Here is the second and last part of my interview with Bruno De Conciliis owner/winemaker/slave of the viticoltori De Conciliis.
G: (Laughing) However, to create less confusion, the conclusion is that [the process you described] reflects in a way your way of being and of making wine where you do express creativity, like the fact that you make so many different labels; you did innovative things like Le Traccie used to be, Gli Impulsi, and as a result of these two you came out with Antece. Therefore, on the outside it seems as if you are following a path that, in my opinion, has changed yourself and your way of making some wines in the past five years. You seem to have gone from a more stressed intervention in the cellar to an increased search for elegance and complexity, that maybe you lacked a little before that time.
B: Yes (not convinced) maybe…maybe it was an adolescent phase, an acne phase where there was the need to express the muscles and let those four hairs grow on your lip to make believe that you had a mustache. However, I don’t believe that it is this way.
My awareness has changed, and the number of parameters that I try to follow during vinification has increase; my capacity to drink wine and read it has improved. The common trait certainly is this chaotic dimension.
You’ve been in my cellar.
Sometimes, I dream a Teutonic cellar where everything is in order, precise, organized and clean, some other times I say that I would not feel at home in a place like that…
G: You would disorganize it again.
B: Yes, yes! Heraclitus’s notion that from chaos originates creativity…
G: You embraced it as your own.
B: Or let’s say it is my karma. Certainly, when it comes to the qualitative growth of my wines, in some cases this applies and in others it needs to be verified through the time-length. Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to taste a vertical of all my Zero and Naima vintages with Sandro Sangiorgi from Porthos. It was very interesting to go back to the ’98 and the ’99 vintages. I found them both very…
The 1998 was definitely a minor vintage, due to weather conditions of that year. I had to harvest much earlier than I usually do because of the frequent precipitations that took place in September. While the ’99 was a really cool year, I could anticipate a positive evolution, and that, in fact, took place. Moreover, in the States, -in Italy, it is not so easy for me to do so- I had the opportunity to go back twice to the ’99 Naima. I have to admit that I went back to it with….
B: …I got out of it with pride, despite the mistakes that I know I’ve made back then; mistakes, which sometimes were not even so small. However, the wine is in great shape, and it expresses a complexity and dialectic to the nose, which is something that I constantly strive to reach.
G: Then, can we consider this as Mother Nature that runs its course despite man’s intervention?
B: …Despite my foolish mistakes, absolutely.
G: Ok, three words to describe the Cilento area -which I’ve visited and it’s beautiful- to persuade people to come and visit you.
B: Well, the first word that always comes to my mind, and that is also present in the choice of the pictures that you’ve seen, is “dramatic”. Dramatic understood as: total need of confrontation, in its most negative component… dialectical in this case. [In Cilento] even the clearest and sunniest days, the ones when you can breathe the thinnest air and where everything presents itself in the right way, there is an very slight veil of anguish that stays under. I do not think that you need to be a masochist in order to appreciate this characteristic. I believe that this light suspension, this feeling of not being out in the sky, out in the sea, nor down on earth is something that in a way impresses both the people who come and visit and the ones who live there. This land has a dramatic and dialectical ability in the way it poses itself towards things…
I’m not really sure that this is persuading anyone… (laughs)
G: (laughs) Well, maybe someone.
B: Certainly not the ones who want to spend their entire time to lying on the beach. Even if we actually did lie on the beach and surfed…
G: We also ate that really good Bufala yogurt…
B: Yes this. One reason of pride, which can persuade people to come down and visit, is a very strong and solid gastronomic tradition that you can still find even in the “Trattorie”.
G: This is something that is declining a little bit in the rest of Italy. In Rome, every time I go back, I find fewer autochthonous places that serve good food. There is a higher volume of Manhattan style, pseudo- restaurants that serve you food that is not as good as it should be, and the true Trattoria style is now extinct.
B: Instead, in our area, it’s often the contrary. In the place, where you would never imagine finding a dignifying meal, they serve you a dish of Fusilli with Castrato which is…
G: The real one!
B: …Which is made exactly as it should be done. Then, they might give you a “Caprettino”… Basically, it’s there. This tradition is still very strong and beautiful. In fact, for a few years now -maybe thanks to me or to this ability that I have to communicate- I’ve been visited by many restaurateurs, from both the East and the West coast, who come down to get some hands-on experience with…
G: [Who come down] To learn!
