Last summer visiting Sicily, I met wine maker Jacopo Nardi and his girlfriend, baker Esmeralda Spitaleri. I've invited him to tell us more at Stir the Pots about fermentation, enology and beer!
How did you become interested in fermentation?
So I think you're asking me when I had my very first meeting with something fermented. If so, my answer is somewhere between ages of 10 and 15. I don't remember it exactly. Prosecco, the best ever, my father always bought it straight from a very small local producer around Conegliano-Valdobbiene. Then he bottled it at home. He was stashing it for summer. Me and a long life friend, Francesco, were playing in the garden where my father was bottling it. Jokingly, we told him that we would drink all the leftovers from a nearby carafe, even if he wouldn't allow us to.
“Suit yourself,” my father said. So we, without waiting for anything else, emptied the carafe down our throats. He turned to us astonished, reprimanding us for a too-hasty first experience or "baptism of alcohol fire." Ever since my journey was varied; when I had to choose what college to attend I found out the existence of a major in viticulture and oenological science and technologies but I followed the tip of a friend and studied agricultural science which I quit after two years to dedicate myself to wine study in Conegliano.
I had wonderful years, practical experiences and a lot of discussions that keep going on now when we meet again. Now with my girlfriend Esmeralda, who makes me ferment from the inside we'll try to put to practice what we learned in school, she increased my curiosity introducing me to the world of beers and bread-making!
When I first tried your wine in Sicily, you called it "simple juice." What is good wine for you?
Wine is good when from a simple fermented alcoholic beverage becomes the fruit of a vision and the job of an artist conscious about the goal to reach and then in the wine cellar he pictures the environment that surrounds him changing it into must: "form of image that doesn't only capture the light impressed on a film, but also gives corp and shape expressed in light, perfumes, tastes, and sensations hitting the soul more or less intensely.
So we are speaking of hard work in the countryside, pondered, studied and applied in the absolute respect of the territory and the nature of the place keeping alive old cultivation techniques joining them to new learning developed in time which allows us to have the full picture oh the analyzed ecosystem, gathering the whole expression of this Nature in the fruit of the grapevine.
After that, all the work made in the wine cellar has to be equally pondered, studied and applied to allow the grapes to reach their complete transformation in wine with less intervention as possible, passing the baton to yeast, the real magicians that in a synergistic way shift the photographic mono-dimension to plural dimensional in all senses.
Often these binary relations "countryside-farmer, enologist-yeast" are underestimated by many producers, heirs of a traditionalist culture that partially interprets their own territory, maybe obtaining some qualitatively good products but they are not the true expression of the nature in which they are ingrained.
And at last, if I generalize my personal idea I would say that good wine is the one that when you swallow a sip of wine it makes you feel it, makes you vibrate inside and your body accepts it giving you that warm sensation that cuddles you from the inside.
Is beer also on par to wine?
That is one of the eternal diatribes and that will always change according to the person you are speaking with.For what concerns the Yeast-like thought the two beverages can be considered equally, both of them have a soul in common, alcoholic fermentation, without which we would have neither of them but they belong to very different convivial contests, historically wine was destined to elite classes while beer was for common people.
Again, among the main differences wine pictures a territory, limited by its own annual production cycle and long time of honing; beer is a collage of different territories depending on the origin of the ingredients that are used in its production process in which water rules the most important part. More, beer is a way more delicate than wine.
The eternal rivalry between these two wonders can be simplified discussing markets but we won't talk about that. Actually, I find a lot more interesting to find out the real joining links that today are about productive mixtures about fermentative techniques - barrels, amphora's and spontaneous fermentation for example – and exchange of raw materials. today you can drink wines that taste like beers and beers that taste like wines.
My opinion is that more than rivals they simply have to surprise their interlocutor and give a moment of pleasure, they have to make you feel good, satisfy your thirst.
How do you pair food with wine?
About pairing food and wine I would enlarge the reference point about the routes headed by the bite and the sip, comparing these two elements to two winds that run the sails of taste towards the sensory goal wished by the one who knows the expressiveness of assonance and dissonance between the parts. In case you sail through fog, drink prosecco and everything will be all right, always and in every occasion. you don't have, though, to drink grape syrup with bubbles, it's easy to make a mistake considering all the crap you find all over the world.
Generally, I think that the most important thing is to base on your own gustative experiences to find out that "quid" that can give you satisfaction in any place-moment- situation at least that's what I do and I am not a chef or a sommelier. And once in a while just dare.
How do you know if wine is good; name, grapes, terroir?
I apply what I didn't learn in sommelier classes but learned talking with sommeliers and producers, sitting with them at a table or at the counter in a tavern or a bar.
Sure you need some objective technical judgment parameter to value the structure but after that luckily subjective opinions start never ending talks.
Factors that influence our perceptions are various and in a messy evolution. You can only stick on the immediacy of sensations for this kind of evaluations which will never have a constant.To sum it up, without lurking around, if that given bottle doesn't stop arouse enthusiasm in you and who is around you, I mean you are never tired drinking that, they can say whatever they want but that, for you, will always be a great wine.
How do you judge wine?
You have to drink it, get at least at the bottom of the glass to try and understand what you are dealing with, you have to live the history of the ones who made it and the life of who is telling you that story, otherwise with no other indications, what are you left to do?
You have to feel it running inside yourself and the answer will be given straight from your body depending how it reacts from the inside.
I confess that after a very technical part pops out, but it's to comprehend the product deeper, to satisfy curiosity and to foment dialogue to try and get the maximum amount of information about the activities used in the countryside and in the cellar, looking for something we might then use in our experiments and then in our productions.
What is "Yeasteria?"
Ah, nice question!
Yeasteria is me and my better half Esmeralda's project.
It's about a cycle closed in itself which includes production, divulgence and straight knowledge about everything regarding Italian craft.
Of course, the starting point will be about wine and beer being our matters of study in which we want to find ourselves artisans.
But it means to catch the avant-garde that cross the limits of standard and limited production, gathering around artistic expressions of all kinds.
to make it simple, among Yeasteria's first projects we are trying to create a cultural event inside a historical Venetian building to promote good wine, music, art for a 360 degrees good experience with a social intent of requalification of canals in Venice.
productively, in may, we will have our first 5000 bottle as the result of our experiment made on 2015 grape harvest, which I personally wanted to dedicate to my mate, Esmeralda, all the rest is a surprise. The next step is to develop a line of beers.
Meanwhile, regarding cultural fields, our objective is to offer to curious people all over the world the chance to live the wine and food quality artisan experience of Italian territory starting from Venice and then strolling around.
What's your favorite; red or white?
No distinction, zero compromises!
Are bread, wine, beer strokes-of-luck or genius in harnessing nature?
I would say it's the ability humans have to inspect natural spontaneous events to find a way to domesticate them and talk with them.
What do like to eat with red wine?
What do you like to do when your not thinking wine?
I think of beer…
Thanks Domenico Bianco for translation