Wine au Naturel: a podcast interview with Jelena Bressan

–by Christina Pickard

Jelena and Fulvio Bressanare some of Friuli’s (in the northeast of Italy) finest winemakers. Champions of rare native grape varieties like Pignol, Schioppettino, and Verduzzo Friolano, Bressan’s wines are made without chemicals or intervention in the winery except for a tiny bit of sulphur before bottling. The wines, with their ability to transport their drinker to the rugged terrain of northeast Italy, are true reflections of the land in which they grew, and the grapes from which they were made.

les caves de pyrene
The Bressan family

“The centuries-old spirit of the family lies here, where the slopes of the Collio Region fade gently and open up on the Isonzo River Valley, in a slice of land protected to the north by the Alps and open to the south to the hot winds of the Adriatic Sea; where a rare mixture of natural elements (geographic, geological and climatic) have created a unique and inimitable “terroir”.”

Here is the Bressan philosophy as written by Fulvio:

I believe in the sure hand of my father and those who performed their labours among the same grapevines with commitment and dedication for ten generations before him.
I believe in our land, unique, loyal, serene and aware of its surrounding environment.
I believe in our vineyard, poor and humble, but at the same time the queen mother procreator of an incredible heritage of aromas.
I believe in the artisan master’s “artistic” sensitivity, proud of his own work and his own ideas, and in the tradition of his deeds, the fruit of centuries-long experience acquired in the personal cultivation of the vineyard.

With these values and true pride in the results achieved, I still produce Wine, without presumption or arrogance, but curious and attentive to the methods of the ancient science of wine-making, with a categorical refusal of modern technology.

I am not “organic”, even if my personal rules impose conditions in the vineyard and wine-cellar that are more severe than those of various “certifications”.

I am not bio-dynamic because I know unfortunately that the rules can be superseded by fashion and I know that nothing is easier than imposing rules and then breaking them, thus profiting from the naiveté of others…

The majority of wines produced today around the world are made mediocre, deprived of character, standardised, unable to challenge Time due to the indiscriminate use of chemicals both in the vineyard and the wine-cellar. This method of working deadens the traces of the grapevine, the features of the territory and the personality of the producer.

The rules our farm has always followed derive from the above considerations:

  • Manual selection of the vines and preferential use of indigenous varieties (cloning and all forms of genetically-modified organisms are forbidden).
  • Pruning and removal of shoots are performed exclusively by hand.
  • Personal cultivation of the vineyard without the use of synthetic chemical substances, respecting vine and its natural cycles (total exclusion of herbicides and/or desiccatives and/or pesticides).
  • Exclusive use of natural fertilisers, from vegetables or from the barn, or else none at all.
  • Irrigation is forbidden even as relief, as water has always diluted the aromatic wealth and intensity of the wine.
  • The harvest is done manually to obtain perfectly healthy and mature grapes (no premature harvesting).
  • Fermentation is obtained thanks to indigenous yeasts naturally present in the grape, absolutely excluding the use of synthetic industrial yeasts.
  • No sulphurs anhydrides are added to the must, nor are other additives / chemicals (sulphurs anhydride might be added only in small quantities at the moment of bottling and in any case in quantities that are lower or equal to biological certification.)
  • The use of biological and/or chemical aromas is forbidden.
  • Maturation of the wine in its own “fine lees” up to bottling.
  • No filtration (a practice which in any case always impoverishes and sterilizes the wine.)
  • Exclusive use of cork, rigorously limited to natural single pieces, so that each wine will have Time as its best ally.
  • Rigorously manual labelling (…each bottle is a unique creature…)

Working this way I believed I was a subject so outside of what the general vision of the market was that I was losing the desire to recount my methods… perhaps I am only an idealist who says what he thinks and does what he says, a rare survivor who still has the courage to produce “real wines”. Certainly I live and operate in “an island” where it is still possible to discover the pleasures of certain traditions that have by now disappeared, returning and watching the wine with the eyes of those who wish to comprehend and not only accept.

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