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the magic of montemaggiore Print
Written by Nikitas Magel   

Montemaggiore in a GlassNM:  And therein lies the salient challenge for someone in this business, whether it be tending the vineyard and raising the vines or taking the grapes and making the wines — or even more so, as in your case, doing both.  With every step along the way, it's important to be mindful of balance and establish a sort of dialogue with the process.  How would you describe the dialogue that you personally have with the winemaking process?

LC:  Ay, ay, ay!  {chuckling}  That's a loaded question!  I'm not sure I'll answer it directly, but allow me to come at it from the side.  One of the reasons why we like biodynamic practices is because it takes into account the bigger picture, and with the bigger picture comes some of that balance.  For example, our vineyard (quite luckily for us) is carved out of a forest; we've got forest land all around us, with all its naturally occurring flora and fauna.  My firm belief is that Mother Nature has found a balance in every single area of the world.  But we humans tend to disrupt it, especially when we plant a monoculture of grapes for as far as the eye can see; things get way out of balance.  [In that case], if you get one little pest in a corner of your vineyard, you no longer have its natural predator near enough to it to keep it in check.  I think one of the reasons we can be organic and biodynamic is because we're carved out of a forest: although we may get pests, we don't get huge infestations of them because whatever pest is indigenous to here, its natural predator is only a few feet away in the forest and will come and eat it before its population gets too large.  Infestations happen when things get out of balance.

So, in answer your question about dialogue, I harken back to my thing for balance.  It's a give and take.  We don't have the world's most gorgeous vineyard with the flat, brown floor, and the uniform rows that are perfectly trimmed and clipped — things that visitors love to see.  Heck, when I was first visiting producers, I loved vineyards like that, too.  But now I look at our native grasses (some people would call them weeds; I call them native grasses) growing in the vineyard, and our scraggly-looking vines that lack these huge, lush green canopies, and I say, "This is what I want!"  It may not look gorgeous, but I believe it's still the best thing for the way that I want to grow grapes and make wine.

NM:  So, you seem to have some very clear approach about how to manage your vines, not only to keep them harmony with the broader environment, but also to have them produce the kind of fruit you want to produce wines under the Montemaggiore label.  How do you continue that approach in the cellar, once you've harvested the fruit from the vineyards?

"I think there are advantages to adding yeast, and many times I exploit those advantages."

LC:  I'd have to go back to that word, balance.  There's two extremes in winemaking.  At one extreme is the aspiration for the Robert Parker score, which does whatever it takes to make that bottle of wine perfect according to some one else or some external ideal.  The other extreme strives to do things completely naturally with minimal intervention and simply express the grapes and where they came from.  I'm more or less a balance between the two.  I'm a fan of adding sulfur to wine — it may not be the most talked about aspect of winemaking and ideally I'd love to make a natural wine, but there are so many things that can go wrong.  I believe in cleanliness and not having things grow in your wine, and I believe in some sort of repeatability from bottle to bottle.  After all, I'm a scientist at heart!  There are certain advances that mankind has made that I choose to take advantage of, even if it may not be the most 'natural.'  In general, I add yeast to my wine.  Syrah can be a very stinky wine, and it's risky to do a native fermentation.  The wine that we're drinking now, half of it was done with a spontaneous fermentation, the other half I innoculated.  And I go back and forth with that issue; it's a dialogue I'm still having with myself.  I think there are advantages to adding yeast, and many times I exploit those advantages.  Even so, my ideal is to make a completely natural wine.  I'd like to get there someday, but I'm not sure if ever will.  I have a variety of friends who make wines is the most natural manner and I definitely appreciate them but I don't always like them!  {laughing}  I guess I just need that cleanliness there, because in the end I'm German at heart and I like things to be clean and precise.

NM:  Apropos, how are you able to reconcile your pragmatism with the deep respect you have for biodynamic practices?  While not all, quite a few of those practices simply can't be explained or validated empirically.  As a scientist, how do you sit with that?



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