Interview and photography by Alessandro Casagrande
Today we meet with Nicola Reginaldi, one of the founders of Cantina Indigeno. For those not yet acquainted with them, the guys at Cantina Indigeno are Italian producers of natural wines. Their production is done as it used to be. All in bio agriculture: spontaneous fermentations, no temperature control, zero additions, using only copper and sulfur. Initially founded in 2016 by Nicola, Loreto, Alfredo and Fabio. Today there are three of them, Fabio decided to leave to devote himself to catering. Today Cantina Indigeno produces around 30,000 bottles and has international distribution: USA, Canada, Japan, Australia, Brazil, Mexico, and all of Europe. Alessandro, our Editor in Chief, spent a day with Nicola in one of the vineyards and then in their cellar, tasting the grapes before harvest and testing the wines still in the barrel.
Alessandro Casagrande (AC) – Tell us how you started your journey as a wine maker?
Nicola Reginaldi (NR) – I have always liked wine, in one way or another I was attracted to it. I started studying to become a sommelier and so later I opened a wine bar in the province of Teramo where I was selling natural wines. At that time, natural wine was a new discovery. I began to read and research further about it, following work shops and visiting many wineries that dealt with natural wine production. I fell in love with this new world and so I decided to try making my own natural wine, which would reflect my tastes and my identity. As with everything, we start from the bottom and grow slowly. The first production was six thousand bottles, with a dozen different types of wine, and it was made entirely in the cellar of my house. My idea from the beginning was to experiment a lot and always look for innovation. For this reason I love to differentiate the production and this means that you can taste the vineyard in the bottle. The company today is four hectares on four different parcels ranging from the mountains to the sea and all my wines have always been mono-vine and mono-vineyard. In conclusion, I can say that everything at the beginning was born a little as a game but with at the base that desire to create something important. Slowly the fruits have developed and now here we are.
(AC) – Natural wine has been present on the Italian market for many years but we can say that it is not yet established as at the level of other countries, people are still skeptical and poorly informed. Did you encounter any difficulties entering the Italian market?
(NR) – Obviously there were difficulties. Especially at the local level where it was difficult to convince people that we can make good wine. We started from scratch, as a new activity and the lack of a tradition already established by past generations, creates a distrust in the small consumer. On the other hand, thanks to our distributor in the international arena, we were able to enter immediately, perhaps even too quickly, and the first collections were pulverized by the foreign market. This has helped us to affirm our name and therefore to create trust even in Italy where now everything is growing. One thing that helped us a lot, both abroad and in Italy, was also the graphic approach behind our labeling and branding, which is very different from the traditions. I believe that aesthetics are very important. Today the best advertising is provided by Instagram. We must take care of the beauty of the product, revolutionize the old idea of classic labels which to us are a bit boring. Our approach is giving the product a freshness that also catches the eye.
(AC) – Making a good wine is not easy. How does your production take place and explain about how your product is distributed?
(NR) – For me, wine must first be created in the vineyard. Making good wine means bringing a fruit to the cellar in it’s splendor, healthy and with the right degree of ripeness. To do this we must work biological and follow a whole path that starts from the “sovescio” (green manure), which is a simple and natural agricultural practice that consists in growing and then bury some particular crops in order to increase soil fertility. The benefits are obtained by means of plants which, yielding organic matter and nitrogen to the soil, they behave like real natural fertilizers. Then the “potatura a secco” (dry pruning) that allows us to achieve the balance between the vegetative activity and the productive activity of the plant. The first phase is purely making a connection with the earth, like a peasant, where you are in close contact with the vineyard. Then when the bunches start growing, a more delicate phase begins. The treatments begin, which for us obviously are only organic and composed of copper, sulfur and we also use some decoctions. A great deal of attention is required to bring the fruit to complete maturation. With organic farming, prevention works unlike other processes where there are healing phases. We do not make the plant sick but thanks to natural remedies we prevent the disease. For example, if you know that a heavy rain is coming, where the soil could be infested, a treatment will be done before the rain arrives and another immediately after. It’s a lot more stressful than the initial job because you can’t go wrong here. All this is done to accompany the vineyard to the perfect degree of ripeness. When I’m satisfied with the fruit, the harvest will take place and consequently the transport of the fruit to the cellar. As a personal choice, since our harvest is made very early (in late August and for the Chardonnay in the first week of September), once the grapes arrive in the cellar, we will work it in the late afternoon. The days are still very hot so we work late in the afternoon to allow the grapes to cool down. This is because in the cellar I do not control the temperature and I do not make any additions in the fermentation. Fermentation is completely spontaneous and natural. My idea is to create highly drinkable wines with excellent acidity.
(AC) – Climate change is visible to us all. The are not true seasons anymore and the temperature changes are unpredictable. What has changed for you producers and how have you adapted?
(NR) – This year, for example, we had very strong hailstorms that destroyed entire vineyards from the north to the south of Italy. We have been in a constant water drought for over three years. This often involves the anticipation of the collections of fifteen or even twenty days. We all suffer from this and obviously we make adjustments in one way or another to try and adapt to these changes.
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