Andrea and Pilar make “natural wines”
During these unprecedented, devastating past two years some local businesses have succumbed; others have seized the opportunity to expand in creative ways, building stronger foundations. Rossana and I have witnessed interesting developments at I Girasoli di Sant’Andrea, in the Niccone Valley near Umbertide, especially a new line of “natural wines” the project of the founders’ children, Andrea and Pilar Gritti.
A bit of background: almost thirty years ago Carlo and Ursula Schindler Gritti purchased a casa colonica and 160 hectares of land In the Niccone Valley near the border of Umbria and Tuscany. On forty hectares they planted grapes and in 2000 introduced their first wines. After the untimely death of her husband, Ursula carried on, cultivating crops, raising cattle, running a restaurant, growing grapes and olives (8,000 trees!), making wine, and bringing up their two children.
All those years of hard work have paid off. Her I Girasoli di Sant’Andrea line of wines is well regarded; Andrea and Pilar, now in their twenties, are committed to the wine business to the delight of their mother; the restaurant is a success under the professional guidance of Simone Corsetti; an olive oil mill has been installed; and an outdoor seating area has been built for tastings. Ursula is converting the entire farm to organic.
Most exciting are the natural wines of Andrea and Pilar. An idea conceived by the siblings in 2019, the wines were finally presented this spring, 2021, via the internet. They feature a striking label, a spiral depicting an abstract sunflower, a girasole in Italian.
A natural wine is made the way a farmer would have done it in the past, producing a small quantity using traditional methods, but more hygienic these days! No pesticides or herbicides are applied in the vineyard. These wines are not blends; they are made 100 percent from a specific grape and faithfully reflect its vintage. Created from Sangiovese, Pinot Nero, Grechetto, Syrah, Ciliegiolo, or Malvasia Nera grapes, the wines of Andrea and Pilar start out as pure grape juice. They are naturally fermented, without temperature control, and must be watched very carefully, a risky situation during fermentation. No chemicals are added and the wines are slightly less alcoholic than you might expect.
With the close collaboration of the young enologist Simone Zucchetti, who came to Girasoli in 2017, they are currently producing one pét-nat (naturally sparkling), one white, five reds, and a passito. As Rossana commented during our tasting, “The wines enhance the characteristics of the grape. You taste the grape immediately. And you can feel the energy of Andrea and Pilar, the desire to do well, and to assert themselves.”
A tour and tasting for small groups, lasting 1.5 hours, includes Ursula’s Girasoli wines as well as the natural wines of Andrea and Pilar. Ursula starts with her sparkling Ripole followed by two whites and two reds. The cost is 15 euros per person. No food is served but, to continue the conviviality, if you like she will book a table for you at the restaurant.
I Girasoli di Sant’Andrea
Loc. Molino Vitelli, 06019 Umbertide (PG)