Last week, I enjoyed watching the sun set, twilight fall, and the glow of the moon in Tuscany, Italy. In front of the house with views of vineyards and the farm of Antonella Manulli, I chatted about sustainability and the Metodo Corino with co-innovators Antonella and Lorenzo Corino and their importer Sheila Donahue of Verovino.
This is one of the oldest places in the world for wine grape cultivation, going back 4,000 years.
As we talked, we all sat outside with our dogs, enjoying the fresh air. The Tuscan landscape, with dry grass, rolling vineyards, and large graceful green trees, reminds me of upper Ojai. This western part of Italy is very much like Ventura County says Sheila who bases her business in Ventura. Sure looks familiar to me. Sheila points in the direction of the moon: “That’s where the farm is” and pointing toward the vineyards, I learn these Sangiovese vines are young at ten years old.
The environmentally conscious and sustainable Metodo Corino is a patented method of wine grape cultivation and production that seeks complete transparency. Sustainabliity practices include measuring and reducing the carbon footprint of the winery, including using more light weight bottles and packing materials. Native yeasts but no chemicals are used except, rarely, sulphur and copper as needed. The farm is seen as a complete ecosystem, and they keep as much organic matter as possible. For example, hay from the farm is used as a mulch to improve the soil and make water more available to the vines by keeping the soil soft.
Metodo Corino is a form of regenerative agriculture. On Antonella’s farm, she:
- Uses no irrigation
- Keeps soil covered
- Works with very little mechanization
- Uses electric rechargeable equipment
- Uses vine varieties adapted to terroir
- Maintains woods in the farm
Metodo Corino goes beyond organic and biodynamic; it incorporates the best of these practices, and goes beyond them to be vegan and more. Like biodynamics, the Metodo Corino follows the phases of the moon.
“Biodynamics is yesterday,” says Lorenzo. But the moon is eternal: “I trust the moon. The moon is very important. When a new moon, the vines grow faster. The moon is something we know well and follow.” Harvest this year began with the full moon on Tuesday, September 1.
Lorenzo and Antonella worked together to develop a protocol and a process, which they named Metodo Corino, and to write it all down. Lab tests showed significant enough differences, and with the production of a scientific paper, they asked for and received a patent in May 2019.
Using grapes indigenous to the region is also important to the Metodo Corino. It’s an important part of the region’s heritage but also, they say, in terms of climate change. They suggest that instead of creating new grapes to plant in old places, stick with the old ones, the traditional ones of a region.
With a perspective of five or six generations in the business, Lorenzo Corino learned about wine and wine making from his grandfather: “My grandfather was very very keen on wine; my father not so much. He was very keen in the vineyard.”
“It was like a dream,” says Lorenzo. “You have to dream to grow up. Do not worry what people are talking about you. Mainly you have to dream to reach a specific goal. I was really lucky.”
With his first vintage in 1967, he says, “I was really trying to do the best. You have not to look at the market; you have to enjoy yourself if you’re an artisan of course.”
As a winemaker, his goal is to create harmony–“I’d like to compare with music” –with the serendipity of what the vintage brings: “If you try to make a wine in harmony you are in a better position.” The main effort is to find a balance between the plant and the fruit.
“Today many people are making natural wine,” says Lorenzo. “I’m a bit surprised” that it took so long for this to come to fruition. “Many people realize this is the best way to prepare what we call a natural wine – -starting from the soil” so that vines get the nutrients they need.
While natural and “clean” wines have been in the news lately, for many years natural wine had a bad reputation for being wishy washy and flawed.
“Natural wine doesn’t have to taste like cider or smell like a barn,” says Lorenzo. “Natural wines can be stunning and beautiful.”
Making natural wine is risky and has many challenges, so what’s Lorenzo’s secret? “When you are taking your grapes into the cellar, you need to make sure they are suitable for winemaking.” Every grape needs to be perfect, he advises. That means multiple passes through the vineyard picking bunches at perfection.
