In Memoriam: Lorenzo Corino and His Beyond Biodynamic Nebbiolo

Centin by Lorenzo Corino

In late August 2020, just before harvest started in earnest, I sat and enjoyed a glass of wine and the sunset with the legendary Lorenzo Corino where I learned about the patented Metodo Corino, the vegan biodynamic system he developed with La Maliosa’s Antonella Manulli.  They worked together to develop a protocol and a process which lab tests showed significant enough differences, so that with the production of a scientific paper, they received their patent in May 2019.

“Biodynamics is yesterday,” said 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.” 

Lorenzo Corino 1947-2021; photo courtesy VeroVinoGusto

The environmentally conscious and sustainable Metodo Corino is a patented method of wine grape cultivation and production that seeks complete transparency. 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.  Metodo Corino is regenerative organic agriculture where the farm is a complete ecosystem, and they keep as much organic matter as possible.  Specifically, Metodo Corino:

  • Uses no irrigation and retains water via mulch
  • Keeps soil covered using hay grown on the farm
  • Works with very little mechanization
  • Uses vine varieties adapted to terroir
  • Maintains woods in the farm

Winemaking uses minimal intervention, and native yeasts. No chemicals are used except, rarely, sulphur and copper as needed. Sustainabliity practices include measuring and reducing the carbon footprint of the winery, including using more light weight bottles and packing materials, and electric rechargeable equipment

Metodo Corino goes beyond organic and biodynamic, I learned; 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.

Case Corini “Red Wine”

Of course since this interview was during the COVID 19 pandemic, I was enjoying the evening in Italy via ZOOM while I was also enjoying the morning in coastal California where I live. I also had the opporunity to learn from Lorenzo and taste his wines with him during VeroTalk with his importer Sheila Donahue. From these conversations, from writing about them, and from tasting his wines, I developed a strong admiration for Lorenzo Corino, and I looked forward to the opportunity to meeting him in person and visiting his vineyards. 

Unfortunately, last month on Nov. 4, 2021, Lorenzo Corino passed away from cancer. He was 74 years old.

In a November blog post about Lorenzo Corino, “The Wise Man of Italian Natural Winemaking”, his US importer and friend Sheila Donahue speaks about his passing, and writes about meeting Lorenzo, visiting his farm, tasting his wines, and she shares some of his wisdom:

  • ‘Soil is a winery’s capital and should take up over 50% of your invested effort.’

  • ‘Natural means allowing competition.’

  • ‘We need to care more about old vines.’

  • ‘When the plant is stressed, let it relax.’

  • ‘In the cellar you can’t do anything.’

“He got you to think and challenged the status quo, based on a lifetime of viticulture research and growing up in a legendary winegrower family,” writes Sheila.  You can watch the VeroTalk with him here.

Jeremy Parzen of Do Bianchi collected words from others to add to his own last month (read here).

 

Lorenzo strived to articulate a method, the best method, for making distinguished wine, natural wine that showed place and time. He defined natural wine in Italian on his blog:

Premesso che “vinonaturale”è una terminologia in uso comune che si riferisce a una categoria merceologica non ancora identificata dal legislatore, ritengo valga la pena di approfondirne una possibile definizione in 6 punti.

  1. Il territorio potenzialmente atto a dare origine a questi vini deve contenere una chiara variabilità ambientale a prescindere dalla specifica coltivazione a vigneto. C’è vita nel vigneto.
  2. Il terreno destinato a vigneto deve rispondere a requisiti di biodiversità vegetale eanimale, compresi i microrganismi.
  3. I vitigni coltivati devono corrispondere a criteri
    di storicità culturale e di tradizione deiluoghi.
  4. Le pratiche colturali devono sottendere ai principi dell’agricoltura organica* (la legislazione UE del bio non è adeguata).
  5. L’uva in cantina deve essere naturalmente gestita fino all’ottenimento dei vini: va completamente evitato qualsiasi intervento, di aggiunte, sottrazioni o quant’altro che contrastino il naturale processo di ottenimento ed allevamento dei vini. Resta chiaro che questa regola comprende anche la SO2.
  6. La dimensione aziendale deve rimanere nell’ambito dell’artigianato per permettere all’imprenditore di seguire personalmente le fasi di produzione. Indicativamente la soglia potrebbe essere inferiore alle 50.000 bottiglie prodotte.

