- Colli Tortonesi, Piedmont, Italy
After several years working for more conventional wineries, Chiara Penati and her husband Michele Conoscente started Oltretorrente in 2010 with the purchase of 1.5 hectares of vines.. Both agronomists from Milan who had worked all over Italy, they had several ideas about where to create their own reality and decided on the sleepy village of Paderna, set in the hills of the Tortona region (Colli Tortonesi) in southeast Piedmont, where there are only 30 estates bottling wine. The name Oltretorrente means “Beyond the Stream,” in reference to the Scrivia, a tributary of the Po River, but it could be interpreted as “Countercurrent.” Today, the estate covers 7.5 hectares (7 are owned and 0.5 are rented and fully farmed). The vines range from 15 to 100 years old at altitudes up to 300 meters, with slopes so steep that when it rains too much, their small caterpillar tractor is useless and they have to do the vineyard work the old-fashioned way. Current total production is 25-30,000 bottles, up considerably since 2018, when some new vineyards came on board.
They farm their land organically, but use some biodynamic methods as well. Since they acquired the vineyards, they have worked to restore natural soil fertility by planting grass in soils that were hoed for many years; they did a thorough analysis of the soils of their 10 different parcels to determine which plants are the most beneficial to these sites. They harvest the fruit from each of their parcels separately to preserve the characteristics of each.
In the cellar, macerations and aging are not standardized and change depending on what the vintage gives them. In general, however, for the white wines they put whole bunches into the pneumatic press instead of destemming before pressing; there is no skin maceration and malolactic is not necessarily a given. For the reds, they harvest late to ensure full ripeness, and long macerations follow. For both whites and reds, aging is always on the lees to increase the complexity and stability of wines in a natural way.