This is my entry for the latest Monthly Wine Writing Challenge hosted by Jeff of thedrunkencyclist The theme for #MWWC22 comes from the current winner, Jill Barth of L‘occasion and I think its perfect for beginning #MWWC of 2016:
For almost the entire winter break, I pondered what direction to go with this writing challenge. The most obvious was to revisit past wines, wineries or tasting events that had left an indelible impression. However, the one characteristic that continued to tickle my brain was the element of restoration and redemption. Was there a winemaker who had risen from the ashes to greatness? Or someone who’d found a new life in the wine industry? Had wine inadvertently given a second chance? So after doing a bit of research, I discovered a second chance wine story. Many may already be aware of it since several brief articles were written around the time of the release of their wine. However, it had me cheering for second chances.
Predawn. The low rumble of a tractor can be heard as it rolls down the dirt path, the driver deftly maneuvering it between the vines. A vineyard worker quietly empties his umpteenth bucket of Vermentino into the trailer as it rambles by. He turns back to the vines. His beehives would have to wait until the afternoon for today all attention was to the vineyard. Even the cheesemaker was here swiftly filling containers. Harvest was fully underway and every hand was needed.
On another row, two workers silently pass a thermos of coffee between them grateful for the warmth. As the tractor driver parks the trailer next to the warehouse, workers scramble to unload the next bin of grapes. The driver’s thoughts wonder to the upcoming wine tasting. It would be his vintage. The bottle that gave him life, hope, and liberty. In a couple of months, wine writers and journalists would descend on his island home to taste the fruit of a unique bottle. A bottle he had a hand in making.
“Buona per andare!” You’re good to go! The driver shifts the tractor back into gear and heads once more into the rows.
Today the vermentino and in a week or so they would start on the ansonica. Hefting a bin of grapes into the crusher, a worker pauses and smiles thinking the identical thoughts of the driver. He was going to taste the fruit of his labor. The fruit of his new life. He would spend the rest of his golden years on Gorgona but it no longer mattered. The isle of the snake haired sisters had been good to him. Several more workers slip quietly and quickly down the rows, snipping clusters and filling containers. The sun begins to rise over the hillside signaling yet another day that will farther remove them from the men they used to be.
Island of Gorgona ~ wikipedia.com
At the end of the northern most string of the Tuscan Archipelago is the tiny Isle of Gorgona. Since 1869, its been home to what is now the last Italian penal colony. Fifty plus prisoners live and work a one hectare sized vineyard sheltered in an amphitheater shaped area over looking the sea. This hectare of 25 year old vines produces wine served in some of the top Michelin starred restaurants of Florence. While other bottles of their small lot vintages are poured at dinner tables all the way in America.
What began as an idea to reduce the number of repeat offenders in an already overcrowded prison system grew into a partnership with one of the oldest wine dynasties of Italy, Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi. Frescobaldi with its 700 hundred years of wine making experience, train prisoners in important and marketable vineyard skills to help them reintegrate into society upon release. The prisoners learn to implement organic vineyard practices in addition to beekeeping and cheese-making.
New life in the Vineyard
So far, there have been three bottled harvests since the collaboration began. All white wine: 2012 Gorgona, 2013 Gorgona, and 2014 Gorgona. Each is a blend of Vermentino and Ansonica grapes, aged for 7 months in steel with no maceration and an alcohol content of 12-13%. Aromas and flavors range from rich floral chamomile flowers and dandelion to exotic fruits, citrus, and herbs with crisp acidity and earthy minerals that reflect the island terroir. Each lot is miniscule with the 2013 Gorgona vintage having only 2,500 bottles with an SRP of $90 in the U.S. The wines have garnered ratings of 92 and above.
Gorgona via nytimes.com
In July 2014, Lamberto Frescobaldi, vice president and head of wine making, held an unprecedented wine tasting event on Gorgona where wine writers and prisoners mingled and tasted the straw yellow, green highlighted 2013 Gorgona. It was a celebration of sorts and the vintage was praised for its balanced full-bodied character. But more than anything it’s a bottle of wine that represents a second chance. A chance to go beyond the ruin of life to something better.
Cheers to Second Chances!
For more reading on this wonderful story click on the links below: