- Monferrato, Piedmont, Italy
For me, the most important thing a young person should do is study, learn, travel, without forgetting where he is from and where his roots are. From there, there are many navigable paths, but if he's fortunate enough not to forget where he came from, I think it's a real advantage that will always serve him.
Iuli is located in the far north of the Monferrato, in the town of Montaldo di Cerrina. Once a vibrant little town of 450+ souls, today there are only 92. It is set among the last band of dramatic hills and valleys before descending into the rich flatlands of the Po river valley, with the Alps as a backdrop on a clear day. If you're headed to Montaldo, chances are it is to see Fabrizio Iuli. His family figures prominently and colorfully in the town's history. In the 1920s, his grandfather, Gioacchino Natale Iuli, like many young men from the countryside, was courted by a factory job in Lombardia. In a twist of fate, Gioacchino heard that a burgeoning marching band had been formed in Montaldo, so he packed his bags and headed back to become its clarinetist and to start a family. The first vines were planted around 1930. Fabrizio's grandmother, Ernestina, established a little osteria in their living room, a place with warm food and warm hospitality that became a gathering point for the village. There was much conviviality and Iuli Barbera flowing. Though no longer an official restaurant, the feeling continues to this day with Fabrizio and his wife, Summer Wolff, cooking up a storm and popping bottles, their young boys staying up later than most American kids their age, taking it all in. It is a place that sucks you in, where time seems to stand still, if only temporarily.
Today, Fabrizio is the only winegrower in the town. His first commerical vintage was 1998, with his Barbera called Rossore. The grapes found in his vineyards are Baratuciat (a nearly-extinct white variety from the Val di Susa), Slarina (a red Monferrato variety also almost lost), Grignolino, Nebbiolo, Pinot Nero, and, of course, Barbera. There are 35 contiguous hectares of land in one valley, with 16 hectares planted to vine. Certified organic, the land has never seen any chemicals. Despite being ridiculed by neighbors, Fabrizio's grandfather and father never succumbed to pressure to buy products they felt were meant to fix something that wasn't broken. The isolation of the place suits Fabrizio's desire to instigate and protect biodiversity. The thick surrounding woods keep the prospect of a monoculture at bay. They contain many white truffles in the season; they also house many wild boar, who can and do devour a crop of grapes. Some end up at Cascina Iuli in the form of 'Barbera Pig' stew.
The wines are Piedmontese to the core, ultra-reflective of the poor, but limestone-rich soils and northernly climate with cool nights. Each wine has a reason for being; each wine has extreme drinkability without losing seriousness or intrigue. They are concentrated in their fruit, but also have a lightness and florality that feel very "Iuli." In the cellar, Iuli's trajectory over the years has become increasingly non-interventionist. Fermentations are carried out spontaneously, with a little so2 added after malolactic fermentations. The tradition in the area is to use concrete tank and large oak cask. Fabrizio wouldn't dream of deviating from that lineage. He adores, collects, and restores small concrete vessels. There's a room in the cellar in which they're lined up like little misfit robots waiting to be deployed. The wines are aged slowly and statically, bottled unfined and unfiltered, when taste and an auspicious moon deem they're ready.
We are happy and lucky to welcome Iuli to our Italian portfolio.