Iuli: Wine makes itself with time in Piemonte.

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Fabrizio Iuli is first a farmer, following generations who have worked this land, then, an artisanal winemaker. He owns or rents a number of vineyards near his cascina in the tiny town of Montaldo in the area of Monferrato, due east of Torino and plus or minus an hour north of Barolo, Alba and Asti.

His wife and partner, Summer Wolff, an American whose creative energy and entrepreneurial spirit are evident in all she does, manages the administrative side of the winery. In addition to her work at Iuli, she is the founder and an active partner in Indie Wineries, which based in New York.

Montaldo is very different from Barolo-Alba-Asti area in two ways. First, instead of the monoculture of vineyards that is becoming pervasive in Le Langhe, Iuli’s farmhouse and vineyards are surrounded by woods, open land, hazelnut trees and other crops. The diversity lends a variety of aromas and flavors to Fabrizio’s grapes. This photo shows the oldest vineyard with 80-year old Barbera vines tucked in below woods and an olive grove.
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Iuli also has unusual soil, not clay or sandy soil like the more famous areas of Le Langhe, but clay with limestone running through it. The calcium rich soil comes from the fact that this area was once under the sea as Fabrizio explains in this video. It gives his wines a rare, crisp minerality and freshness.(Note the wine bottle as cravat t-shirt, emblematic of Fabrizio’s warmth and sense of humor.)

Fabrizio’s primary variety is Barbara, the traditional grape of the area: a variety with rich dark fruit aromas and flavors and high acidity. In the last ten to fifteen years, however, Fabrizio has also planted Pinot Nero (because he loves Burgundy wines and wanted to experiment with this variety in Piedmont) and Nebbiolo (more typically grown in areas south or north of Montaldo).

All of Fabrizio’s vineyards are at about 1200 feet and face south or southwest except that of Pinot Nero facing north. His Nebbiolo vineyard is his youngest, but the calcareous clay soil and the steepness of his vineyard are yielding excellent results.

These Pinot Nero (pinot noir) grapes were healthy, plump and almost ready to pick when I visited.
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In the future, Fabrizio may lean more toward Pinot Nero and Nebbiolo because parts of his Barbera vineyards are being hit by a devastating disease that has been prevalent since 1998 in Piedmont, especially in Barbera vines, called flavascenza dorata. So far, the research for controlling the disease has recommended either insecticides to kill the insect that carries it or chemical treatments, neither of which Fabrizio will use in his organic vineyards. The only other currently available response is to pull out the infected vines.

Entry to Fabrizio’s cellar is through the grey door behind the ladder on the left in this photo of the courtyard of his traditional farmhouse. The arched, open areas high up once held hay for farm animals.
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Fabrizio’s cellar philosophy is to intervene as little as possible. The grapes ferment only with indigenous yeasts, and he follows their progress intuitively. He said, “I don’t do any chemical analysis except to confirm the end of malolactic fermentation… Wine makes itself if it has time. You have to have the patience to allow the wine to move with its own rhythms.”

His wines are not filtered, clarified or stabilized (no processes or chemicals). For those that he ages in wood, he said, “There comes a moment when I sense that the wine has tired of the wood and vice versa.”

Each of his wines has its own personality, but they all tell the story of this special place (see descriptions below). To get the full flavor, I stayed in the beautifully renovated farmhouse…
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in one of the rooms that are, like Iuli wines, elegant in their simplicity.
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For reservations, contact Summer and Fabrizio at agriturismo@iuli.it.

Fabrizio, Summer and I went out to dinner near Asti at Ristorante Bandini (post coming soon) whose mascot is a motorcycle. Summer and Fabrizio are pictured here.
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Iuli wines range in price from $15-35…
Iuli Malidea Monferrato Rosso 2009 DOC is Fabrizio’s signature blend of 40% Barbera and 60% Nebbiolo with 14% alcohol. It is balanced but full of personality: the juicy freshness and denseness of Barbara dancing with the elegant tannins of Nebbiolo. The two grape varieties are kept separate doing alcoholic fermentation in steel vats, malolactic fermentation and about two years of aging in large barrels.(3,300 bottles)

Iuli Barabba Barbera Monferrato Superiore DOC is 100% Barbera from the oldest vineyards (planted in 1930 and 1960). It also ages about two years in botti grandi. (5,000 bottles)

Iuli Umberta Barbera di Monferrato DOC is 100% Barbera grapes (vines planted 1940-99) fermented and aged only in steel and cement vats for about 10 months. (18,000 bottles)

Iuli Rossore Barbera di Monferrato Superiore DOC is the middle road between these two: all Barbera (vines from 1940-99), fermented in steel and wood, then, aged about 16 months in used barriques. (8,000 bottles)

Iuli Nino Monferrato Rosso DOC is Fabrizio’s joy and experiment, 100% Pinot Nero fermented in steel and wood (malolactic), then aged in used barriques for about 15 months.

Find these wines through Indie Wineries or Wine Searcher.

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