Which google translates as saying:

Given that “vinonatural” is a terminology in common use that refers to a product category not yet identified by the legislator, I believe it is worthwhile to deepen a possible definition in 6 points.
1) The territory potentially capable of giving rise to these wines must contain a clear environmental variability regardless of the specific vineyard cultivation. There is life in the vineyard.
2) The land intended for vineyards must meet the requirements of plant and animal biodiversity, including microorganisms.
3) The vines grown must correspond to criteria of cultural historicity and tradition of places.
4) The cultivation practices must underlie the principles of organic agriculture * (EU organic legislation is not adequate).
5) The grapes in the cellar must of course be managed until the wines are obtained: any intervention, additions, subtractions or anything else that would contrast the natural process of obtaining and breeding wines must be completely avoided. It remains clear that this rule also includes SO2.
6) The company dimension must remain in the field of craftsmanship to allow the entrepreneur to personally follow the production phases. Indicatively, the threshold could be lower than the 50,000 bottles produced.

Author and co-author of over 90 scientific publications on viticulture as well as a memoir Vineyards, Wine, Life: My Natural Thoughts (2016), Piedmontese and Italian wine authority Lorenzo Corino was an important leader in this way of thinking about growing grapes and making wine more “naturally” and in tune with the earth and sky; his passing is a great loss to the world of wine.

Case Cornini by Lorenzo Corino + stuffed mushrooms = yum

2016  Centin Metodo Corino “Red Wine” 
ABV 15%
SRP $65
Grapes: 95% Nebbiolo, 5% Barbera
only 31 bottles left in the US
sample for my review 

Lorenzo Corino learned about wine and wine making from his grandfather, who learned 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.”

The name Centin comes from Lorenzo’s Centine grandfather who was “so keen on vines so we dedicated to him” while the winery is Case Corini, meaning house of Corino. The colorful label shows vineyard blocks. This Nebbiolo comes from a 70 year old naturally cultivated vineyard. Grapes are picked based on the moon’s cycle, then gently crushed. Following spontaneous native yeast fermentation, wines are left with skin contact for 6-7 weeks, then 36 months of aging in wooden barrels. No interventions, no added sulfites.

“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. 

Making natural wine is risky and has many challenges, but also rewards: “Natural wines can be stunning and beautiful”  but every grape needs to be perfect, he advises. That means multiple passes through the vineyard picking bunches at perfection: “When you are taking your grapes into the cellar, you need to make sure they are suitable for winemaking.”

His first vintage was in 1967: “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.

I have yet to taste his new Orange wine made from a 70 year old Moscato vineyard, and available only in a magnum. Soon! In the meantime, here’s our thoughts about the Centin:

Color: Brickish orange, not very dense, translucent, garnet with a pastel pink rim. 

Aroma: Raspberry, truffle, cedar, pine, cola, pine resin, mocha, chocolate, earth, ripe fresh fruit, spice.

Palate: Wow, it is still super tannic, smokey like a camp fire as opposed to smoked meat, very earthy, Sue found rhubarb fruit while I found pomegranate and spice with a lovely finish. High acid and chalky tannins makes this a perfect food wine. Open, decant! 

Pairing: So great with the LaTur Cheese, great with the Bella Vitano Black Pepper Sartori cheese, fantastic with the rich earthy stuffed mushroom. All of the food, even the bread brings out such nice sweet fruit in the wine.  On another occasion we paired his wines with mushroom lasagna. Yum! 

Raw Wine founder Isabelle Legeron says Centin “is, quite honestly, the perfect expression of nebbiolo— a wine with poise, charisma, generosity and greatness all at once. A wine, in fact, very much like its creator, Lorenzo.”

More 2021 Nebbiolo news:

Stay tuned for more Italian wines– we’ve got 6 styles of sparkling to share! 

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