Gravner: Cultivate wine.

Gravner: Cultivate wine.


Josko Gravner and his wine production contained in a book

"Gravner - Coltivare il vino" ("Gravner - Cultivating wine") is the title of the new book on Joško Gravner, winegrower of Oslavia (Gorizia), published by the Cucchiaio d'Argento in three languages (Italian, Slovenian and English), fruit of a more than eight months work of Stefano Caffari, author of the text and of the photographer Alvise Barsanti. The book came out in 2015, contemporary with the launch of the 2007 wine vintage of the Company of Oslavia (Gorizia): a refinement of wines lasted for 7 years before they were ready for the market, and this is not something that a vintner does. 

 Gravner has his own way and time to live the earth, cultivate it and look for the most authentic expression of it. In the book, the reader travels from the cellar to the vineyard, from earth to terracotta, into a continuum that emphasizes the most exalted aspects (the great wine successes of the 80s and 90s) as well as the most tragically laborious ones (the very heavy hail of '96 that has marked the vines and life of Gravner, forcing him to reconsider his way of making wine).

Mateja Gravner, daughter of Joško and editorial director of the book, as well as the new marketing manager of the company, was satisfied with the work, in which Caffarri "managed to express with words the essence of what we are and what our wines would like to communicate". 

Gravner: a cross-border winegrower and his particular way of making wine

Gravner is considered one of the fathers of strict viticulture both in Italy and abroad. Strict winemaking in the cellar means not to filter, not to clarify or to bend to practices that are not the minimum of the roasting during the fermentation, with using only a bit of sulphur - but very little - when needed. In its 15 hectares between Slovenia and Italy, Lenzuolo Bianco, a village of Oslavia (Gorizia), 8,000 plants per hectare, produces 230 hectoliters of wine: Bianco Breg, Ribolla, Rosso Gravner, or Rosso Breg. Its company of Oslavia is now known worldwide for wines produced in amphora, that is, by using large amphorae in underground clay (the average amphorae capacity is 200 hectoliters), with long macerations on the skins, an ancient mode of conservation used in Kakheti area in the Caucasus (Giorgia) that Gravner started to use in 2001. According to Gravner, the wine in stainless steel, can not breathe and it collapses. In the amphora instead, it finds the oxygen needed to live. "Three things only serve to make wine: earth, glass and wood, Amphora must be put into the earth because it is like a womb for the wine. "From 2000 onwards I have not controlled the sugar degree; if you do not subtract or add, you do not have anything to control," says the producer.

 But the changes over the years have also affected his vineyards. In fact, in the large vineyards, five artificial ponds have been introduced, trying to restore that natural balance that intensive cultivation and single crops destroy. Thanks to the water, plants, insects and animals come to life in the vineyard, which are vital for good environmental health. On the terraces of the vineyards, several trees have been found: olive trees, cypresses, wild apples, orniths, sorghum. They are important because they provide shelter to many animals and support the artificial nests that have been hung to accommodate different species of birds.

For some time Gravner has decided to put all his production on two vine varieties, and on two vines. One is the Ribolla while the other is the Pignolo, an autochthonous berry red wine of this area. "For a long time, I just want to concentrate on the local varieties. I think it's fair to interpret the best part of Friuli," explains Josko, "I've reduced the production to two labels, I've eliminated a bit of vineyard and now the vineyards per hectare are about 14 per twenty thousand bottles.Could I produce more? I might but I do not care, I maybe will implant another four of Ribolla in order to replace what I took away. "All strictly tree-lined and, as always, near a grove so that the grape never fails to have tree support that facilitates pure air and thermal hikes.

Orange wine tradition: from book to documentary

It's a new wine style, with which Anglo-Saxons for convenience have labelled wines produced from white grapes through prolonged maceration. The fermented wort remains in contact with the grape skins, drawing from them tannins and the golden orange colour with tendencies to amber, "Orange", in fact.  So much amber orange that in some countries, especially Georgia, the Orange wines are called Amber wines. It is the same process of winemaking of red wines, once used also for whites and now resumed by some producers who are turning back to the old traditions.

Orange wines are a small but important niche in the wide range of wines produced around the world by small independent producers that go against the market rules. What is now defined as the epicentre of world production, it encloses the northern Adriatic area, the territories between Slovenia, Italy, Croatia and Austria that extend from Istria through the Karst region and the Vipacco valley to the Collio and the Low Friuli. While in the North are converging, the Orange areas are becoming some parts of Styria and Carinthia. There is also a growing number of vine-growers who, through the exchange of experiences, opinions and knowledge, pass on traditional methods of production, thus developing new knowledge to refine and improve their wines.

The homeland of the Orange wine, or its territory of origin, is commonly considered Georgia. From here the characteristic production in the Kvevri, clay containers are buried in the soil, where the wine stains by remaining in contact with the skins for several months. From here it expanded into Central and Western Europe. Long-macerated white wines are produced in small areas. The productions are contained, as are the surfaces of the vineyards. A territory that is slowly expanding from the northern Adriatic to Italy, Austria, Germany, France, Spain, Hungary, Serbia and the new wine regions such as New Zealand and the United States.

 From 2014, a festival is dedicated to these wines, and in 2016, “Skin Contact: Development of an Orange Taste”, a documentary signed by Laura Michelon and Mike Hopkins, production of  Bottled Films, is presented. The film presents the pioneer of this rebirth, the winemaker Josko Gravner, along with the founder of VinNatur Association- Angiolino Maule and Daniele Piccinin. Thirty minutes to tell how the wines are subjected to maceration on the skins, to understand the "revolutionary" nature of a process that has also generated controversial reactions but which sees today an increasing curiosity in consumers. The documentary focuses on the philosophy of autonoctonism that roots its roots in tradition, going beyond organic and biodynamic.

  It is a return to the past, but above all, a great leap in the future, as many follow the example of Gravner in his idea of bringing wine back to its original meaning. Each has its own path and its own orange culture so that the documentary accompanies the producer of Friuli Collio the stories of Angiolino Maule from Gambellara, founder of the VinNatur, Association, and Daniele Piccinin, a wine producer sited between Soave and Lessinia. They are "three generations of indigenous grape growers, far from each other but close by the deep bond between nature and man," joined on the screen by a sort of red thread crossing regions and generations.

  The documentary is on sale at the Bottled Films site at a cost of 5 euros. On the website, you can also see the trailer.


 Patricija Muzlovic