Ampelio Bucci: ‘Think local, act global’

(Dit artikel verscheen eerder in The Wine Times, een periodiek van Chabrol Wines)

The Wine Times

Ampelio Bucci is winemaker of Villa Bucci, where he practices organic viticulture. “If you are small, you need to make wine that is special and impossible to imitate.”

Villa Bucci was one of the first wineries in the portfolio of Chabrol Wines. “Rex and I worked together for about twenty-five years now”, says Ampelio Bucci. “He was really still a baby, back then!”, he laughs.

Bucci wines are still one of the favourites of Rex Neve, owner of Chabrol Wines. “Bucci wines are organic”, he says. “But more important is their philosophy about making unique wines that are typical for the region. Bucci does not manipulate the wine. There is no messing around in the winery to try to change the structure or the taste of the wine. Bucci wine is wine as wine is meant to be. It is pure and genuine. The wine is made in the vineyard, as I believe it should be.”

Ampelio Bucci (Foto: Bert Bulder)

Old Vines

Villa Bucci switched to organic viticulture in 1999. All its vineyards have been officially certified since the 2002 crop. “I really don’t know whether organic wines are better than non-organic wines. It did reduce the yield in our vineyards with 10 to 15%. I had to reduce quantity to increase quality. I have learned that old vines live better and longer since we started with organic viticulture. The old vines are very important to me. They make good wine, give more complexity, intensity and minerality.”

Do organic wines taste different? Many people ask themselves this question. The answer is: no, they don’t necessarily taste different. The label ‘organic’ means that the wine is made from organically grown grapes.

Organic certifications only define the practices in the vineyard. There are no rules about the procedures in the winery. The European Union reached to settle some arrangement about organic practices in wineries, but not yet achieved consensus on this issue.

Organic, what does it mean?

Organic wine is produced without using pesticides, fungicides and chemical fertilizers. There are two exceptions to this rule. Sulphur and the so-called Bordeaux mixture, a blend of copper sulphate and lime, are allowed in all vineyards, organic or otherwise. Bordeaux mixture is a key fungicide widely used in viticulture, because it is often the only remedy.

Some organic farming vintners want to go beyond organic. They strive to make wine that is as natural as possible. They may reject cultivated yeasts in favour of those indigenous to the vineyard, as well as manipulations such as the practice of adding sugar or acid to correct balance or adding enzymes to aid fermentation. Truly wild yeast is a curiosity, more often vintners cultivate one favourable yeast string from their own vineyard. Using genuine wild yeasts does have a major impact on wine. So if you drink an organic wine fermented with real wild yeast, you might taste a significant difference, though not necessarily a positive one.

Bucci does work with indigenous as well as with cultivated yeasts. “I’m not a fundamentalist. We give nature a hand when necessary. Untill 2003, we worked without any machinery. Our cellars are deep underground; they used te be cool enough to keep the fermentation process under control. But the summer of 2003 was like Africa! Now we have a small refrigerating machine. If I need it, I will use it.”

Ladybirds & spiders

Organic viticulture aims to enhance biological cycles and maintaining ecological diversity. One organic practice is cultivating wildflowers between vine rows, attracting insects, such as ladybirds, and parasites, like spiders, which ladybirds eat. Chemicals would kill the spiders and the natural predators of the spider (the ladybirds) as well. Organic farming increases the biological activity of the soil, making it healthier and offering a better expression of the terroir. This in turn makes the wine more expressive of its origin, as it creates a more natural relationship between the vine and the local soil and climate.

So organic viticulture can help to make better wines. Actually, many famous top producers do practice it, often not mentioning it on the label. Bucci: “I don’t like to put it on the label. I don’t want the customer to think that it might be intended as a marketing tool.”

For Ampelio Bucci organic farming is one way to make a difference. “Small producers like us need to find a way to differentiate. We need to go the artisanal way. The industrial producers cannot do that because they mix grapes and wines from different regions. Territoriality of wine and the link between the wine and the land is the true strength of European wine production.”

