Do you like sulfates in your wines?
No one does …
Last night at Eataly (the new Italian food specialty megastore in Manhattan) I discovered Domodimonti, a boutique winery located on the picturesque countryside of Montefiore dell’Aso, in Le Marche Region, Italy. In addition to Domodimonti we tasted other specialty items from Marche, as well as fabulous Amaro digestifs from Varnelli.
I sat next to Domodimonti representative Marco Scapagnini and learned their objective is to produce wines as naturally as possible with the least amount of additives and make the highest quality Natural Wine.
Their approach can best be described as follows:
- Grapes are hand-picked
- Sustainably-grown, using organic matter
- Low-yielding vineyards
- No added sugar, and strict selection of yeasts
- No acid adjustments
- No other additives for mouth-feel, color, etc.
- Minimal sulfites added
- Use of state-of-the-art technology
In 2010, Domodimonti launched its new state-of-the-art winery, designed to generate the least amount of visual and ecological impact on the environment: a commitment to the production of Wines in the respect of Nature.
It was a fabulous evening, and Marco is an excellent representative for his products. Not all “natural” wines are delicious, yet Domodimonti manages to strike the right balance between quality taste and staying true to the environment.
For wine geeks, I’ve copied some information about the vineyard and harvest …
The vineyard’s 48 hectares of land are spread across the backdrop of Montefiore dell’Aso. They are facing south on clayish soil, which in the past was covered by the Adriatic sea. Remnants of ancient times have left behind minerals that are very precious to the development of the vines. The vicinity of the Adriatic Sea to the east, the protection offered by the mountain chain “Sibillini” to the west, and the winery’s altitude of 300 meters above sea level, all play a role in providing an ideal microclimate for healthy and natural ripening of the grapes.
Domodimonti’s first vintage was in 2004. Although the vineyard has been in existence for over fifty years, a great deal of work was performed to restructure the original vines, and plant new ones.
Our vineyards are spread over several parcels of land, all located around Montefiore dell’Aso. The grape varieties grown include: Montepulciano, Sangiovese, Petit Verdot, Pecorino, Passerina Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Throughout the growing season, Domodimonti’s Agronomist carefully monitors vine growth. During the summer months, the vines are pruned reducing the fruit by 67%. This strengthens the vines, so that the remaining grapes get the maximum amount of nutrients and achieve their full qualitative potential.
The harvesting season usually starts at the beginning of September, but varies from year to year. We continue to use a traditional approach of harvesting grapes manually in spite of the higher cost. Our dedicated staff’s strict methodology helps determine grape ripeness by testing the pulp, skin and seeds, as well as other parameters such as consistency of ripeness, astringency, acidity and flavour. This regime allows us to precisely time the harvesting of each parcel of grapes.
All of our grapes are then carefully sorted for quality according to a strict standard of production. Only thirty percent of the year’s harvest is typically processed during vinification. The must is then transferred to a shoot where gravity pulls the liquid into stainless steel vats and begins fermentation.
Domodimonti’s production method revolves around the systematic amalgamation of the best techniques and technologies from the Old World and the New World respectively. The objective is to produce wines as naturally as possible without the use of chemical and/or additives to synthetically enhance our wines.
Old World Techniques:
- Manual harvesting to minimize stress and bruising of the fruit.
- Pruning 67% of grape clusters to increase nutrients to the remaining fruit.
- The use of natural yeast.
- The wines are aged in traditional French oak barrels located in Domodimonti’s wine cellar. Depending on the wine, the duration in barrels may range from 3-14 months, after which, the wine is bottled and stored for an additional period of at least three months before being shipped to its various distributors.
New World Technology:
- The entire winemaking process is performed under nitrogen which is generated by ionic exchange, allowing us to handle and later bottle the wine in the absence of oxygen.
- Temperature controlled vats with external insulation jackets allow strict control of the very important stage of fermentation.
- The use of cryomaceration: the grapes are de-stemmed and gravity-fed into stainless steel vats where a quick drop in temperature, from two (2) to five (5) degrees Celcius is maintained. This allows the pulp to absorb aromas otherwise lost to the pomace, which in turn limits the solubility of polyphenols and protects against oxidation.
- The use of First and Second fermentation to ensure the organic and antioxidant properties of the wine are not lost.
The Sulfite Difference
Sulfites are typically used to stop the very crucial stage of fermentation, and stabilize the wine to reduce the occurrence to spoilage. Due to the extended usage of sulfites by producers, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has ranked it within its top nine food allergens. Domodimonti’s use of temperature controlled vats with external insulation jackets allow us to strictly control the very important stage of fermentation. By controlling the temperature of each individual vat, we are able to substitute the use of sulfites during the fermentation process. This cornerstone approach creates a more natural, and non-synthetic wine. Unfortunately, there is a minimum sulfite quantity required by law, but this minimalistic amount insures that our product arrives to our international destination intact. In comparison, we are far lower than any biological wine. An additional technique utilized to substitute chemicals in the wine making process is the implementation of cryomaceration. It is a process in which the grapes are de-stemmed and gravity-fed into stainless steel vats where a quick drop in temperature, from two (2) to five (5) degrees Celcius is maintained. This allows the pulp to absorb aromas otherwise lost to the pomace, which in turn limits the solubility of polyphenols and protects against oxidation. A technique that is very costly to implement, but its benefits replaces the use of chemical compounds to alter the aromatic properties of the wine.