by Michela Pierallini
I consider myself a faithful woman and I do not like adventures. My famous last words before I met him. In Tuscany, a thing like that would not have happened, I had to come to Veneto forall my habits to change. What a character! Beautiful, with that swagger of someone who knows a lot, a mysterious voice, a nice fragrance and most importantly, frank and sincere, one who calls “a spade a spade.” Just like me, no frills, flattery and flowers, but dry and direct, ta-dan! Here is the thunderbolt. More than a ta-dan I can not say. Rationality has nothing to do with it, there are other components involved, emotional, temperamental, perhaps even cultural, and who knows. The fact is that I have fallen in love, happily reciprocated. We are here, together, after ten joyful and lively years and I decided to interview him because I am not so selfish as to keep him hidden. The world will appreciate it. I thank my dear friend Maurizio Donadi, owner of the Casa Belfi winery, for his help in this conversation, especially to have translated it into Italian from the Treviso dialect.
Let’s start from your name. Why are you called Colfòndo?
Because at the bottom of the bottle there are my fermentation yeasts.
Why are they there? Did they fall?
Exactly that. Once they have finished fermenting they fall and sink to the bottom. Everything revolves around my yeasts, they give me the bubbles, keep me young and make me sweet.
That’s nice, so Colfòndo is a name that says a lot about you. Your origins are from Treviso or did your ancestors come from other countries, perhaps from America?
My origins are Treviso DOC, my ancestors were born here as myself. I was created following family tradition.
And do you know, more or less, when?
I do not know exactly, but in my family we have always been like this. The second fermentation in the bottle is a very old method to produce sparkling wine and a lot of things distinguish me from my brother Charmat, which is all technique and technology. Charmat needs machines, autoclaves, filters, isobaric systems for bottling instead I am very simple and undemanding. I do most of things on my own, I just need a little ‘sugar to make my bubbles and then in solitude, slowly, I rest in a cool and dark place.
Is it true that your grandparents were born during Easter?
Yes, the bottle fermentation takes place at Easter because spring arrives, the temperatures rise, the yeasts wake up and get to work.
So you’ve got a family behind that has always set the births for Colfòndo to be born at Easter. It ‘s still like that or are your modern cousins born at other times of the year?
For those who respect tradition, like my family, the time of birth is only at Easter but there are many others who are born in all different months of the year, or in other ways. We are serious about respecting tradition and principles handed down. The only option I have is the modernity of analytical control, which was not there before. I was born at Easter and come simply from the grapes, I’m not filtered, I’m not clarified and I do not undergo any processing. The grapes are treated on the vine only with the products allowed in organic and biodynamic farming.
You have enjoyed a healthy crop, the sun, do you remember what it was like when you were still bunches hanging on the vine?
Yes I remember. I was in the midst of chaos, the grass was high and an indefinable number of insects that tickled me. Maurizio calls it biodiversity. There are many of us, from the grass and wild plants to microorganisms. There is a nice environment, there are many interactions, exchanges, competitions and races.
Competitions? In what way? For water resources?
No, competition at the level of micro-organisms, diseases, yeast, bacteria from photosynthesis, as in every part of the world there are good and bad … we have our beliefs, our Bible born from EM (effective microorganisms), it’s the same all over the world, what do you think!
Did you get ill when you were a grape? Did you also catch downy mildew or powdery mildew?
You know, when there is high humidity like here in the Piave area, it is easy to get sick. This year, 2012 in particular, I had some minor ailments early in May and June but then nothing until September, it went well. I have my good and strong antibodies, my phytoalexins are always active.
Tell me about your journey from the vineyard to the cellar, how did you become the must?
I was macerated in part as a red wine and I was with the must and marc for quite a while, at least for a week.
Let me ask you a spicy question, but what did you do on the skins for a week?
Eh eh, I extracted everything, I gnawed away everything! I am a passionate wine. At the end of fermentation I waspressed.
I hear a lot about sulfur anhydride being added to the wine, do you know it?
No, the only one I have is the one I produce with my yeasts. I do not need any added. Of course I have to be well dressed and equipped to make my way, a bit like a mountaineer going to climb in the high mountains. As he carries everything he needs to live, so do I. I do a little ‘ maceration in order to enrich the tannins, thus increasing the antioxidant fraction that comes from the lysis of yeast. I do not undress with clarifications and I do not get filtered, in fact I am cloudy and ready for my climb, returning to the example of the climber.
The tannins you are talking about, how do I perceive them when I drink you? Usually when we talk about tannins we think of red wine.
Being a prosecco, saying tannin is a big word but there is some extraction from the grape seeds or the skins during the light pressing. You realize that there are tannins because that oxidative note is missing which you can sometimes find. The tannin in fact preserves my characteristics.
Sorry if I go on a tangent, I’d like to go back to the moment of passion with the marc. After you’ve had your fun and you have gnawed it completely, do you need to rest?
