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Le Lase www.lelase.com, a winery run by four sisters, is near Orte in northern Lazio. The hillside vineyard overlooks the Tiber valley with the high peaks of the Apennine mountains behind and as Giada, one of the sisters, explained, this means that the grapes can survive the blisteringly hot sun during the day because damp cool air comes to their rescue every evening .
This is a relatively new vineyard which started in 2004. Le Lase consists of 12 hectares of vines producing around 60,000 bottles of wine per year and I was excited to be here for two reasons. The first is the unusual way the sisters use some native grapes and the second is that it was harvest time.
Harvest time is when a vineyard comes to life in the rush to bring in the grapes at the optimum moment. Here the grapes are harvested by hand and we watched as a tractor arrived with a stainless steel trailer behind it, laden with the results of the morning’s efforts. Pipes were connected, levers pulled and suddenly the grapes disappeared down a large pipe whilst the stalks from the bunches were spat out at the rear in a tour de force of technological magic.
We followed the grapes on their short journey to where they were being soft-pressed in what the Italians call a pulmone or lung at 1.2 Bar. I sampled the must that emerged and was surprised by the intense grass flavours. We left the must on its short journey to the stainless steel fermentation vats and headed off to sample some of the results of the sisters’ labours.
The first wine we sampled was a white called Zefiro, made from a grape variety from the Veneto called Incrocio Manzoni. The name simply translates as the Manzoni cross. Professor Manzoni was at the School of Viticulture of Conegliano in the Veneto in the 1920s and he was trying to produce disease-resistant varieties. He crossed Riesling with Pinot Bianco and this was the result. They have christened their creation Zefiro after the Greek god of the west wind and it has a pale straw colour with almost a hint of green. The bouquet is of pears and in the mouth white flowers together with the minerality that is only to be expected on this volcanic soil. At 13.5% alcohol this is not a weak wine
We then tried two red wines. The sisters have a particular technique where 30% of the wine is matured in an old barrique so that only a gentle hint of oak is imparted to the wine. The first, called Terra, from 2017, is a blend of Violone, a clone of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, and Sangiovese. Garnet red, the bouquet was of cherries with the slightest hint of oak. In the mouth there was bitter cherry and some young tannins. Perhaps this wine could mature a little longer but it can still be enjoyed today with red meat, especially cooked on the barbecue, or medium matured cheese. Again, this is a strong wine at 14% alcohol.
The final wine we tried is called Thesan and is unusual in that it is 100% Canaiolo Nero, a grape more commonly used in blends. The colour is dark and rich and on the nose there is plum and sweet cherry with hints of pepper and oak. This was a 2015, and the tannins here still need time to mature a little more but it will go well with strong flavours like wild boar. At 15% alcohol by volume this is a wine for evening consumption for me.
If all that is too much for you to resist but you don’t know where to stay after having indulged in a wine-tasting, fear not – the sisters have a delightful cottage in the grounds that you can rent so now you have no excuse not to follow in our footsteps to this rural idyll.