Using large old oak casks, as opposed to the widely used new French barriques for premium wines, is another way of making a difference, says Ampelio Bucci. “It exposes the wine to slow micro-oxygenation, resulting in a good evolution of the wine, stabilising it and resulting in more mineral and spicy flavours.”

McDonald’s

“You know the strategy of McDonald’s: think global, act local. They make a global hamburger and locally in Italy they sell Italian sandwiches. Small producers should do the opposite: think local, act global. Make a good quality local product, that is special and impossible to imitate, then sell it globally. Italy has many indigenous grapes, around fifty varieties are very good. Verdicchio is one of them. The grape and the terroir can make all the difference. You can grow Verdicchio in China, but you can not move Castelli di Jesi.”

Importeur van Villa Bucci is Pallas Wines, in de retail te koop bij onder meer Chabrol.

Bucci wines

Bucci, Verdicchio Classico dei Castelli di Jesi, 2008
100% Verdicchio grapes, no oak aging.
Fruity and floral aroma. Blossom, fennel, marzipan, citrus, coconut, apricot, almond and mineral notes. Good structure and length.

Villa Bucci, Riserva di Verdicchio Classico, 2006
Special cuvée, 100% Verdicchio, matured for six months in oak.
Perfumed, complex aroma. Floral, dill, aniseed, spicy, mineral, nutty, apricot, caramel, sweet butter. Fierce but soft and oily structure, concentrated, well balanced. Long dry mineral finish.

Tenuta Pongelli, Rosso Piceno, 2007
50% Montepulciano, 50% Sangiovese, aged one year in oak.
Fruity and floral aroma. Cherry (amarena), strawberry, blackberry and plum fruit, violet, eucalyptus, liquorice, caramel. Firm tannins and fresh acidity. Well balanced, structured and complex.

Villa Bucci, Rosso Piceno, 2006
70% Montepulciano, 30% Sangiovese. Produced only in the finest vintages. Old vines. Aged at least one year in oak.
Cherry, blossom, white pepper, liquorice, pine. Intense and very soft on the palate, fine-grained tannine structure. Very elegant, delicate, layered and well balanced.

Who is Ampelio Bucci?

Ampelio Bucci is a winemaker, an economist and a consultant in marketing. He is professor at the IULM University of Language and Communication in Milan, the Domus Academy for Design and Fashion in Milan and the Brera Academy of Fine Arts in Milan.

At the age of thirteen Ampelio started to help his father in managing the wine estate Villa Bucci in the Marche. But his true passion for viticulture and agriculture came only in 1983, when he decided to put what he learned in the world of fashion and design in practice at the Bucci winery. Like designers, Bucci believes farmers should place the product in the center, creating something unique.

About Villa Bucci

The Bucci family has been making wine in the Castelli di Jesi area as far back as the 1700s. There are five Verdicchio vineyards, with a total area of 21 hectares, and one vineyard of 5 hectares is dedicated to Rosso Piceno, planted with the grape vatieties Sangiovese and Montepulciano. The remaining 375 hectares of the property comprises olive groves and plantations of sugar beet, corn, wheat and sunflowers.

Crops are kept very limited. The vines are very old (an average of 35 years). The premium wines are aged in large oak casks varying in size between a capacity of 2500 and 7500 litres. These old wooden vessels fine-tune and micro-oxygenate the wine without yielding harsh tannins or wood aromas.

Organic principles

• enhance biological diversity within the whole system;
• increase soil biological activity;
• maintain long-term soil fertility;
• recycle wastes of plant and animal origin in order to return nutrients to the land, thus minimising the use of non-renewable resources or chemical fertiliser;
• rely on renewable resources in locally organised agricultural systems;
• promote the healthy use of soil, water and air;
• minimise all forms of pollution that may result from agricultural practices


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