B: No, not to learn. I take them in these sea-places, in simple places… Clearly, it would not make sense to take them in sophisticated restaurants or in those places that reinterpret the tradition. For them, it makes much more sense trying to gain experience over these elementary culinary roots. I have to admit that, in a way, this form of cultured-enogastronomic tourism is increasing. I just hope that these “scoundrels” of my fellow people are not going to be led astray by (laughs)… the successes of their culinary abilities…
G: (At the same time) By the successes… that this would not go over their heads.
G: One last question: which is the wine that’s in your cellar dearest to you, and which is the one that you don’t have but you would like to have?
B: As of today, Antece is definitely the wine that satisfies me the most both under the creativity level and the end result that expresses to the tasting experiences every time I open a bottle. I’m sincerely proud of the product that I was able to create with this wine. Even if… how would I say this- “children are a piece of heart”- … I have to admit that Zero, in the past three vintages, 2004…2006, basically since we have started a biodynamic process in the vineyards, is expressing itself at a level that it never reached before. It needs to be said that this starts from the grape. Two out of three times, when I open a bottle of Zero with someone, I notice…
G: Improvements, changes..
B: No, I see the sparkle in the eyes of the person who’s drinking it. It is understood. The ones passionate about wine and the connoisseurs in front of such a wine lighten up from the inside. With Zero, this phenomenon happens pretty frequently.
The wine that I would like to make is the one that I’ll probably never be able to make. I’m currently working on a project that would bring the Fiano vineyards about 2,000 feet above sea level. The reason for this is that the wine that I can’t make is the one where the game and the eloquence and the deep ability of elegance, levity and of the light component of life, - (jokingly) not the dramatic one, maybe it is not from Cilento - are fully expressed in the wine. In reality, with these past hot vintages and, therefore, with difficult harvests, the Cilento area has been expressing, not just through me but also through other winemakers there located, wines more representative of withering power. It would be an extraordinary achievement to be able to make an Aglianico with the levity and the elegance of a Pinot Noir. It would not make any sense, though, to make a Pinot Noir from Cilento.
G: Maybe not! (Laughs)
B: I read that question in your eyes.
G: No, no, no, I wasn’t thinking of asking…
B: No, But, but…
G: Maybe a Syrah…
B: But there is a common thread between the Aglianico and the Pinot Noir in terms of the way they express themselves. The Aglianico has an extraordinary acidity even in warm climates that in a way it is able to feed these “big animals” that we are creating. It keeps them standing and it gives them character. The Aglianico does not have the primary scents as developed as the ones of the Pinot Noir. Even if, in my opinion, once we are able to properly define the balance of the load of grape per vine, and once we find the right time for vinification, we can definitely extract the way of expressing such primary scents. On some vineyards, in some vintages, I’ve been able to hit this little miracle of balance on the Aglianico. I think that this is a long way to go and to understand. Therefore, [the Aglianico] has this acidity and this potential longevity; it has, it can have or we can find a way to make it fully come out in its primary terms- a front-wheel drive wine- as I define it. Perhaps, the thing that [the Aglianico] is missing at the moment is the right vintage to express all of that. Even if we should ask ourselves: if we need to wait for the right vintage, is that the right wine to make? The reason why there are all of those uncompleted experiments in my cellars is exactly this one.
G: The search for the Grail?
B: The search for the Grail. Wine is not art, wine is handicraft. This means that the ‘design’ of a wine implies the ability to duplicate the product despite the climate conditions or a single harvest. The single-spot vintage can be an extraordinary thing. It can be the shot that changes your life; it is- how to say this- hitting the right barrique, in experimental terms, that can lead you; that leads me sometimes – I’m an imbecile in this case- to get a feeling of omnipotence. (mockingly) “I was able to do this in the Cilento area, during this vintage, I am…
G: You’re a magician!
B: (still mocking) “I’m God!” Instead, it is not like this, not like this at all. The serious representation of a wine implies the ability to duplicate during every vintage, clearly not in an identical manner- it is far from my winemaking philosophy, the idea to reach a standard and to persist on it-, the planning and the overall structure of the wine. If this aim is not achievable, then, it means that we need to change some of the parameters such as, as far as the Fiano is concerned, trying to plant higher, around 2000 feet above sea level in order to express the finesse and the elegance that I’m longing for in this wine.
G: Well, I thank you a lot for this half-hour together. We have to go in a little while because a table is waiting for us at the Blue Note. Many know that Bruno has a great passion for Jazz music, which transpires also from names like Naima, Selim and Perella. I thank you again. I hope that your tour in the state has been profitable, and… see you next time.
B: Thank you! A year from now, we’ll take stock of the situation and I’ll tell you the exact opposite of what I just told you now (laughs).
G: And I’ll be here, listening to you.
B: (Still laughing) You’re great!