Francesco, the owner of La Carcaia (www.facebook.com/lacarcaia.aziendaagraria/ ) is the original, archetypical artisan winemaker. You will find him in Gradoli, a small town on the west of Lake Bolsena, about 70 miles north of Rome. If you don’t know where to begin, go to the tiny tourist office in Piazza Vittorio Emanuele and ask one of the very helpful people who work there because everyone knows Francesco. The vineyard is worth every yard of the short journey, if only for the spectacular view over the caldera that is Lake Bolsena. By any standards this is a small vineyard (a total of three hectares) that Francesco inherited from his grandmother, Vittoria. Here, he cultivates three local grape varieties, Aleatico, Procanico, and Greghetto Rosso. During the summer months he also hosts events here on a small patch of ground surrounded by vines – a true rural idyll.
He produces a range of five wines with a total production of around 8,000 bottles a year so availability may be limited and, because of the small area under cultivation, there will be possibly more year to year variation due to climatic factors than with the larger vineyards.
In his cantina Francesco works his magic with the most basic of tools. While this may lack the sophistication of larger operations, the love and care that he puts into his wine more than makes up for the lack of technical resources. His wines are all fermented in steel and he has just a few old French tonneaux for maturing the red wines. Now, that may jar with people who are used to seeing nice new barrels in the wineries they visit but as a barrel ages it gives up the flavours and tannins that it possessed when new, so by using an old barrel the qualities of the grape are allowed to shine through – Francesco knows a thing or two.
Francesco makes two white wines. The first is called Alma Rei and is 100% Procanico. This a traditional white with a rich straw colour and a mild bouquet with hints of oregano. The acidity is good with white flowers on the palate. It goes well with fish. The second is called Bianatico 1,0. The name reflects that it is Bianco or white and it is 100% Aleatico. The Aleatico is a very local grape variety and is certainly one that deserves to be more widely appreciated. The first thing that hits you is the colour, rich and golden like autumn sunshine. The bouquet is full of tropical fruit like mango and on the palate there is a pleasing acidity with a hint of salinity that comes from the volcanic soil of the vineyard, together with flavours of pineapple and bitter orange. Too strong for a traditional pairing like fish, I would suggest pork, chicken or perhaps duck.
Moving to the reds, Francesco produces Maesta delle Vigne from 100% Greghetto Rosso. Ruby red with a tinge of orange at the edge and cherries on the nose, it has a good balance of tannins and acidity and is strong enough to take on flavours such as caponata, arrabbiata or roasted red meats.
By way of a complete contrast, Livaticum 484 is a late harvest sweet dessert wine, made from 100% Aleatico. The colour is rich and dark, a complex nose with cherry jam and hints of balsamic and roses. On the palate it is sweet but with a balancing acidity, and a warmth that comes from the alcohol, and full of cherry flavour.
His final offering, a passito, again 100% Aleatico, is simply called Vittoria. Passito means the grapes have been dried on a trellis after harvest. Normally a winemaker will leave them for around a month but Francesco leaves them for up to 10 weeks. The result is a wine with a colour with more orange than Livaticum but with a similar nose. On the palate it is less sweet with cherry and a background of bitter orange but rich and full. I would suggest enjoying it with dark bitter chocolate.
If you only want to buy an example of these rare gems, they are on sale in the tourist office in the centre of town and when you look at the portrait of the lady on the label you are looking at his grandmother, Vittoria, who made it all possible.
Unfortunately, Francesco does not yet have a website but you can visit his Facebook page (www.facebook.com/lacarcaia.aziendaagraria/ ) where you will find all his contact details.Visit Website Read about our visit Explore Restaurants Explore Places