On her 160 hectare farm in the Maremman Hills in southwestern Tuscany, Fattoria La Maliosa’s owner Antonella Manuli makes natural wine using indigenous grapes that have been certified organic and biodynamic since 2010. She also holds the patent for the Metodo Corino, a regenerative agricultural method which, while similar to biodynamics, uses no animal products.
What exactly does all that mean? What’s the difference between wine that is organic, natural, biodynamic, or not? This is the question Italian Food Wine Travel group of writers is exploring this March with host Katarina Andersson.
“Natural wine is … living wine from living soil,” states Isabelle Legeron, MW. Organic, biodynamic, and natural wines may all be sustainable, but there are key differences. Just because a wine is organic doesn’t mean it comes from grape growers that take care of the planet like a biodynamic one does. An organic vineyard may not have other sustainable practices for people and planet and just because the grapes are organic it doesn’t mean that other kinds of manipulation occur in the cellar.
Not only is organic and biodynamic wine better for “we”– it’s also better for “me”! Grapes that are certified organic taste better according to UCLA research which showed that in blind tastings they scored higher. Dr Magali Delmas, an environmental economist at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, and Dr Olivier Gergaud, Professor of Economics and Director of Centre of Excellence Food, Wine and Hospitality at KEDGE, “found that organic wines are judged to be higher quality by experts.” Organic wines scored 6.2% higher than commercial ones, and biodynamic wines did even better scoring 11.8% higher. Magali Delmas points out that “It’s another example of sustainable goods providing additional benefits to consumers.”
Here’s the low down on organic, biodynamic, Metodo Corino, and natural wine:
Organic grape farming:
- requires attentive handling of resources such as water, soil, and air
- uses no synthetic mineral fertilizers or chemical/synthetic pesticides
- may use beneficial insects
- may create diverse ecosystems
- may use natural products instead of genetically modified ones.
- are organic and
- come from vineyards that are part of a farm that works as a self-sustaining ecosystem where each part contributes to the rest
- are farmed using regenerative agricultural practices where the farm is healthier each year
- are farmed to restore the soil
- use natural materials, soils, and composts from the immediate area to sustain the vineyard
- biodynamic practitioners follow biological and cosmic rhythms and they use special biodynamic preparations to activate specific processes in the vines and the soil
Metodo Corino grapes:
- are organic and biodynamic AND
- are grown using vegan methods
- are native to the region and adapted to the terroir
- grapes are organic
- is alive and full of natural microbiology
- grapes grow in a healthy ecosystem
- uses native yeast
- is made with minimal interventions in the natural processes of fermentation and with minimal sulfites
- does not have additives or other processing aids
- are typically not fined and often are not filtered
“Given that the microbiological life of the vineyard is what enables both successful fermentations in the cellar and the creation of wine that is able to survive without a technological crutch, sustaining a healthy habitat in the vineyard for these microbes is fundamental for the natural wine grower,” writes Isabelle Legeron MW in Natural Wine: an introduction to organic and biodynamic wines made naturally. “This microbiological life follows the grapes into the cellar, transforms the juice and even makes its way into the final wine in the bottle.”
So now we know what we are talking about, let’s go back to the beginning. In the Maremman Hills in southwestern Tuscany near Lazio, at Fattoria La Maliosa, Antonella Manuli makes natural wine using certified organic and biodynamic indigenous grapes.
As an Italian studying business in California, many years ago Antonella Manuli learned about the organic movement. Back in Italy, she worked in accounting and finance then ran the Terme di Saturnia Spa Resort until she found the land for the Fattoria La Maliosa organic farm where she could produce natural wines, extra virgin olive oil, and honey. From a state of near-abandonment, Antonella revived a 50-year-old vineyard on a site which is one of the oldest places in the world for wine grape cultivation, going back 4,000 years. With the agronomist and researcher Lorenzo Corino, they developed the “Metodo Corino.”
