I swear Andrea Occhipinti must think I am completely and utterly mentally retarded! At best, he would be convinced that my knowledge of the Italian language is restricted to “wow, ma che bello!”
I do have other words in my vocabulary, but they all completely failed me at the sight of the outstanding beauty of Andrea’s vineyards.
He has just three and a half hectares, predominantly planted with Aleatico, perched at 450m over the Lake Viterbo, near Gradoli, in Lazio.
Originally from Rome, Andrea moved to Viterbo (80 km or 50 miles away) for his studies. It was then that he fell in love with this area and with wine-making. It’s not hard to see why. This particular plot of land is an old volcanic region and boasts a special microclimate that is perfect for growing grapes. Andrea’s first vintage was 2004 and right now, he’s making roughly fifteen thousand bottles per year.
Andrea’s oldest vines are a tender 25 years old, but the majority are much younger, having been planted when he started in 2004. I found it interesting to notice that Andrea also has a nursery space dedicated to cultivating clones which will eventually replace dead vines.
Wine-making here is a very simple affair. The natural fermentation (i.e. with indigenous yeasts) takes place mainly in cement. Ageing can take place in cement vats, stainless steel tanks or terracotta eggs.*
*These terracotta eggs also go by the name of tinaja and I saw a ton of them also at Foradori.
It was very hot on the day that I visited (during the “Road Trip of Summer 2015“) and so when Andrea suggest that we crack open a bottle of his Rosa 2014, I wasn’t going to say no! It is a 100% Aleatico, made after one day skin contact maceration (for colour) then by blending two different juices, one aged in cement and the other in steel tanks. It was perfect on this occasion – so easy to drink, juicy red fruit notes but wonderfully rounded in the mouth with nice acidity and length.
We tasted a few other wines. The common theme for all of them was their very fruity character (fresh fruit: plums, berries) with wonderful tight acidity. Clearly no wood presence in any of the wines. Delicious summer wines.
I have fond memories of his Rosso Arcaico wine, aged in tinaja, which was more persistent but this is partially due to the fact that the wine is a 50-50 blend of Aleatico and Grechetto Rosso.
Keep an eye out for these wines. Andrea is a young winemaker with a huge potential.