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On Grapes and Grandfathers

Damiano Ciolli in his element

I have not been a particularly active blogger in the past few months despite attending many interesting tastings, several visits to wineries throughout central Italy, participating in a press trip to Port and the Douro Valley and falling in love with the wines and people of Portugal (especially port wine!) attending and speaking on a panel at the Digital Wine Communications Conference in Logroño, Spain. What can I say? Paid work and real life have made time precious and stories and ideas fade. But there are themes. A lot of them have to do with the importance of wine grapes, biodiversity and people are important themes right now and many important and talented wine writers and bloggers have dedicated hours of research and time to them. At the dwcc I was fortunately enough to be able to attend the Native Iberian Varieties Grand Tasting led by Julia Harding MW and grape geneticist Dr. Jose Vouillamoz, co-authors-along with Jancis Robinson-of the wine tome, Wine Grapes.Like nearly any field on earth, the trade includes a lot of networking. I find this part of wine very tedious when not in the field or with wine makers. There are lot of people with a lot to say, but I think these old producers in out-of-the-way locations have the most to say, even if they don’t say a lot. Recently I attending a natural wine dinner with the rest of my colleagues at The Rome Digest and we ran into wine maker Damiano Ciolli. He is such a nice salt-of-the-earth guy and has the heaviest ciociaria accent I have ever heard. He makes two different types of wines, both made from Lazio’s autochthonousgrape Cesanese. To be honest, he looked kind of bored and a little bit like a fish out of water. I have seen this a lot lately. We take clients to small wineries, or I join a group of wine professionals and visit wineries or go to tastings and people are making a big fuss over the wine makers. Of course they merit a fuss. They make our beloved beverage. But I often see the confusion in their eyes. Eyes that say, “It’s just wine.” But perhaps they don’t understand how we can admire a person who didn’t rip out his grandfather’s vineyard of mixed local varieties to plant Merlot.  I meet old farmers all the time who have no idea what is growing in their vineyard. They are just doing what has always been done in old communities. On our way out of the natural wine dinner, we ran into Damiano who seemed to be hiding outside despite the cold. I think he said one of the wisest things I have heard anyone say in the past few months:

I am just doing what my grandfather did.
Indeed. More to come on that in the near future.
Local Laziale Wine Grape Cesanese


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