On the hills of the maritime Alps overlooking the gulf of the Riviera of Flowers, at the border between Italy and France, is where flowers have been historically cultivated and exported all over Europe and as far as San Petersburg and it is there where the wine making story of Aris Blancardi started.

Aris was a practicing horse veterinarian when his grandfather died and left him his property. He had to decide what to do with the land he was left behind. His grandfather had devoted his life to flower growing like his great grandfather who had started the family business in 1885 but Aris didn’t know anything about horticulture.

The most obvious and profitable solution would have been to sell the property for real estate, in the early 1990s the price of the land in that particular area was very high but to sell didn’t feel like the right solution to Aris. Instead he started to value the option of starting to practice horticulture. A friend of his had told him about a course of biodynamic agriculture that was about to start and out of curiosity he decided to attend it.

It was an interesting course and he wanted to learn more about biodynamics, so he went to another course about biodynamic viticulture. Aris thought why not for his grandfather had also one hectar of vines planted on his property. The course was held by Nicolas Joly, a French winegrower from the Loire wine region, and one of the pioneers and leading personalities of the biodynamic wine movement. The course was very inspiring and acted more like a revelation to Aris. Therefore he thought he would give viticulture a chance.

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He started to take care of the old vineyard of his grandfather. He started with what he had, one steel vessel of 200 litres and an old wooden barrique. His first experimentation of making a Vermentino wine aged in the barrique was not a great success because the barrique had been used for red wine and what turned out was actually a strange rose Vermentino wine. Despite of his disappointment he brought a sample of the wine which he had called VB1 (Vermentino Barrel 1) to Nicolas Joly and after tasting it he said to him that he had a very interesting terroir and he encouraged Aris to continue.

Step by step he started to turn into a real vigneron, the only problem was that Aris didn’t drink alcohol, so it made it even more difficult for him to learn. Slowly, by tasting more and more wines, he realised how important wine was in gastronomy to combine and compliment food, he liked the taste of wine in his mouth but the only difficulty for him was to actually swallow the wine.

“I have never chosen the easiest way. I know it may sound absurd and many wine producers they make fun of me in a friendly way because I don’t drink but I love to make wine. As soon as I started, it really made my heart beat faster, and I knew that it was what I needed to do. If you do not have your heart in it then you’re not following your right path. I know I’m blessed and privileged to have the opportunity to do what I love in this beautiful landscape.”

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Today Aris produces around 15.000 to 17.000 bottles per year of Vermentino, Pigato and Rossese wines. His wines are all fermented and aged in wood, for him wood is the most natural material to use in the wine making and even though he uses small barriques the wood flavour doesn’t take over. Aris believes that it’s because he leaves the wine to age on the lees, the lees will not only protect the wine from the strong flavours of wood but also against oxidation and for that reason he doesn’t need to add any sulphites to the wine.

Aris loves the process of making Natural wines for they are a living product and constantly in change and evolving toward something that sometimes can be very unpredictable. It is not up to him to decide when the wine is ready to be bottled but the wine will decide by itself. One of Aris wines had not yet done its spontaneous malolactic fermentation when we were visiting the winery so he had decided to bottle a couple of litres of the wine which he had been carrying around with him in his car to put the wine under hot weather conditions to see if the process would start.

“If you only knew what they have been put through, these bottles have traveled hundreds of kilometres on bumpy roads, been left under the sun in over 50 celsius degrees, and still nothing has happened to the wine, it’s like a stubborn ligurian; it never changes. This experiment has made me rethink about the general belief about Natural wines and how fragile they are. I’ve been thinking about all the winemakers who are so concerned about even minimal vibrations and how they try not to touch the wine vessels during the winemaking process not to distress the wine. Well I have intentionally put my wine through the most extreme and hardest conditions and nothing bad happens. No malolactic fermentation has started, the taste hasn’t changed at all, the only thing that has changed is my idea about the general belief that Natural wines are more fragile than conventional wines and that they suffer from transportation and big temperature changes”. He let us taste the wine he had put under “stress” and it was still pretty high in acidity but otherwise very good.

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We also tasted all the new vintages of wines from the barrels and a completely new wine which will soon be released (when it decides to be ready) made with the Granaccia grapes. The Ligurian declination of French grenache, Spanish garnacha, and Sardinian Cannonau. We are waiting anxiously for that release day because what we already could taste from the barrel was fantastic!

In the meantime you can taste the extraordinary wines of Tenuta Selvadolce, the VB1 and the Rucantu which are already available in our collection. They are rare, original and made by a man whose heart is in for wine making!

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