One on One with Winemaker: Marcello Lunelli of Ferrari Trento
I’m sure Ferrari wines don’t need long introduction to any oenophile. Giulio Ferrari started eponymous winery in 1902 in the mountainous region in Northern Italy called Trento. He was the first person in Italy to plant substantial quantities Chardonnay, which he personally brought from France, and then started production of the “Classic Method” sparkling wines, inspired by the French Champagne. In 1952, Giulio Ferrari had chosen Bruno Lunelli to become his successor at the winery, and this was the beginning of the second chapter of Ferrari’s history. The rest is, yes, history, and you can read it for yourself here.
Over the years, Ferrari received numerous accolades, including most recent ones, “Sparkling Wine Producer of the Year 2015” from Tom Stevenson in the UK and “European Winery of the Year” from Wine Enthusiast magazine in the US. I had an opportunity to [virtually] sit down with Marcello Lunelli, Ferrari’s winemaker, and ask him a few questions – you can read our conversation below:
Q1: Ferrari is considered a symbol of the Italian Art of Living. What this “Italian Art of living” concept includes, how would you define it?
A: My family is incredibly proud that Ferrari as a brand is considered a symbol of the Italian Art of Living internationally. Whether it is being served at the Quirinale, home of the President of the Italian Republic, or used to toast celebrated events in the world of fashion, sport, cinema, culture, or design, Ferrari represents that hugely evocative emotional blend of tradition, sense of place, inherent quality, and the poetic virtues of our most cherished way of life.
The Italian Art of Living embodies the passion for beauty, taste and elegance; the ability to embrace innovation while respecting traditions; and a zest for life that is the very soul of the Italian spirit.
I firmly believe that the success of Italian wine is due to a unique love affair that exists in many countries for our way of life, our food, our rich and unique history, and the traditions of our culture. Beauty and pleasure are mutual to one another and Ferrari wines has joined together with fashion and design brands as ambassadors of the Italian lifestyle.
Q2: How is riddling done at Ferrari – still by hand or with use of the machines?
A: In the Ferrari winery we still do 1/3 of the riddling by hand, in particular, all the vintage wines and reserves. The rest is done with use of the machines.
Q3: Typical “house cuvée” at the Champagne house is a blend which might include about a 100 so called Vin Clairs, still wines coming from different vineyards and vintages. Does Ferrari have similar approach in the production of the non-vintage sparkling wines?
A: We do have a similar approach in the production of non-vintage sparkling wines. The biggest work in the vineyards and in the cellar is to keep separate each single homogeneous zone production in order to create the best cuvée.
Non-vintage sparkling wine cuvée includes grapes coming from vineyards within the Trentodoc denomination, which means only in Trentino region and it is created with 70/80 different base wines. Moreover vintage sparkling wine is made with grapes coming only from our own vineyards and it is a result of 40/60 diverse base wines of the same year.
Q4: Ferrari is promoting sustainable viticulture. Do you have any plans to become all organic, or at least to produce an organic wine?
A: One of the core philosophies of the Lunelli Group and Ferrari Winery is the advancement of sustainable practices throughout all our vineyards. We believe that by practicing sustainable farming techniques we not only improve the quality of our wines but protect and preserve our majestic environment and improve significantly the health and safety of our farmers. Indeed we strive to make sustainability a cultural heritage for all of our grape growers.
All of the vineyards owned by my family including those of the Ferrari winery and Tenute Lunelli are cultivated according to organic agricultural principles and in the near future they will all be organic. At the moment we are already producing an organic certified red still wine, Aliotto from our estate in Tuscany.
Q5: Considering that you share common name with the world famous car manufacturer, did you ever try to create a business relationship with Ferrari the car maker?
A: We are glad to share common name with an iconic brand such as Ferrari Maranello and to have a very good relationship with them. We are also proud to have in our photo gallery of famous moments, striking pictures of Grand prix ceremonies celebrated with Ferrari wines.
We both work throughout the world in promoting the very best of Made In Italy.
Q6: What was your most difficult vintage at Ferrari and why?
A: One of the most difficult vintages was 2014 due to a very long and intense rainfall during the growth cycle of the vine which presented a great challenge in vineyard management to ensure healthy grapes for the harvest. It is in a very complex year like 2014 that man, his work and his vision make the difference.
Q7: What is the oldest Ferrari wine you have in the cellar? What was the oldest Ferrari wine you tasted?
A: The oldest Ferrari wines already disgorged are from the sixties, when Giulio Ferrari and Bruno Lunelli were still working in the winery. The oldest Ferrari, still on the lees, is 1972 vintage, which is also the first vintage of Giulio Ferrari Riserva del Fondatore.
I was lucky enough to taste the first vintage of Giulio Ferrari Riserva del Fondatore. It was amazing, well balanced mature notes with an unexpected youth, fruit of our Trentino territory, Trentodoc mountain agriculture which allows for both longevity and youthfulness.
Q8: Do you have a favorite vintage of Ferrari wines?
A: My favorite vintage is Giulio Ferrari Riserva del Fondatore 1995 for two reasons: first of all because it is considered the vintage of the century where power, elegance, longevity and freshness are combined in one single wine and all these factors are in a perfect and unshakeable balance. Secondly this vintage has a personal affection because I had the good fortune to start to work at Ferrari in 1995.
Q9: Do you only use two varieties in the winemaking – Chardonnay and Pinot Noir – or do you use any others, such as Pinot Meunier, for instance?
A: We use Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes separately for white wine making in order to create all our 100% Chardonnay Ferrari wines and the Ferrari Perlé Nero, our 100% Pinot Noir, blanc de noirs. For our Rosé we use both the grape varieties: Pinot Noir, using the Rose making-process, which gives body and structure to wines and Chardonnay which provides elegance and freshness.
Q10: Do you produce or do you have any plans to produce still wines?
A: Ferrari Winery creates a remarkable collection of Trentodoc sparkling wines, yet the Lunelli Group also includes a series of elegant and long-lived still wines, under the brand, Tenute Lunelli. This brand embraces wines from three regions, each superbly suited to the production of winemaking grapes: Trentino with its mountain viticulture; Tuscany with the rolling Pisan hills and Umbria which reveals herself in the small, fascinating DOCG of Montefalco. All our still wines are representative of our standards of high quality with the ability to demonstrate the variety of our diverse lands; this is the incredible richness of the Italian wine industry. Respect for the land and sustainability are today common core values in all our brands. Besides the Estates and Ferrari, the Lunelli Group is made up of a distillery, Segnana, a mineral water, Surgiva.
Q11: Do you have any favorite Champagne wines, or any sparkling wines for that matter?
A: Champagne Bollinger and Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill Pol Roger which embody the characteristics I love in sparkling wines; elegance, refinement and longevity.
Q12: When you are not drinking Ferrari wines, what are your favorite wines, from Italy or anywhere in the world?
A: When I do not drink Ferrari I drink my favorite red still wines from Sangiovese grapes and Nebbiolo grapes: Brunello di Montalcino and Barolo. When I choose Barolo I always have discussion with my father because he prefers Barbaresco, with less power but more elegance.
And we are done here, my friends. I think this was quite fascinating and interesting conversation, adding an interesting detail to what you might already know about Ferrari wines – for sure this was very informative for me. I have to admit that I would looooove to try that 1972 Giulio Ferrari Riserva del Fondatore – well, the man can dream, right?
I didn’t have any new wines to taste to leave you with some tasting notes, but if this conversation made you thirsty, here are the links to my older posts about Ferrari Brut Classico and Ferrari Perlé. Cheers!