Some wines are coy. They make you fall in love slowly, each sip revealing a new layer of complexity and nuance. These are the wines of Davide Spillare. Wines imbued by the volcanic soils of Gambellara and the soul of a passionate natural winemaker.
Davide Spillare is a member of VinNature, a group of 180 winemakers from around the world who all follow natural winemaking principles. An early student of the natural wine pioneer Angiolino Maule, he embraced biodynamics and natural winemaking with his first release in 2007. For Davide this means no interference in the vineyard or cellar, spontaneous fermentation, minimal sulphur use (under 20mg/liter), no filtering or fining and most importantly a deep and abiding respect for the land his family has farmed for generations. His vineyards, he says simply, are on loan and in his safekeeping for future generations. The focus of his estate is Garganega, one of the most important white grapes of Italy and one that is perfectly at home in the basalt soils of Gambellara.
Gambellara sits 80 km from Venice and 30 km from Verona on the remains of an ancient volcano near the remnants of a basalt quarry. The tuffa outcroppings and black basalt soils full of iron are also rich in magnesium and potassium, two minerals said to increase the aromatics of this long lived grape. Garganega is an old grape, the parent of Catarratto and Trebbiano Toscano, thought to have been brought to the region by the Etruscans. Garganega's gnarled roots are perfectly suited to bore through the porous rock, deriving nutrients and accessing the water stored within. These amazing volcanic soils are said to let the living root system breathe in the pockets and openings of the hardened lava. Winemakers say they have less need to maintain or interfere with vines grown in basalt, saying it naturally contributes to the health of the vine.
Davide has 10 hectares which are all worked and harvested by hand. His vineyards, never treated by any chemicals or herbicides, are thriving examples of biodiversity with a mix of cover crops and native plant life. His vines, trained in both Guyot and traditional Pergolas are comprised of 3 hectares situated on the plains to south to 7 hectares imbedded in the layers of basalt under ash at the base of the mountains to the north. Vine age ranges from newer plantings (all on Guyot trellising) to his prized 80-year-old Rugoli vineyard seen in the video here, on the traditional Pergola.
In the years since his first vintage release Davide has faced many choices, none of them easy. To make wine for himself and his family, a change from the tradition of selling wine to a local co-op. A decision to eschew any additives in his wines or vineyards, recognizing how long it takes the land to recover from chemicals and herbicides. But mostly his whole hearted embrace of natural winemaking long before it was an internationally recognized movement. They all cement Davide Spillare as a natural wine visionary and a steward of the beautiful land and volcanic soils of Gambellara for future generations.
The significance of the volcanic basalt soils surrounding his winery is best explained by Davide himself: