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Making Wines of Place at Frascole

T. Edward Wines, New York wine importer/distributor, Frascole, Enrico Lippi, Karen Ulrich for T. Edward Wines

Enrico Lippi of Frascole

“Organic.  It’s how it’s been done for generations,” said Enrico Lippi, the proprietor and winemaker at Frascole.  “Even our grandparents didn’t want to use pesticides.  They knew it was bad for the vineyards and bad for their health working in the vineyards.”  Now totaling 16ha, with 12ha always in production and the other 4ha in flux, the family vineyard sits at 350-520m, just northeast of  Florence, yielding wines that are “more floral, with more acidity and lifted.”  Sitting at such an elevation that is high and cool, the vines here are tucked away in a small corner of Tuscan Appennines where insects are a minimal problem.  And while Elisa Lippi’s grandfather made wine, he “wasn’t using copper or much sulfur,” said Enrico.  “They were selling it in demijohns; it wasn’t necessary to use sulfites.  People drank it young and fresh.”  And though Elisa and Enrico, who met while studying agriculture in Florence, are no longer making wines for local consumption, their Frascole Bitornino 2011 is just as lean and bright with incredibly fresh acidity, as a young wine that doesn’t need sulfites.

Making “a different kind of Sangiovese” with small berries that ripen slowly, the couple began with 4.5ha under vine, which they purchased in 1992.  Planting an additional organic vineyard in 1996, followed by others in 1998, 1999, 2001 and 2008, they constructed a new cellar in 1999, the same year that they began to convert their standing vineyard to organic farming.  With rocky soils of clay loam, the new vineyards were a challenge to plant, but with time it was the crops between the vines that helped cure the soil by adding the necessary nutrients.

With cover crops that consist of a mix of fava, orzo and avena, the Lippis determine each year’s organic cover crops based on the soil’s needs.  If the vines need vitamins and nitrates, then they plant fava because of its short roots.  If the soil needs aeration then they plant orzo because its roots go deep, opening the soil.  However, because all of their cover crops must be certified organic, they will sometimes use what they can find, later tilling the crops back into the soil as fertilizer.

T. Edward Wines, Frascole-Dicomano, Organic Wine Importer

Beginning September 1st, they taste and analyze color and acidity from a number of different parcels, before hand harvesting the fruit as it ripens.  “Before 2009 we had 10-15 different lots,” said Enrico.  “After 2009, we’ve a new system with 25-30 different lots fermenting [separately with indigenous yeasts] in small tanks,” because it enables a softer, cooler and gentler extraction from the grapes, allowing for a longer maceration.  At Frascole, there are no pumpovers, because “if you use too many pumps, you get a harder, harsher wine,” and so everything is done by hand.  For blending, they employ seven large stainless steel tanks.

Residing at 350m are the vines that yield their easy drinking Bitornino Chianti, which is fermented in stainless steel and cement, and then aged in cement for 12-15 months.  At 450m, the vineyard yields fruit for the Frascole Rufina Chianti, where there is not a uniform soil type, which leads to at least eight different ripening times and fermentations, depending upon the vintage.  Fermented in stainless steel, used oak and cement, and aged in cement (60%) and large cask (40%) for 12-14 months, the Frascole Rufina Chianti 2009 is floral and lean with soft edges, light tannins and bright acidity at the core.

“It’s about making a wine that’s very personal,” said Enrico, “which is achieved by what’s been given to me.  It’s wine that’s wine from and of the place of Frascole, of the terroir.”

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