MONASTERO SUORE CISTERCENSI
THE HAND(S) OF GOD….NUNS MAKING AMAZING WINE
30 miles north of Rome, in the town of Vitiorchiano, there is an order of nuns producing some intriguing, natural wine under the guidance of one of Italy’s most prominent low-intervention producers, Giampiero Bea, son of Paulo Bea (you can read his profile here).
The Sisters are part of the larger Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance, a Roman Catholic religious order of monasteries of monks and nuns with origins tracing back to 1098. They are self-sustaining communities, producing not only wine but cheese, beer, spirits and sweets to make their living while striving to improve viticulture, recipes and to preserve the land.
Every year these approximately eighty women, produce these wines from their own vineyards and gardens, farmed sustainably from volcanic soils, harvested without machinery, fermented with only naturally occurring yeasts, and bottled without fining or filtration.
Coenobium, the basic wine of the monastery, is a blend of Trebbiano, Malvasia, Verdicchio and Grechetto, and is vinified using the technique long employed by Bea of leaving the fermenting juice in longer contact with the skin of the grapes allowing the wine to extract more colour (a deep, brassy, yellow), flavour and tannins.
The result is an unusually complex, medium bodied and food friendly wine that can have a slightly oxidative quality having had more contact with the air during fermentation. A dry palate, with flavours of apple pie, toasted pecans, honey and citrus, this intriguing wine has layers of minerals, nuttiness and acidity.
Ruscum, is a blend of the same four grape varieties but the juice is left to ferment on the lees for two weeks or more resulting in a wine with a deep golden, sometimes orange color, penetrating minerality with hints of anise and wild flowers.
While both of these wines fall into two of the more popular wine trends today (‘natural’ and ‘orange’ wines) the sisters’ history and tradition speak for themselves.