A most satisfying journey

Ferdinando Principiano Winery

Our philosophy is to visit all the wineries with whom we start to collaborate, in order to get to know the people behind the wines, to see their vineyards and explore their cellars. It’s very important for us to know the wines we’re drinking and which we’re proposing to our customers. We believe that wine isn’t just a bottled product – it’s much more. It’s about the land and the soil where the grapes grow and it’s about the hands that produce the wine with devotion and passion.

Handmade wines reflect the souls of the producers, their philosophies and their relationships with nature. A bottle of wine can be an impersonal product but, when you know who’s made it, you can begin to enjoy the wine on a different level. When you know the hands which have produced the wines and you can picture their vineyards and the vines in your head, then it becomes more personal and you will be able to taste the essence of the wine. That makes us happy and is a thing worth sharing.

That’s why we’re trying to give as much information as possible about the wineries we work with on our website with stories, pictures and videos which we shoot during our visits. Through this blog we’ll be able to give you even more detailed information to really complete the picture.

When we started this wonderful journey across beautiful wine regions and wonderful wineries, we came across the winery of Ferdinando Principiano in Monforte D’Alba, in the Barolo area.

Ferdinando is the prodigal son of a wine-producing family. He describes his own story as typical for a man who grew up in Langa, but his story is in in fact untypical in many ways. He’s a man who’s come to realize that dreams can come true, albeit gradually and not without tenacity. In the early 90s, Ferdinando followed in his father’s footsteps and started to produce wine. 1993 was his first vintage, the first of many to come.

He started in the booming years of winemaking when modernists successfully conquered the US market with their Barolo wines. In those years there was a war going on between modernists and traditional wine producers. The traditional producers made Barolo wines with long fermentation times and aged them in large wooden barrels with very little intervention. This resulted in wines which were tannic, complex and required many years of bottle ageing before they were ready to be enjoyed. Those making their wine in a modernist style used short fermentation times under strict temperature control and aged the wine in small oak barriques for a fruitier, oakier and more “ready to drink” style. Ferdinando started off as one of the so called modernist producers and experimented a lot during his first years of winemaking.

Ferdinando told us that his turning point towards traditional and natural winemaking came 10 years later, after the birth of his son. He told us this story while we were strolling through his vineyard and he was giving us practical examples about the differences between conventional and natural farming.

“One day it just hit me. I remember going home from the vineyard where I had given some treatments to the vines. As my little boy spotted me he ran towards me and wanted to jump into my arms, but with an ache in my heart I had to stop him. I couldn’t embrace him because I had poisonous chemicals on me. Before I could touch my own son I had to shower and change clothes. That was the moment when I started to question what I was really doing. I asked myself: are you working in a field or in a factory? I was a farmer, but felt like I was working in the chemical industry.”

After that confronting moment, Ferdinando knew that he had to make significant changes in order to make wine the same way his ancestors did. Gradually he abandoned most of the technologies and started to put the old philosophies of winemaking into practice: to be able to make wine as purely and cleanly as possible. Since 2003 he has not used any herbicides, pesticides or other synthetic chemicals in the vineyard. Nor has he used any fertilisers. The only additives that he uses – but only when they are really needed – are copper and sulfur. Year after year he slowly recovered his old vineyards which have since started to bloom again. Now during spring time nature will explode in its biodiversity with different flowers, weeds and herbs. Ferdinando loves his work more than ever before and nature has taught him what it means to work with humility and passion.

In the cellar Ferdinando intervenes as little as possible. Only indigenous yeasts are used and fermentation happens spontaneously, without temperature control. No enzymes or other additives are used. The aim is to produce wines which are characterised by the soil and the climate of the vintage and they are deeply linked to the genetic heritage of the Langhe.  

Ferdinando’s eyes were smiling when he was looking proudly at the Ravera vineyard, located on a very steep hill, streaked by rows of Nebbiolo vines which are more than 90 years old. The wines obtained from this vineyard characterise the essence of Ferdinando’s Barolo wines at their best. This is the heritage of the land that he loves.

“My Piedmontese accent, my wife’s Spanish one, the picker’s Macedonian one and my children’s shouts are mixed and released into the sky with hope and passion during each harvest, greeted by the trees and given back to those who are willing to know us.” – Ferdinando Principiano

Ferdinando is a member of Vinnatur, an association of natural wine producers. This is the only association in Italy that tests all the wines of the members to be sure that they do not have any residual additives or chemicals in them.