Yes, at the end of fermentation I am put into stainless steel tanks and they continue to stir me every two or three days to keep me always dirty. It ‘a clean dirty, however, because they are my good yeasts.
Easter is approaching, are you happy to be put in a bottle?
Before Easter I also take a nice hit of cold. Maurizio makes me stay all winter in a tank outside, so, taking advantage of the low winter temperatures, I begin to stabilize the tartaric acid naturally.
How do you feel in there? Do you feel comfortable or a little ‘tight?
I like staying in the bottle, I’m a little ‘more pampered, then they touch me often, they turn me, I dress me up with my beautiful label and then …. I go into beautiful local restaurants and bars!
You must be an earth sign … When you come out of your bottle, is there a special glass that you would like to find, where to dive into?
The glass itself is not important, it is irrelevant, I can go from a mug on the table without a tablecloth, to a crystal goblet, to an ISO glass. I express myself everywhere and I always have my say.
Your aromas do not change if I use one glass rather than another?
Actually, they really change more based on how I am.
Now I will make you mine! I smell scents of fresh yeast, those that hydrate to make bread and then a sweetness almost like linden honey that is not nauseating because it’s fresh, it’s something alive. I agree with you, they are wisteria flowers, a light scent in the wind, very delicate. What a strange thing, you’re a product of Treviso, you were born here but you remind me of the light windy days in Tuscany, where the scent of wisteria and irises arrived at the front door. Lime honey instead reminds me of the tree-lined street in Florence. It is true that you never know where we’re traveling with you.
Are you pleased that the people who drink you propose certain combinations, are you happy to meet some new dish, or not?
It can give me pleasure, but it is not what I want. Everyone has their tastes, drinking and eating habits, I can not say how I have to be drunk, if for an aperitif or paired with something. Maurizio drinks me with fish, with meat, with vegetables, with sweets if he wants a dry wine. He knows me, he takes me for what I am.
Let’s say your family is recognizable by these features of vivacity and freshness. You, also, do not disdain being left in the bottle to evolve as your yeast and this component of tannin extracted by maceration, allow you to keep for a long time. Can you place in a space-time an original Colfòndo?
As a company, I would say my brother from Coste Piane winery belonging to Loris Follador, Costa di Là belonging to a friend, Ernesto, Gatti, and many others. My vine is called Glera, former prosecco, and it is the same for all the Prosecco DOC to DOCG. Colfòndo is only a company name to identify a production method which is not yet official. We are working on that too.
Why are you in a clear bottle?
To be seen.
Are you an exhibitionist?
A little ‘yes, I have to make myself known so that’s why I need to show everything, even my color.
And the problem of taste light? The problems of oxidation?
Well, if I can keep myself healthy and beautiful with the clear bottle, I’ll become a myth! I have my yeasts that protect me everywhere. The sponge effect that will in time, once the lysis has finished, absorb the light effect. I have all the characteristics to be a long-lived wine, more than a great wine, and I hope I can prove it.
Do we have to keep you standing or lying?
Always lying. And sometimes I like to be turned, always a bit shaken, in a cool environment.
What are the comments you hear most often?
Who drinks me says I’m special, I’m not a wine for everyone.
So do you feel understood in your peculiarity?
Yes, I am a bit of a difficult wine, I know I have my personality but once my origins are clarified and my story told, everything is easier. I have no interest in being a wine for everyone, I just want to be myself. If they do not like me, I’m glad they choose a different prosecco, fortunately there are many. I have my own personality, I come from a careful, healthy and conscious agriculture. I know my stuff.
You know that the more we go on, the more I seem to be like you? I can tell you that you are like those children who grow up in freedom and then, when they are grown up, they are able to express themselves free from constraints?
Of course that is what I want, that is what I am as well as Maurizio, my creator.
I like Colfòndo, I will never leave. Thanks for reciprocating my love. I can not go away until I have drank and toasted with Maurizio, who says something very interesting.
“Given that inside the wine, and on the bottom, there are yeasts, it is important that the grape comes from organic farming, without the use of chemicals. The yeast, once fermentation has finished, has a detoxifying effect. The cell membrane of yeast, which acts as a sponge, absorbs all the toxins that are located inside the wine and among these there may also be pesticides. When I go to drink a wine unfiltered and clarified by conventional agriculture, I can be almost certain to drink too much of the ‘junk’ put in the fields by the farmer, with all the consequences that synthetic products have, which are carcinogenic and toxic. I recommend paying special attention to the unfiltered and clarified wines, that they at least are certified as organic. Unfortunately, today we focus on the words “contains sulfites” and do not consider everything else that is rather important. I drink only organic Colfòndo and would recommend to all lovers of wines re-fermented in the bottle to be informed and then choose the best”.
I am very happy to hear this because I love Colfòndo in its entirety, I like to move it, and drink it complete with its yeasts. It also likes to be drunk whole and not deprived of some part. Healthy and wholesome yeasts derived from agriculture without chemicals. This is also drinking consciously.