Since we’ve all been staying in place isolated for quite a while now, we decided to do something different with this months’ wine club. We’ve focused solely on one place, one winery and one moment in time. Calcarius is a natural wine project by female winemaker, Valentina Passalacqua. She set out to showcase the terroir of her childhood town, Arpicena, at the foothills of Gargano mountains, off the coast of the Adriatic Sea in Puglia. After a 10-year career in London, Valentina became a mother. The birth of her daughter Giula, ignited a desire to return to her homeland and engage with nature. For this project she has quite literally isolated her vineyards and with almost no intervention has given us a snapshot of the land she so loves. The earth there is full of “calcareous” limestone in the soil, large white rocks litter the vineyards. The mineral rich soil combined with the salinity in the air coming off the sea, and the style of Valentina’s winemaking leaves us with vibrant and bright wines that showcase the land and her vision.
Valentina’s winemaking style is natural. She picks early, to ensure lively acidity in her wines and while also keeping her wines lower in alcohol, or not too “hot.” The grapes are all hand harvested, destemmed and fermented in stainless steel with indigenous yeast. She stirs the lees periodically depending on the varietal and style. This “batonnage” helps contribute to the body and weight of the wine. When the wines are bottled, they are done so without fining or filtering, so you will see the sediment and it can appear slightly cloudy. A small amount of sulfur is added at bottling to ensure stability in travel.
We’ve touched on the use of sulfur in wines before and just to share from the archives-
There is no such thing as a sulphites free wine, Sulphur is a by-product of primary fermentation. These wine makers are adding no Sulphur to their wines. When you see “no sulphites” on a wine label it means no additional Sulphur has been added to stabilize the wine. Those who do use it, use it as an anti-microbial and antioxidant in winemaking. In our experience, good winemakers use less, but it is not terrible for them to use it.
P. & E. Mullins
2019 Hellen Bianco
The Hellen Bianco is made with 100% Falanghina. An ancient Italian varietal known for its bright and acidic characteristics and you’ll often find it as a classic pairing with seafood in Southern Italy. In the glass is a golden honey hue. As you swirl it you can immediately recognize its weight in the viscosity. The nose, delicate at first with mild notes of what you’d imagine the calcareous earth would taste like. As it opens, aromas come through of marshmallow, lemon oil and sunbaked dried prairie grass. The palate is clean with a weighty silky feel but balances with a firm acidity. There are mild notes of melon and tropical fruit. It finishes dry with a bit of salinity. This is not a wimpy white by any means. Only 6,600 bottles produced.
2019 Rosa Puglia
The Rosa Puglia is made with 100% Negroamaro, native to Puglia and almost grown nowhere else. The name means “black and bitter.” It is a rustic varietal with earthy and aromatic qualities, that is often blended with lighter varietals. It’s eye opening to see what Valentina does with her delicate touch and unintrusive wine making style. What a beautiful color this is in the glass! Reminiscent of the blooming dogwood in our front yard, it’s a vibrant coral pink with an incandescent glow. The aromas are not to be expected, it’s wild, slightly funky with notes of green apple and strawberry jam. Almost like a weird familiar smell yet it is welcoming, like opening up an old lake house for the first time in the season. The palate is savory and mouth-watering bringing to mind sunbaked strawberries, watermelon and delicate herbaceous field herbs like lavender. Only 12,500-liter size bottles produced.
2019 Rosso Puglia
The Rosso is also produced with 100% Negroamaro. It’s nice to put a slight chill on this red, just to about cellar temperature 60-62 degrees. The color in the glass looks like the stain on your hands after blackberry picking. It’s a bright magenta that would make an awesome lipstick or nail polish color if you ask Ellie. The nose is fruity with black cherry cola, baked fruit and an essence of orange. The palate is green and dusty. Almost mysterious as it is not what you’d expect from the look or the aromas. There are notes of violets, plums and a bite of black pepper. It’s light in body with medium tannins. Only 45,000-liter bottles produced.