Who: Amilcare Alberici his daughter Arianna, cousin Giuseppe Caleffi
Where: Boretto, Po Valley, Reggio Emilia
What grapes: Lambrusco Salomino, Ancellota, Lambrusco di Fogarina, Nostrano
How many bottles: 10,000
Key facts: Lambrusco di Fogarina is a traditional grape saved from extinction by the work of this estate.
Alberici Lambrusco dell’Emilia “La Fogarina”
This product is dangerously fun, low alcohol (10 percent) frizzante and flavor-wise geared to either pizza or big plates of cured meats and aged cheeses (Reggiano, prosciutto, culatello etc.) Dry enough, and absolutely traditional to northern Emilia in terms of wine style, this kind of red can even appeal to people who think they don’t love wine… and yet I’m also very into it. La Fogarina is made from sixty-year-old vines that were abandoned, then rediscovered by Alberici in 2002. This is the only estate to commercially produce a Lambrusco from the Fogarina sub-variety, a grape they were able to successful in re-registering with the bureaucratic “register of Italian varieties.” A small victory for biodiversity, and a fun wine, too!
Alberici Lambrusco dell’Emilia “Il Casalone”
Il Casalone is the name of Alberici’s land, a 10-hectare parcel at the junction of Parma, Reggio Emilia and Mantova. It’s also the name given to the estate’s most savory, old-school Lambrusco. With natural fermentation, it takes 6-8 months to make this wine. Il Casalone is a blend of 85% Lambrusco Salomino and 15% Ancellotta.
I just met the nicest people on the planet! The Casalone farm is on a floodplain in Reggio Emilia, close to a nondescript highway overpass, down enough kilometers of gravel paths to make me initially question the existence of the place. A short row of blue beehives sits in the driveway, in front of low trellises of Lambrusco Nostrano and Fogarina vines. The vines surround a small cluster of buildings: house, cellar and barn. Amilcare Alberici is dressed in green coveralls and socks and sandals. He has farmer hands. He smiles often and it is a great smile, it conveys. I don’t understand his Italian, sotto voce with short spaces between syllables. But his daughter is an amazing conduit, her eyes are full of emotion, her words direct and real. I’m not surprised at all when Arianna says she plays the viola. Her family are 90% heart, that energy needs to get out. To write about vibes is weird. I feel waves of creativity, sincerity and raw emotion from Arianna. I feel (and I can see) how she feels about our just-born partnership. She is really into it.
We are bringing a couple thousand bottles of Lambrusco from their organic farm to America. I get a charge of energy from this rare moment in my work life. To us it is an exciting thing, they have old vines and rare grapes (Fogarina is unique to the property) and they have done something special with their materials. The wines are hard-wired to make you happy, I can’t see how a person could miss their appeal. They are a mood changer and absolutely the thing you want when sitting down with a pizza or some snacks at 5pm (or 1am!)
We are in the kitchen after tasting. Arianna’s mother is making espresso in a Bialetti, and her father is talking about how Veronelli loved their wines: the red and black on the Fogarina label are the colors of Italian anarchists, a dedication to his memory. I say to Arianna how happy I am to start selling their wines in America. And I am happy: I love the wines and the place, and I’ll make some money from this real organic Lambrusco sold at a moderate price. But she is SO happy. They make 10,000 bottles. It matters to her in a way I don’t fully understand. I think a big part of it is pride. Their little farm, miles down a one-lane gravel track in a quiet piece of the Po valley will have wines sold in America.
I hope this is a defining day for them, and us. We are starting something together, Piedmont Wine Imports is entering their story in a middle chapter, after decades of quiet dedication to an increasingly rare way of farming, through Luc seeing a needle in a haystack and having the clarity to pursue it. I get to show up and soak in all this amazing positivity, a feeling that we are doing something, that a small piece of the world is better now than a few days ago.
My work is extremely selfish. You probably knew that: in Italy I feel like a professional dinner guest. But it is not handmade dinners or rare wines that make me do this, they are a decoration. It’s this feeling, life and the ability of humans to create positive change. Amilcare Alberici and his daughter created (and deserve) all their future success via decades of sweat and correct small decisions. We simply show up, validate what they already know, and take away an amazing partnership, and wine.