On six hectares, she grows Ciliegiolo, Sangiovese, Alicante, Procanico (Trebbiano rosa), Ansonica and Grechetto (also called the Trebbianino). Wild vines on the property (Vitis vinifera subsp. Silvestris) can be found climbing trees in the forests.
Learn more about La Maliosa: In 2020, I had two opportunities to learn via ZOOM with Antonella which you can read here where she talks about her olive oil and how to taste it as well as hay mulching. She explained that 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.” In this interview here, I spoke with Antonella and Lorenzo Corino.
Taking pizza to the next level with La Maliosa!
- Bagna Cauda with a warm baguette.
- Mixed organic salad with greens, blackberries, hazelnuts, “purple haze” fennel pollen and lavender goat cheese
- Grilled pizza:
Four Cheese Alfredo, shrimp, asparagus, prosciutto, arugula
Sugo Alle Olive sauce, Coro Artisan uncured salami (half Agrumi flavored with cardamom, orange peel and red chili flakes and half Finocchiona with fennel, a touch of curry, and black pepper Hand USA made woman owned company) green olives, sun-dried tomatoes, pesto drizzle.
The complexity of flavors on a pizza should equally match the complexity of the wines that you serve with the pizza.
La Maliosa Saturnia Natural Wines
According to tech sheets, “The vineyards, about 30-35 years old, located in the Pitigliano area, on volcanic soil, are located at 300 m.a.s.l. The training system is the espalier with pruning.” The vintage was typical except May 2019 was unusually rainy with temperatures well below average.
Grapes: 50% Procanico, 50% Trebbiano
Tech sheet: “The grapes are destemmed and the fermentation begins through natural local yeasts; during the fermentation only periodic punching down was carried out starting from about 60 hours after placing the must in the vats. Maceration continued for 4 weeks, then the wine was aged in wooden barrels for about 5-6 months. No oenological intervention or addition of additives was carried out, included the SO2.”
The wine is quite expressive unless it is too cold. We liked it just below room temperature as contrasted with a typical refrigerator temperature. If you have the wine in the fridge, take it out 20-30 minutes before you plan to drink it.
Color: Very deep orange or amber without the brown.
Aroma: Smells so lovely and original and different. It is heavenly. Etherial florals, orange spice tea, dried orange and clove,
Palate: Very dry and tannic due to the skin contact. Clean and fresh, clean fresh herbs on the finish leaving the palate clean and refreshed. Easily sippable, but it really yearns for food in much the same way red tannic wines yearn for food.
Pairing: We were told that this wine goes with so many foods, and that has been our experience with orange wines in the past. Sue felt that with a bite of blackberry and purple haze in the salad it just blows your mind. The rich and salty procuitto was a hit with the wine. The flavors of the food and the wine linger on together complementing each other for a very long time. The wine also loves the bagna cauda bringing out a lovely sweet luscious flavor in the wine. All three pairings are stellar with the wine and each pairing compliments the wine in a very different way. The wine changes, and morphs with the food. Each pairing is a very different dance, but all a very different dance. On a subsequent night, I paired the wine with seared ahi tuna with blackberries and feta on a bed of greens– fantastic.
Grapes: 35% Ciliegiolo, 35% Sangiovese, 30% Cannonau Gris
Tech sheet: “The grapes were destemmed and the fermentation began through natural local yeasts; during the fermentation only periodic punching down was carried out starting from about 60 hours after placing the must in the vats. Maceration continued for 4 weeks, then the wine is aged in wooden barrels for about 9-10 months. No oenological intervention or addition of additives was carried out.”
Color: Very pretty, translucent ruby, very light bright and pretty, pale orange rim
Aroma: Cinnamon, candied apples, tart cherries, black pepper, earth, cranberries, stone fruit blossom.
Palate: Tart cranberries, tart bitter not quite ripe cherry, mouth puckering tannins as well as quite a bit of acidity. Untamed acidity, untamed grapes, most people have had tamed sangiovese, tamed by using oak. This is untamed fruit, it is wild and exciting.
We both really wanted food with this wine!
