The best wine producers have their own brand of authenticity, and it comes through in the wines. Christoph Fischer is a long-time German expat who’s fixated on a preservation project (recupero) of Maremma’s abandoned vineyards and varieties. The Maremma area lies mostly along the Tuscan coast. It’s a place where the ancient Etruscans once cultivated vines and where the Butteri – Tuscan cowboys – still roam. Throughout the drained swamps and hills, folks still sing the lamenting Maremma Amara, Bitter Maremma, referring to the malaria that took over the area in 1700’s.
Tutti mi dicon Maremma, Maremma… Everyone tells me Maremma, Maremma…
Ma a me mi pare una Maremma amara Yet it seems to me a bitter Maremma.
Sempre mi piange il cor quando ci vai My heart always cries when you go there,
Perché ho timore che non torni mai. For I fear you’ll never come back here.
Maremma Amara, Traditional Tuscan Folk Song [translation mine]
You should go there.
Morello di Scansano is perhaps the best-known wine from the Maremma. It can offer juicy fun, but the old local varieties here are way more soulful. We know of no one doing such interesting work as Christoph in the area: all organic farming, all native yeasts, extremely low sulfur. Soils are an even mix of sand, limestone, and clay. He works from a one hectare plot of 60-year old albarello (bush) vines in an area named on old maps as Millocchio: literally a ‘thousand-eyes’ (mille + occhio). According to locals, it was an area where there were once so many vineyards on the hills that thousands of vine buds would look down on you. From that one abandoned vineyard he has planted two more hectares using massale selection. Christoph is high energy and has more than a little of that crazy can-do! German in him. His vision itself seems thousand-eyed, looking to restore what little remains of the area’s viticultural traditions. Christoph harvested fruit from the old, formerly-abandoned vineyard for the first time in 2014. In a few years we should see something from the new vineyards that he’s propagated from the old one.
Both wines (one white and one red) ferment to dryness in open-topped fermenters with skin contact for about three weeks and punchdowns twice a day. He uses a multi-pronged mandrone stick that he got from an old farmer in the area to do the punch-downs; these sticks with numerous, suitably-arrayed prongs are hard to find and particularly prized.
Christoph’s make-shift cellar was a Super Alimentari (corner grocery store) in the 1970s. It’s extremely clean now. After a light pressing, most of the juice goes into used 500-liter tonneaux; about 30% goes into stainless steel tanks. Christoph adds a tiny amount of sulfur when he blends the two parts. He bottled the 2014 wines in August 2015.