REACHING NEW HEIGHTS
Giulio Armani has a lot of experience making natural wine. He has been the wine-maker at natural wine stalwart La Stoppa in Piacenza for a long time. But, when we first met Giulio back in 2011, what really blew us away were the wines from his own side project: DENAVOLO. These wines are special. Why? Because they talk of a place. A small isolated place high up in the hills of Emilia-Romagna.
Every great wine begins with a great vineyard and Giulio has some of the most special vineyards we have ever seen. Perched precariously on the top of the foothills in the far western portion of Emilia-Romagna near Piacenza and not far from the sea, his vineyards start at 300m and top out at 750m. The only way to get to the top vineyards is by slogging up an old trail in an all-wheel-drive vehicle and hope that you make it. You reach the Denavolo vineyard first. This mature (30-year-old) vineyard is where Giulio makes his flagship wine DENAVOLO.
Then, you keep driving up and up and up. Perched up on the top of the hill on thin soils and battered by the wind – are Giulio’s youngest and most astonishing vineyards: Campo Rotondo and Cassinera. They are where Giulio is reaching new heights. Here, nature and Giulio create an inter-twined dance that results in magic in the bottle. Southern exposure, hot dry days, cool mountain nights, lots of wind to guard against disease and rot, and a master wine-maker, create a wine that astonishes: Catavela. It is still early years for this vineyard and so Giulio is making a more accessible wine now – but when you taste it – you can taste the limestone, the wind, and the sun, and you know that great things are coming. It is almost like the smell of the air just before a big storm – everyone (even the most inexperienced neophyte) can predict that it is coming.
Giulio’s wines are all white wines and they are made from mostly local varieties: Malvasia di Candia Aromatica, Ortrugo, Marsanne, Sauvignon Blanc, Santa Maria, and some unknown local varieties. In Giulio’s vineyards, these grapes produce very small berries with high skin to must ratios, and so Giulio leverages that fact and makes his white wines with extended skin contact of between 4-7 months. This also allows him to use zero additions in his wine-making. These wines are pure expressions of grape and place.