Emilia-Romagna is a very special area to me. It is the land of my mother’s birth and while I grew up in France, most of my childhood summer vacations were spent here, in her house located in the Apennini 30 minutes south of Parma. Our time there was split between swimming in the neighboring river, eating the many products from my Uncle’s farm (roasted duck, salami, coppa and, of course, homemade wine) and hiking through the countryside and surrounding villages. We also often explored the famous destinations of Florence, Cinque Terre or Verona, all within a couple hours drive. Those trips will always represent some of the dearest moments of my childhood and, to this day, I love going there every year.
So, it was always a goal to represent a producer from this region and luckily, just as we were ready to make the leap into Italy, I came upon the wines of Quarticello.
I had read several articles about Roberto Maestri and Quarticello in natural wine publications and after some quick research, realized the winery is located just a half hour from my mother’s house. I had to see for myself what he was doing and one look was all it took.
The Quarticello estate was born in Montecchio, Emilia in 2001 with the purchase of an eight-hectare property by the Maestri family. While his grandfather made wine as a hobby for the family to drink, Roberto fell in love with the land and the craft and sought a broader foundation for his winemaking skills. Realizing he had many gaps to fill in he studied enology and viticulture and started helping out on the estate anywhere he could. By 2006, when the farm was in better shape and he had greater know how, Maestri released his first vintage.
Roberto and his mother on one side. My mother and me in the other side.
One of the changes Roberto made was to implement Guyot training, believing this created wines with optimal balance. He also instituted an aggressive green harvest to limit production (an important step with Lambrusco varieties which naturally have high yields). Since the beginning, he has been farming organically and expects to be Ecocertified with the 2013 harvest. Working with five hectares of vineyards, Roberto uses organic fertilizer and sprays with sulphur and copper when necessary.
The soil, a mix of sandy clay and gravel, is planted to the indigenous grapes Lambrusco Salamino, Lambrusco Grasparossa, Lambrusco Maestri, Malbo Gentile, Ancellotta and Malvasia di Candia.
“We like to drink wine that tells of the territory in which it was born,” Roberto Maestri.
While philosophically we are on the same page as Quarticello and I have a personal connection to the area, Roberto’s wines are what left no doubt in my mind that he was going to be one of Return to Terroir’s first Italian producers. They have immense character, balance and purity and are well priced. We are very excited to have Quarticello in our portfolio and happy to be able to offer these three selections.
Lambrusco Emilia I.G.T. frizzante, “Barbacane,” Quarticello, 2011
Lambrusco Maestri 40%, Lambrusco Salamino 40%, Malbo Gentile 20%
Barbacane is almost like a red counterpart to Prosecco in that it is meant to be fresh and vivacious, yet unlike most Prosecco, it is expressive and multi-faceted. After a four to six day maceration period, it undergoes a secondary fermentation in tank for 30 days. With lively yet delicate bubbles, an aromatic bouquet of cocoa nibs, violets, spice, blackberries and black cherries on a bed of supple tannins, it is easy to quaff but can also be slowly sipped. The finish is drier than its 13 g/liter of residual sugar would suggest and at just 11.5% alcohol, you can drink this all night… or afternoon. Best when chilled for several hours before serving and it is screaming out for charcuterie. Suggested Retail Price: $17
Lambrusco Emilia I.G.T. frizzante, “Neromaestri,” Quarticello, 2011
Lambrusco Maestri 50%, Lambrusco Grasparossa 30%, Malbo Gentile 10%, Ancellotta 10%
Different than most Lambrusco, the Neromaestri has substantial grip, body and intensity, in part a result of a six to eight day skin maceration. The flagship of the property, it went through a natural secondary fermentation in bottle, not tank, for six to eight months. It could use a few minutes to open up but don’t wait too long. Ten minutes is all you need. Spicy and earthy with violets, plums, blackberry and cherries, a little leather and complex finish, it can go with an array of smoked meats, sausages and cheeses. Chill for one hour before serving. Suggested Retail Price: $19
Malvasia Emilia I.G.T. frizzante, “Despina,” 2012
Malvasia Aromatica di Candia 100%
Aromatic is most definitely is a word that comes to mind when tasting this wine and there is no other Malvasia I’ve tried like it. It goes through a soft pressing and then a natural secondary fermentation in bottle for six to eight months. Fresh and floral yet rustic, it might remind you of taking a walk through a green house or a forest during springtime. Brimming over with lychee, orange blossom, lemon, apricot skins and yeast, it is unusual and delicious. If you have an adventurous or eclectic palate, you’re in for quite a treat! Chill before serving. Suggest Retail Price: $19