4 questions to Michele Ciani

Michele Ciani is the owner of Aquila del Torre, a Friulian winery with a biodynamic soul that lines up excellent labels with not only native vines. Local culture, hospitality and a different Picolit than usual …

Aquila del Torre is a winery with a young team and a relatively recent history. Can you tell us how your adventure was born and above all of the conversion first to organic and then to biodynamic?

«Aquila del Torre, as it is known today, has a history of 25 years and roots its origins in the hills of Savorgnano del Torre at the beginning of the last century, developing what is called the Sbuelz reclamation. It is a family project, of which I have taken the baton. At the end of the 90s we recovered the historic vineyards planted in the 60s, in particular those of the Picolit and Tocai Friulano varieties. Subsequently, the slopes of the natural amphitheater, in the heart of the company, were arranged and terraced, and the vineyards of the other varieties were planted between 1999 and 2003. In 2010 we started the path towards organic certification on the entire surface and the production of all wines, now 10 years ago … In the meantime we joined FIVI and in 2016 we put into practice the first notions of biodynamics. For an eco-sustainable and natural approach it was necessary to form a young work group without preconceptions. We have joined the Living Agriculture association which spreads biodynamics in a practical way among farmers and this interpretation has given us the tools to observe our company as an agricultural organism. We have re-valuated how important the presence of the wood all around the vineyards was, we introduced two apiaries next to the vineyards and some work on the land is done with the help of a draft horse. Together with common sense, we have implemented a whole series of actions to highlight the origin of the wines produced and make them unique and unrepeatable».

The commitment is 360 degrees, also because you welcome with a bed & breakfast and organize mini tasting courses and insights on the biodynamic method. What feedback did you get?

«On the top floor of the cellar we have developed guest rooms, from which you can admire the view from the top of the hill towards the plain and the city of Udine, relaxing in a welcoming and informal setting. In addition, we have created the tasting room dedicated to deepening the characteristics of our territory and biological and biodynamic practices. The visit of Aquila del Torre is completed by a walk in the vineyards and through the woodland, by the observations in the field of the phenological stage of the vine, the stage of development of green manure, the evaluation of the compost pile and much more depending on the season. We believe that on-site experience in person is the first step in enhancing the area. Even if the period we are experiencing limits this possibility, we have received many adhesions as it is a truly unique type of experience».

Picolit is one of the strong points of the territory and a wine in which you believe a lot. Your white Oasis is a wine in this sense certainly “different” from the others in production. Tell us about it?

«The Picolit variety is intimately linked to Savorgnano del Torre and the Colli Orientali del Friuli. Probably the best known and most sought after grape variety for its history among the autochthonous Friulian ones. Sweet white wines usually unleash great charm and Picolit in Friuli is one of them. In its sweetness it maintains a great balance of freshness and elegance precisely due to the ampelographic characteristics of the loose bunch together with the pedoclimatic characteristics of this hilly area. It is necessary to know in depth the drying and vinification technique to produce a sweet wine of this stature. Alongside this typology, recognized as DOCG Picolit, in 2010 we decided to take a different path from tradition, making a white wine from grapes without drying. The fermentation with indigenous yeasts in exhausted wood containers and the long stay on the fine lees are the main guidelines for appreciating this white wine. The name Oasi recalls the unrepeatable situation in which our hillside vineyards are enclosed within the woods. It is not a wine for meditation or after a meal, but it is rediscovered as a wine for the whole meal and which triggers curiosity for interesting combinations, ranging from blue cheeses to truffle-based dishes. Up to grilled eel, or bisato on the grill, recommended by our Venice customers».

Which markets are responding best in a difficult year like 2020? And what are your plans for the future?

«The local market was the first to respond positively, both for a choice of heart, to support local productions, and for a choice aimed at quality, that is the rediscovery of local excellence. This period of health emergency has given us the opportunity to rediscover the contact with the direct consumers of our wines, and who actually uncorks the bottles. On the other hand, most of our Italian clientele is linked to the restaurant and wine shop channel, which has been heavily penalized. In this context, only in some cases has there been the possibility of reinventing oneself also for the wine proposal. Recently I noticed two extreme ways in which the market has developed, on the one hand the spontaneous word of mouth between acquaintances or friends who have requested information and bought the bottles directly at the source, and on the other hand the unstoppable development of online sales. However, restaurateurs and winemakers remain our most loyal ambassadors and this is demonstrated by the FIVI affection points in Italy, with their desire to communicate artisan wines. Our foreign business partners are at the window and are waiting for the storm to pass, and I am referring mainly to the USA, Northern Europe and Japan. These are reorganizing to be ready at the moment of the recovery, which foresee more rosy than what I personally perceive in the Italian context».
Text by Gualtiero Spotti
Photos courtesy of Aquila del Torre
Forse ti può interessare anche