The Giovanni Rosso cantina (winery) is located in the hamlet of Baudana, just a couple of kilometres north of Serralunga d’Alba village. A traditional family cascina, or farmhouse, it houses the fermentation, ageing, bottling and labeling facilities as well as the offices. Since the 1890’s the Rosso family has farmed vineyards in Serralunga d’Alba, notably the Crus of Cerretta, La Serra, Broglio, Meriame, Sorano, Costa Bella, Lirano & Damiano. During the early 1980’s Giovanni Rosso restructured the vineyards with the aim of growing the best fruit.
In terms of viticulture, they farm as organically as possible, using no artificial chemical treatments such as fertilizers, insecticides or weed-killers. Harvesting is 100% manual, as is pruning and tilling of the soil beneath the vines. Green harvesting is carried out as necessary and they allow plant growth between the rows of vines to encourage soil health and diversity in the vineyards.
The type of soil, altitude, exposure (the terroir) varies from one Cru to another; something that must be respected when working the vineyards. This work should also reflect the different weather patterns experienced each vintage. Savoir-faire learnt daily over the past 100 years enables them to understand perfectly the subtleties of each Cru.
Rosso, 43, who built Barolo’s respected Giovanni Rosso estate, won’t be the first Piemontese to make wine on Etna; Piedmont enologists have been consulting there for years. But he is being heralded—and largely welcomed—as the first high-profile Barolista to expand here.
“In Barolo, we are rigorous in the small details, and it’s our intention to improve quality with attention to the small details,” says Rosso, who farms organically. Immediately after purchasing his trellised vines, he began hand-trimming them with a team of local workers, meticulously removing lower leaves and dangling shoots to improve airflow. If nothing else, they look more manicured than most in the area.
To discover the potential of every corner of his property, he has hired a local geologist to study his soils and has divided the vineyards into 12 small parcels. From those, he will conduct separate small-batch vinifications of Etna’s main red cultivar, Nerello Mascalese, which he describes as “like a Mediterranean Nebbiolo,” with its thicker skin to withstand the Sicilian sun. While many Etna producers now emphasize vineyard crus, Rosso aims to go further to explore “crus within crus.”
Though his family grew grapes in the Barolo DOCG commune of Serralunga d’Alba for more than a century, Rosso and his father, Giovanni, began bottling their own wines in the 1990s. After he finished enology school and worked a year in Burgundy, Davide took charge of the Giovanni Rosso winery in 2001—and went on a winning streak.
Using long macerations, indigenous yeasts and a light hand in the winery, Rosso has produced more than 20 wines scoring 90 points or higher in Wine Spectator tastings. He came to Etna in 2014 with other Barolo winemakers hosted by young Etna winemaker Alberto Aiello Graci of Graci winery. Rosso plans to build a modern winery and convert an abandoned volcanic-stone winery into a tasting room and inn. For now, he is renting space for his cement vats and large French oak casks at Patria, a large, modern négociant winery down the road.
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