GASTRONOMY

Natural Extravaganza

Solynka Dumas’ inebriating tale on the poet behind I Carpini Wines

Harvesting Barbera grapes at I Carpini Winery.
Harvesting Barbera grapes at I Carpini Winery.

By Solynka Dumas on 03.01.22

Timorasso is quite the success story in the wine world. A white grape that was forgotten or only used for mediocre table wines found its fame in the person of Walter Masa, who brought the wine back from oblivion. It is now one of the most prized wines in a region known for its beautiful red Barbera wine, but that usually neglects its whites. This unusual story was told during a master class on Timorasso at the University of Gastronomic Sciences of Pollenzo. Walter Masa was there in person, talking with eloquence and confidence, but with the enthusiasm of someone who has told the same story a bit too many times.

The enchantingly mystical landscape of Colli Tortonesi.
The enchantingly mystical landscape of Colli Tortonesi.
Fieldwork essentials
Fieldwork essentials

By his side was Paolo Ghislandi, the founder of I Carpini wines. His presence was quite unpredictable. He addressed the assembly softly, his hands shaking, gripping the sheet of paper, and he wrote his notes. He was shy and insecure about his English. During his brief presentation, he talked to us, his eyes glowing with emotion and wonder, about Colli Tortonesi, the land where Timorasso grows and where he has his vineyard.

A tasting followed the talk, and I can still taste I Carpini’s wine.  Its color had hues of honey and gold, a richness explained by the 14 days skin maceration, but the wine didn’t have this fortified characteristic often found in orange wines. It was crisp and fresh, a little salty, not unlike a Riesling. When describing his Timox, the wine we tried that day, he says, “Timorasso is a complex wine, so I wanted to make a complex but uncomplicated wine.” And that is what exudes from this wine.

The crates used to gather the grapes during harvest.
The crates used to gather the grapes during harvest.
Bottles of Timox waiting to be sent away
Bottles of Timox waiting to be sent away

A few weeks after this presentation, I visited Ghislandi at his vineyard. He did not exaggerate when he talked about the beauty of the land. Although still considered Piedmont, the landscape is quite different from the beautiful, yet uniform scenery. The mix of forest, orchards, shrubs, and vines is enchanting. Arriving at the house, I was welcomed by an army of about 20 cats who had colonized the land and used it as their playground. I don’t blame them; they are living in paradise.

I spend the rest of the day with Ghislandi as he explains his philosophy and the details of his domain to me. He bought his land in 1998. He works solely in biodynamic viticulture, so a tremendous amount of time has been put in to find the perfect location for his vineyard since no pesticides or irrigation systems are helping him grow his grapes; the soil and the inclination had to be perfect for optimal irrigation and soil quality. No detail is left to chance, and everything is thoroughly thought through. For instance, the vines closest to the forest that lounges his estate are Cabernet Sauvignon because the wild boars, the region’s most dangerous predator for the grapes, are put off by its taste, deterring the pigs from adventuring further into the plot of land

Barbera grapes are recognisably compact and dense.
Barbera grapes are recognisably compact and dense.
There's always time for a mid-harvest pose.
There's always time for a mid-harvest pose.

His choice to make solely natural wines comes from a true love for the terroir and a wish to preserve it.  “ I am cultivating the land but trying to recreate a balance at the same time.” Next to his vines, he planted almond and fruit trees to attract bees back. He takes pride in creating a vineyard in perfect harmony with the soil where it grows and the surrounding biodiversity. This takes a lot of work and dedication at first, but the result is incredibly healthy vines and, most importantly, beautifully elegant wines. Ghislandi believes that one doesn’t need to sacrifice taste and hedonism for ethics. His wines are natural but clean, elegant, and without faults.

His Timorasso might be his most famous wine, but his vineyard’s real jewel and a personal favorite is his Bruma d’Autumno, a beautiful Barbera Riserva. Ghislandi planted all vintages on his estate except for this one. It was planted a century ago by a man after the birth of his first son.

Paolo Ghislandi giving us an early taste of his 2020 Timorasso.
Paolo Ghislandi giving us an early taste of his 2020 Timorasso.
One of the many cats roaming the land.
One of the many cats roaming the land.

It’s a Barbera but made in the same style as a Barolo. It is aged three years in a French oak barrel, then two years in a steel tank, and finally ten years in a bottle. He says that usually, Barbera is not going through such a tedious process because it’s such a fantastic grape that it is great even as a table wine. Still, if you take care of Barbera the same way Barolo takes care of the Nebbiolo grape, you have something magical. “Like a ballerina,” he says, “ strong inside yet elegant and light.”

This hand has been sorting grapes.
This hand has been sorting grapes.
Grapes being sorted post-harvest.
Grapes being sorted post-harvest.

When you hear him speak, you may think that Paolo is an idealistic rêveur but don’t let his love of the land and emphatic descriptions fool you. He is a hard-working businessman with big ambitions. He not only has plans to extend his vineyard, but he is also working on a guesthouse project and developing a terrace in the middle of his vineyard to accommodate events. He collaborates with his son, who shares his father’s philosophy and probably modernizes his vision. I suspect he is behind the change in design for the labeling of the wine, from overly colorful, amateur aquarelle to a sleek and clean new design.

During the extensive visit of the estate, the winery, and the cellar, Ghislandi made sure my glass was never empty and that I was treated to copious amounts of local cheese and his homemade salami, followed a decadent lunch with more food and more wine. Just like the land he chose to grow his wine, he is truly a generous man, one with the heart of a poet, the hands of an artist, and the mind of a businessman.

 

King of his castle
King of his castle
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