To create perfection goes from the ground up: “Soil is an organism and you have to try not to disturb too much,” says Lorenzo. “Tilling is disturbing. It is much better to work with herbs or to mulch the soil. Of course it takes longer and the yield is a bit lower.” For a place like California, especially Southern California where there’s not a lot of water, he suggests using mulch to allow the roots to go deeper.
In a previous interview which you can read here, Antonella explained that:
“Hay mulching has many functions:” it provides shade, making it “favorable to life in the soil,” and it stops erosion completely. Maremma is “subject to long periods of drought so you can have a lot of damage done to the soil life.” Hay mulching “keeps the moisture for a long time when it rains and maybe we don’t have rain for 4-5 months we can keep moisture in the soil.” With the hay mulching, the soil is “very slow to absorb the moisture.” They don’t get a lot of rain and they can’t afford to lose the moisture because “we don’t irrigate artificially. When you use vegetable (material) it’s very slow and goes on a long time and gets absorbed in the soil.”
There’s a difference between vegetable imputs and carbon inputs in terms of carbon also: “When you have grass and covering, you have absorption of carbon. What we are doing when we use the hay mulch we are trying to replicate what is happening on forest soil.” The soil that you have in the woods, in the forest is the best for wine grapes she thinks. Wine grapes evolved climbing trees in a forest so that makes sense to me.
From the soil, comes the vines, which require pruning, yet, as Lorenzo points out, the vine is the life of the plant, and if you prune incorrectly, you shorten the life of the vineyard: “In the past the vineyard was growing for three generations at least but today with mechanization, you’re back to lasting 18-20 years.”
As vines get older, he prunes to 3-4 branches in each plant which is a traditional way in the Mediteranean: “Two branches is really damaging a lot of your plant and the plant life is shortened a lot. Our experience is to pass from guyot to two or three or four.” Vines are not trees, he points out, and very affected by pruning: “Sometimes you are killing gradually your plant and the plant is getting weak and any pathogen will be aggressive.”
Once the grapes are in the cellar, “we do nothing,” says Lorenzo. “We have yeast from centuries. We are as well lucky as we are traditional.” He stresses the importance of keeping everything clean, and encourages a long maceration fermentation by leaving it at least 1-3 months. His Barbera and Nebbiolo don’t require sulphur. Wines are bottled three to four years later.
Lorenzo’s wines tend to come in at 15% but still taste perfectly balanced with plenty of acidity, not heavy.
When asked why they are so high in alcohol, he responds, “You should not look at the number. We are not looking for 15 but can be 16. Barbera you really need to make sure it’s ripe. You have to go up a bit in the alcohol depending on the year. Our goal is not to go up in the alcohol but in the balance with nebbiolio and with the acidity which is a great character in barbera in the old vines. Our goal is the harmony, the balance in spite of the alcohol content.” He has a Barbera on the way made with nearly 100 year old vines.
But was I actually there in Tuscany for this interview and sunset?
You guessed it — it was through the magic of ZOOM. And that means on Tuesday August 25, I actually watched the sun set twice — once in Italy and once here in Ventura!
Instead of having dinner in Italy, though, Sue made a mushroom lasagna and a caprese salad. While a rich meal of beef Osso Bucco or a rib eye steak might seem more fitting as a pairing, we went with a vegetarian meal to follow through with the sustainability theme of this month’s Italian Food, Wine, Travel hosted by Katarina Andersson; read her informative “AN INVITATION TO LOOK CLOSER AT ASPECTS OF SUSTAINABILITY TO BETTER TACKLE THE CLIMATE CHANGE (#ITALIANFWT)” here to understand more about sustainability in Italian wine. With plenty of cheese and mushrooms in a tomato sauce, the lasagna worked well with the three wines imported by Verovino and made using the Metodo Corino.
NOTE: The information in this story is based on two ZOOM interviews with Lorenzo Corino, one in June, and one in August as well as two ZOOM calls with Antonella — one in April which I wrote about here (as well as her olive oil, judged as the world’s best!) and the one in August with Lorenzo and Sheila. I’ve also written about La Maliosa wines here and here.