Pairing: The wine loved everything about our salad this evening. The berries, the purple haze cheese, the greens, and the toasted hazlenuts were all so perfect with the wine. Everything about our salad speaks to this wine. The bagna cauda and the wine were just alright with the wine. Quite nice with our red sauced pizza. Perfect with the sun-dried tomatoes and the slight kick from the red chili flakes in the salami. While you you might not think to pair a red with with an Alfredo sauced pizza, it works so well with this wine. The tart acidity of the wine tames the rich creaminess of the dish.
On a subsequent night, I also paired the Rosso with seared ahi tuna with blackberries and feta on a bed of greens; it was equally fantastic, making this a fun and surprising alternative to a white wine for rich seafood like ahi tuna or salmon.
Pairing suggestions from the winery include white sauce, red meat, lamb, or fresh cheeses.
Who else is writing about what on this topic?
- Nicole at Somm’s Table will share “Cavalleri Franciacorta with Braised Collard Greens and Polenta”
- Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm will share Discovering Ziobaffa Wines.
- Camilla at Culinary Adventures with Cam will share “With an Ethos of Quality and Sustainability: ZIOBAFFA Pinot Grigio Terre Siciliane IGT + Braised Celery Over Farro Couscous”
- Susannah at Avvinare will share “Tuscany’s Querciabella Leads the Way on Vegan Wines”
- Gwendolyn at Wine Predator will share “La Maliosa Saturnia Biodynamic Natural Wine: Red, White Native Grapes Paired with Pizza #ItalianFWT”
- Jennifer at Vino Travels will share “The Sustainability Behind Sicily’s Principi di Butera”
- Katarina at Grapevine Adventures will share “3 Wines Going From Organic To Natural”
You’re invited to our twitter chat– here’s what we will be discussing and when:
02/05/2022 11:00 a.m. EST
Welcome to the #ItalianFWT chat on about Organic & Natural Wine. Introduce yourself, and from where you are tweeting. Share a link to your blog if you’d like.
02/05/2022 11:05 a.m. EST
Q1 So we are talking about Organic & Natural Wine today. Have you ever heard of organic and natural wines? Did you know there’s a difference?
02/05/2022 11:10 a.m. EST
Q2 What did you pour? Share a link to your blog if you wrote on the topic today. #ItalianFWT
02/05/2022 11:15 a.m. EST
Q3 Tell us more about what you know about Organic & Natural Wine, what wine you chose, and the type of grape(s). #ItalianFWT
02/05/2022 11:20 a.m. EST
Q4 #ItalianFWT Do you think you think natural wine works? Is it only ideology, hype, or…? What are the differences between organic and biodynamic, according to you? How would you connect it with the environmental cause?
02/05/2022 11:25 a.m. EST
Q5 Let’s talk pairings. How did you drink this wine? As an aperitif, with a meal? Tell us about your wine pairings. Thoughts? Share a pic or link to your blog. #ItalianFWT
02/05/2022 11:30 a.m. EST
Q6 What surprised you about the wine? Tell us some of your thoughts about the wine, it being organic or natural, the winemaking method, or other. #ItalianFWT @Vinoltrepo.
02/05/2022 11:35 a.m. EST
Q7 #ItalianFWT Tell us something interesting and new that you learned about organic, biodynamic, or natural wine. Any fun facts? #ItalianFWT
02/05/2022 11:40 a.m. EST
Q8 #ItalianFWT What do you know about the producer and the region where your wine is made? How is the producer working to be environment friendly
02/05/2022 1 11:50 a.m. EST
Q9 #Winophiles Any final thoughts about about Organic & Natural Wine? Did you learn something new about them? Tell us!
02/05/2022 11:55 a.m. EST
02/05/2022 11:55 a.m. EST
02/05/2022 12:00 p.m. EST
Thanks for joining the February #ItalianFWT chat as we talked about the about Organic & Natural Wine. Hope you enjoyed it and that you had fun learning something new about Organic & Natural Wine this month!