- Abruzzo, Italy
Thank you to importer Louis/Dressner for this profile of De Fermo:
(Click here for Jules Dressner's interview with vignaiolo Stefano Ceroni and more on De Fermo)
The story of De Fermo, a relatively new estate founded in 2010 by Stefano Papetti Ceroni and his wife Eloisa de Fermo, is an unconventional one. Originally from Bologna, Stefano does not come from an agricultural background but nonetheless took interest in wine at a very young age. He began a tasting group with his friends in high school (including his best friend Federico Orsi) and started visiting wineries as soon as he was old enough to do so. By Stefano's early 20's, wine had become his passion.
While studying law in Bologna, he met his future wife Eloisa. In their early years together, weekend trips to wineries became the norm. In 2007, seven years after the couple had met, Eloisa proposed they visit her family farm in Abruzzo; it that had been in the de Fermo family for generations but she had no real connection to it. Not expecting much, Stefano was shocked to discover a sprawling, ancient property with a rich history:
"The first document stating viticulture in our farm is the Chronicon Casauriense (IX century), a chronicle of San Clemente abbey in Abruzzo. That document states the sale of our land by a Lombard-Frankish family to the abbey. The monks kept the farm alive for centuries. Our family bought the farm in 1785."
Stefano fell hard for the De Fermo farm. In the winter of 2007, he began spending every weekend in Abruzzo, learning from the contadini hired by Eloisa's family to run the property. He eventually asked his father-in-law if he could manage a hectare of vines to teach himself
viticulture, providing a first glimpse of what owning a winery could be like. But with he and Eloisa holding down successful law careers in Bologna (not to mention two new-borns), the idea seemed too crazy. And with no money to invest in the cellar he dreamed of building, it seemed like the weekend visits would have to do.
In 2009, Stefano asked the old man managing the property to see what was in the old farm house that had been abandoned since 1940's. Unbeknownst to Eloisa, he discovered an underground cantina in the basement. After testing it for temperature and humidity, a small restoration was done on the old concrete tanks, two barrels were purchased and 32 hectoliters of wine were produced in 2010, roughly 4000 bottles. Production increased each year, and by 2013 Stefano was managing all 16 hectares of vines, keeping the best grapes for the De Fermo estate and selling off the rest.
Today, almost all of the grapes go into the estate's independent production. For vines, 11 hectares of Montepulciano are planted along with 2.5 hectares of Pecorino, 2.5 hectares of Chardonnay and 0.5 hectares of experimental white grapes including Trebbiano, Manzoni Bianco, Verdicchio and Grenache Gris. The terroirs here are widely considered amongst the best in the region. While the vast majority of vines in Abruzzo are trained in pergola, the contadini who managed the farm prior to Stefano (despite the entirety of the grape production being sold off) had meticulously maintained the vineyards' training systems of Cordon de Royat and alberello. The pergola "tradition" is a post-World War 2 phenomenon and also a sure-fire way to get very high yields. De Fermo is one of the only estates in all of Abruzzo to not own a single pergola vine. As a result, yields are often 50% lower than their average neighbor. The concentration in the wines is evident and a big part of what sets them apart.
Stefano and Eloisa have now fully reclaimed the property and are working the olive trees, wheat fields, vegetable gardens and raising animals in addition to tending the vines. This push for biodiversity very much stems from their dedicated, thoughtful approach to biodynamic farming, a philosophy that resonates in every aspect of their lives.