be similar to 2011, with the almightily spicy notes. It is still young and tannins are more in the foreground rather than in the core of the sip. 2014 presents a bigger and more intense wine, rich in flavors and multilayered. Vinica is experimenting different fermentation techniques including carbonic maceration. Tintilia is harvested usually the first decade of October and, according to Vinica’s wine specialists, stainless steel fermentation and ageing are the best way to process the grape.
Quoting Rodolfo “Tintilia is a wine of extreme simplicity and drinkability, but at the same time intriguing and special with spicy and elegant notes. Besides the estate version, we are looking forward to see the results of our first ever carbonic maceration Tintilia (named “Tintilia Beat” with no added sulfites) and hopefully we we’ll be pleased just as we are with our Rosato. In my opinion what really characterizes Tintilia is that it thrives at high altitude enlightening all its characteristics of a typical mountain red. Good body, ripeness and spicy notes. The majority of Molise wine growers is located towards the Adriatic sea in the plains and this has slightly modified the grape’s original features”.
Let’s now turn our attention to white varieties. First things first: Molise has no indigenous white variety to offer. The clone of the Trebbiano planted here at 750 mt. is the Toscano one and furthermore agronomist Pierluigi Cocchini believes that Garganega could shine here, adapting pretty well to the steep hills. Both grapes, harvested and macerated altogether, give life to the Orange wine Terra degli Osci. Rodolfo Gianserra says: “We chose to plant Trebbiano together with Pinot Noir in the highest vineyards available in order to benefit from colder temperature which never allows high alcohol volumes. That is the point: we seek for elegance in our two weeks long macerated wine. At this altitude the micro-area here is somehow similar to the temperature and wind excursions you’ll find in Friuli and Slovenia”.
Sauvignon Blanc represents the estate’s most characteristic white, chosen for the adaption to the cold climates just as in Loire but obviously marked here with higher altitude (650 mt, a bit lower than Trebbiano). Vinica ordered from the very beginning Sauvignon’s plants by the Pepinier nursery and the results are incredible. Rich, mineral and nuanced. Steep Hill imports this wine pleased by the incredible natural attitude and the fermentation and ageing in stainless steel vats.
Over the past few years, 15 hectares of woodland have been planted displaying roughly 20,000 native plants in order to increase the local ecosystems by avoiding land exploitation. Trees of Cerro, Maples, Roverella, Orniello, Carpino, Chestnut, Wild Cherry and Sorb are present all over the estate, separating vineyards and avoiding crop stress. More spefically the Sorbo tree (The Italian name for the Sorb) inspired the graphics of Vinica’s labels from the very beginning.
On Colle Impiso, at 700 m above the sea level, 4 hectares of olive groves are under production with the Leccino varieties dating back to several decades ago. The remaining 16 hectares are planted with new plants of Sallone di Gallo and Black Olive, typical mountain biotypes. All of Vinica’s olives are harvested by hand and freshly squeezed. Vinica produces extra virgin olive oil within the DOP Molise. Among the centuries-old pine trees of our garden we grow, following the ancient farmers tradition, the local cannellino beans, corn and furthermore chickpeas, lentils, tomatoes, and seasonal vegetables. Within the fruit range, all apples are indigenous (zitelle, annurche, iapoce).
In a nutshell