2018 La Maliosa “Rosso” Toscana I.G.T.
ABV 14% ; SRP $34
100% Organic Ciliegiolo
The name for Ciliegiolo, a Tuscan varietal that’s rare and hard to find, derives from the Italian word for cherry. This version is made using the all natural, organic, biodynamic, and vegan Metodo Corino so there’s no added sulfites and yeast.
Grapes grown on the property for over 4000 years.
This would be a very interesting wine to revisit in a few years. Fresh and exciting now. Curious to see how it will change with age.
Color: Very pretty like Grenache, cherry, red roses.
Nose: Iron rich, hot springs, volcanic soils, sandellwood or cedar, once the minerals blow off there is a perfume quality that comes through, iris, violets
Palate: Bright acidity, lots of fruit, tannins up front, tart cherry, ripe raspberry, pomegranate, cranberry tartness, silty mouthfeel, violet pastels,
Pairing: This wine with the LaTur was one of our favorite pairings. It worked with the acidity and tartness that a goat, sheep, cows milk cheese can have. Brilliant with the pepper crusted Toscano. With our cheeses the fruit really shines in the La Maliosa. We tried the wine with gorgonzola which brought out such fruit in the wine. The LaMaliosa really likes the kale and the fresh basil. It pops with the bitters in the arugula salad, while the pine nuts in the salad danced well with the wine taking it over the top.
I also wrote about the Rosso here as well as La Maliosa’s olive oil.
2016 Case Corini “Achille”
ABV 15%; SRP $55
Blend of Organic 45% Old Vine Barbera and 55% Old Vine Nebbiolo
In the glass, “Take your time and let this wine evolve,” says Lorenzo.
A really delicious, all natural, old vine nebbiolo and barbera red blend with no added sulfites and yeast. Just the right amount of acidity, tannins and richness. Ready to drink but also age worthy. The name Achille is the name of the former vineyard owner.
Color: Ruby red, medium + density, fuchsia rim
Nose: RICH! Forest floor, raspberry rhubarb, blackberry, mulberry, licorice, nice herbal notes, fresh fennel, like walking through a fennel field, roses, and a bit of volcanic funk that is underlying to the fruit.
Palate: Rich tart fruit, mulberry, fruit forward with bright mouthwatering acidity, lots of cherry, grippy tannins. While this is a really nice wine on its own, it really yearns for food.
Pairing: This wine love love loves food. The pepper crusted Toscana cheese made me want a pepper crusted steak with the wine. Sue had the wine with the pecorino cheese and felt that it was wonderful bringing out such lovely fruit in the wine. This wine can handle salt, cream, fat, spice, cured meats, rich braised meats, and simple grilled cheese sandwiches and pizza. Great flavor when paired with gorgonzola. Try and antipasto salad with at bit of gorgonzola cheese and you will not be disappointed.
“OMG does this wine love food,” said Sue.
This was by far her favorite with the salad. It loved the basil, and the arugula, and the tomato and the pine nuts. For her the favorite pairing of the evening until tasting it with the lasagne which Brought out rich licorice qualities in the wine. I really love the combination between the basil and the kale, the mushrooms and tomatoes and how well everything went when combined in the dish, showing us just how versatile this grape is with food. Sue wanted to pair this meal with a spicy Italian sausage and pasta meal, and while I cannot handle it right now with my digestion, I can see how it would have been a fantastic meal.
2016 Case Corini “Centin”
ABV 15%; SRP $65
95% Nebbiolo, 5% Barbera
“Listen to music while you taste this wine,” suggests Lorenzo.
The name Centine comes from Lorenzo’s Centine grandfather who was “so keen on vines so we dedicated to him. The colorful label shows vineyard blocks.
This earthy, age-worthy nebbiolo made from 65 year old naturally cultivated vines, all natural, with no added sulfites and yeast is the best one I’ve ever had.
Color: Garnet, brickish rim, medium to light density.
Nose: Muskiness of a forest floor, roses, spice box, rose geranium, violets.
