2019 Menti 'Roncaie sui Lieviti'
Region: Gambellara < Veneto < Italy
Vineyard/Cellar Stats: Certified organic + certified biodynamic farming; 60+ year old vines on white 'Gambellara' volcanic mineral soils; fermented in concrete, then 2nd fermentation in bottle started with the addition of more grape juice; unfined/unfiltered, with no added So2; zero-zero; 9.5% ABV
Winemaker: Stefano Menti
We had the pleasure of visiting Stefano at his ancient cellar in Gambellara, roaming the steep, super volcanic vineyards and learning the story of Gargenaga, the only grape he grows. But first, a refresher on the Menti family: It’s a story we hear often: the son and great-grandson of winemakers, Stefano Menti returns home to the family vineyard to make natural wines, on his own terms. Growing up, he was riding tractors through the vineyard and helping dad with harvest, then left to study and work abroad for years. When dad summoned him back to help the failing business, Stefano agreed, but on one condition: no more of the conventional farming BS used by his father since the 70’s. He went home, got rid of all the chemicals and returned to the hands-off methods used by his great grandfather. “The wine starts from the fruit,” he explains, “It is essential that the fruit is as pure as possible”.
Italy's Veneto region contains pockets of ancient volcanic soils, like Stefano's plots in Gambellara, near Soave. His volcanic terroir is different than other parts of Italy, with compact horizontal bands of dark basalt just below the surface, giving the wines a distinct tension and stoniness. This comes across in all of the wines to varying degrees. In this, his frizzante (which didn't really fizz this vintage), we find less of the electricity and flintiness, and more fruity, sour cider-like rusticity (AKA funk, but the clean kind. No mouse or barnyard here). Tasting with Stefano in his cellar this summer, he first poured us this wine, one we'd had before and known as a pet'nat with pretty intense bubbles. But the 2019 vintage he poured was still as a pond. He made it the exact same way as he always does, with the second fermentation started in bottle with the addition of Gargenaga must, but it just didn't fizz. Such things happen in the natural wine world. But this 'mistake' turns out to be a very delicious still wine, with more varietal character and tart, citrusy golden apple/pear fruit than than when it goes bubbly. Kind of like a sour beer or if a Lemon Gobstopper dropped into hard cider. Dare we say we prefer it this way? Maybe....