I have known Denis Montanar’s wines for at least 15 years and I remember with precision his first wine tasted: Refosco Scodovacca, which I think was not yet called that. The first decade of the new century was a period in which I was still totally fascinated by the wines “packaged” with the use of barrique. I was not an extremist (the extremes, in general, I never liked) but a small barrel, perhaps Alliers, used with the right measure, exercised in my eyes.
Nevertheless, I was beginning to take an interest in the production of self-defined natural wines (an adjective to which I prefer the more politicizing “ecological”) with their merits and faults. One of the aspects that I least appreciated was the achievement of a volatile acidity rate such that some wines could be defined as beautiful vinegars and nothing more.
All this to say that Refosco dal peduncolo rosso was the classic card able to vanish the deck.
Very simple: that wine had a volatile rate so well managed that from that day it pushed me to look for this parameter in every ecological wine I drank. Only after some time I learned that the producer, Denis Montanar, in his Borgo (in Friulano “Borc”) Dodòn, when he was in the presence of fibreglass tanks of wines with an excessive volatile, he had no problem to move the contents in his vinegar room, to make some terrific vinegars.
But to talk about Denis just for this reason would be to look at the finger pointing to the moon and not the moon itself, because Denis has a sensitivity, towards its plants, out of the ordinary. He has adhered to the Organic disciplinary since 1996, has passed to the biodynamic one and, as if that were not enough, has accepted the strict production rules imposed by the protocol of the group “Renaissance du Terroir”, a group founded by none other than the famous Nicolas Joly (for those unfamiliar I suggest an online search and the taste of his “Clos de la Coulée de Serrant” with several years of aging).
The lands worked by Denis are lands in which there is the polyculture: corn, barley, spelt, beer, sausages obtained from a single pig annually raised, in short, a true return to the roots of the agricultural trade. The lands in which the grapes insist were initially cultivated by Denis’ great-grandfather, Lino, and then passed to his grandfather and, from his grandfather, for rent, to Denis himself, who works them with the help of his father Claudio and his son Carlo.
In the meantime the estate has added another 10 hectares of vineyards planted with the mass selection of vines over 100 years of age, in the parcels of Dodon, Sandrigo and Scodovacca. The basic approach, as I mentioned, can be summarized in the philosophy learned by the chemist Prof. Bricchi, who told Denis: “if you do not help the plant, it helps itself, and the aromatic substances it produces are not waste products, but are part of the primary metabolism, what the plant puts in place to survive and reproduce”.
To facilitate the success of this philosophy Denis realized that, of 6 years in 6 years, his plants were facing production of poor quality grapes with rather critical harvests. It is for this reason that, since 2002, Denis every 5 years leaves the vines to rest, after winter pruning and green manure.
Among the wines produced I had the recent opportunity to taste the Merlot Dodòn 2015, a Merlot that was born on 2 hectares of loamy, sandy and clay soils, planted with 6500 vines per hectare that produce about one kilogram of grapes per plant. After selection in the vineyard and arrival in the cellar, the grapes undergo destemming, a maceration of 6 days and spontaneous fermentation in fibreglass vats. The aging of the obtained wine will take place in cement vats and will last one year, at the end of which the wine will be ready for bottling without clarification or filtration.
Once the bottle was opened, and left to oxygenate for a couple of hours, the wine revealed a very intense ruby color with an orange nail, almost as if to immediately show its two-faced Janus essence. The nose jumped with incredible agility from the plum cooked to the blood orange, from the black cherry to the red currant, from the pot pourri of violet to the rose hip, from the leather to the blood echoes, from the fire cured tobacco to the Balkan Sobranie one, leaving a sensation of pleasant Babel olfactory, innervated around a delicate volatile acidity.
If the nose, alone, led to get lost in endless conjectures, inviting to the sip, the palate was the place where these juxtapositions found a homogeneous resolution thanks to the tactile balance between softness and freshness, just hinted purebreb tannins and mineral flavor, all again supported by the same trait d’union identified to the nose: the mild and greedy volatile acidity.
Needless to say, the retrolfactive return was impressive to say the least, leaving the Grand Finale to the red fruit and the volatile, persistent for a long time.
In few words, a wine that exceeds expectations in an almost embarrassing way, risking not being taken into consideration, given the quality expressed, precisely because wines like this cost, on average, at least 10/15 Euros more. This is precisely why my spirit as a commercial consultant leads me to say: why is this wine not offered, starting from the producer, at a higher source price?
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