Palate: Roses, dried roses, fennel pollen, the texture is insane, very chalky, walnut skin, leathery texture, Nebbiolo is known as a big tannic monster, and this is no exception. Can’t wait for the food with this wine.
Pairing: Sue thought it was fabulous with our LaTur, but even better with the gorgonzola on the cheese plate, but I thought the LaTur was better. If the gorgonzola was on a burger or a steak than I would want the two together. Bottom line, this wine loves Italian cheeses. Great with the Toscana, this wine loves strong bold Italian cheeses and cured meats.
Sue: “Such a big wine on its own which is so tamed by food.”
It is light and lively on the palate, but it is tannic. The arugula does not tame the tannins, but provides a frame in which the wine can be showcased. The complexity in the layered flavors of the lasagne worked so well with the wine.
Participants in “Sustainability to Better Tackle Climate Change” #ItalianFWT September 2020
- Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla takes inspiration from Siciliy in Pasta alla Norma + Tasca d’Almerita Lamuri Nero d’Avola Sicilia 2016
- Terri from Our Good Life shares the article Che Fico: A Wine that Supports Sustainability in Italy
- Linda from My Full Wine Glass heads to Alto Adige with Alois Lageder – Driven to create wines in harmony with nature
- Gwendolyn from Wine Predator shares Interview: Antonella Manuli’s and Lorenzo Corino’s patented method + wines, lasagna, and dogs #ItalianFWT
- Lynn from Savor the Harvest heads to Franciacorta with How the Ricci Curbastro Estate In Franciacorta Tackles the Sustainability Question
- Robin from Crushed Grape Chronicles explores the question Climate Change, Finding Sustainable Italian Wines and Why you should Care #ItalianFWT
- Susannah from Avvinare tells us more about Sicily with Tasca d’Amerita, A Longstanding Focus on Sustainability
- Nicole from Somm’s Table looks closer at A Sustainable Sampler Pack with Umani Ronchi
- Jennifer from Vino Travels shares VIVA Sustainability at the Forefront with Michele Chiarlo
- Katarina at Grapevine Adventures I will talk about Torre Bisenzio where Authenticity And Quality Is All About Sustainability
Questions for #ItalianFWT Twitter Chat: Sustainability to Better Tackle the Climate Change September 5, 2020
- 8am Q1. Welcome to the Italian Food Wine & Travel group chat! Today we’re discussing Sustainability to Better Tackle the Climate Change. Please say hi and share a link to your blog. #ItalianFWT
- 8:05 am Q2. Sustainability is a hot topic nowadays not only in Italy. What did you learn about sustainability and climate change while reseaching these topics. #ItalianFWT
- 8:10 am Q3. Tell us about the winery and wine/grape that you chose to write about. Why did you pick this wine/winery? #ItalianFWT
- 8:15 am Q4. What’s the sustainable story here in relation to the winery/wine you chose? #ItalianFWT
- 8:20 am Q5. Have you ever visited the region your winery is located in? If so, do you know anything about the climate issues there? #ItalianFWT
- 8:25 am Q6. How do you think sustainability can be important to come to terms with climate change? Is there a connection in your opinion? #ItalianFWT
- 8:30 am Q7. Wineries can be conventional, organic, biodynamic, etc. Do you think these categories and certifications have any importance for sustainability? #ItalianFWT
- 8:35 am Q8. Which short-term versus long-trem solutions do you think will be important to combat climat change in the future? Why…? #ItalianFWT
- 8:40 am Q9. Let’s talk about food…! Did you make something special to pair your wine with? Give us all the yummy details. #ItalianFWT
- 8:45 am Q10. Share one new thing you’ve learned about sustainability and climate change that you wish everyone would implement. #ItalianFWT
- 8:50 am Q11. Any other thoughts or comments on the topic? #ItalianFWT
- 9:00 pm Thanks so much for joining the #ItalianFWT chat today. Join us in October for a chat on Volcanic Wines hosted by @VinoTravels21. Stay tuned for Jennifer’s invitation post and details on how to participate. Until then, stay safe!