Vini Aurora, co-operative winery in Ascoli Piceno province in the southern part of Le Marche, a region on the Adriatic coast of of Italy. It was founded in 1979 by 10 farmers as a communal business, some of whom were still at University. They all had other jobs or activities. Federico Pignati told me ‘we were organic from the start. Aurora was a founder member of AMAB. We were the first to go organic here. Now (2019) our neighbours are all organic.’

Founder Members: Federico worked for a company making jeans. Paolo worked in a bank. Lorenzo sold extinguishers. Franco joined 10 years later. Was or had a ‘mercatino’, his dad has vines. They wanted to work together. They found the land. Good value. Had a small house too. They managed to buy 3ha and a bit of this house. The only one with any experience of agriculture was Lorenzo whose family home was close by. They learnt about pruning and weeding from Lorenzo’s parents. Started in their free time from work. Tried kiwi fruit, and snail rearing. An agronomist asked them ‘to you look around you and tell me what you see?’ Vines, olives, grain was the only answer. So that is what they did. As well as wine they grow grain from which they make their own flour. The olives are milled in a frantoio in the Tronto valley which is set up for organic. They make the wine in the house. They later won La Ciocciola, the Slow Wine award for ethics etc.

Partner-owners: 1985 Four of the original members remained. | 2014 In 2014 there were 5 ‘soci’ or partners. | 2019 There were five soci (associates) and 3 collaborators. The five soci are: 1) Franco Pugliese, commercial. 2) Federico Pignati (born in San Benedetto del Tronto). 3) Enrico Gabrielli. 4) Lorenzo Spaccasassi. 5) Paolo Ciommi. Federico Pignati’s son Francesco is involved here. Federico loves photography (I took his photo). In 2019 to was a Societa Semplice Agricola.

Main crops: 2019 10.5ha then (same as when they started). Vines, cereals, fruit trees and wine. Pecorino is their biggest volume wine. The Offida Rosso DOC Il Sole is their most critically acclaimed wine.

Vineyards: 32ha of land (2013) of which 10.5ha of vines (2019). On the first range of coastal hills 6 miles (10km) from the Adriatic sea. Near MonteVettore, in the Sibilline mountains to the south-west (25 miles from the park of Mount Sibillini. 170 metres (557 feet) above sea level. Good air flow. 200-290m. Some reforestation.

Wine grapes: Morettone (Ciliegiolo). SW-facing. Soil is clay with moderate calcium levels.

Pruning: All reds on spurred cordon. White: guyot for Pecorino. Also bit of guyot trials on Montepulciano and Passerina.

Soils: Clay with limestone. The pH base is around 7. Work the soil very little. Scratch the soil rather than plough it.  Less compact now post-BD. Less chlorosis.

Cover crops: Grano tenero (miscuglio Cecciarelli, from Perugia. Went to Syria, Iran, Iraq) and Vicia faba (beans for nitrogen). Cecciarelli suggested a mix of seeds, and whichever one grows is adapted to the terroir. Here the cereal crop it is cut to form a mulch, do not want to turn the soil. Sheep which graze are ewes for cheese. 1978 0.5% organic substance in their land. After 15 was at 2. Now at 2.5%. Considered very high. Copper reacts with a terrain rich in organic matter. Independent tests show it is mobilised (into the plant; or deeper into the soil.) The grain is made into a flour (in Moscufo in Abruzzo. Stone mill).

Diseases: Bit of peronospera (downy mildew) which is easy to manage, even if most of the their grape varieties are susceptible. Copper-based sprays, milk, and propolis are options. Passerina and Montepulciano are both susceptible to powdery mildew (Oidium) which is easily managed with sulphur.

Rootstocks: When they planted the ‘best rootstocks’ were K5BB. This turned out to be too vigorous. So when replanting they used Paulsen. In 2019 new vines were being planted on 420A.

Climate change: Go for higher yields to maintain pH and lower alcohol.

Other crops: 2ha of olives, 2ha of fruit. 5ha of sowable crops. The rest is woodland and ‘calanchi’. There was a mix of fruit trees initially, but this was streamlined to leave just apricots as these were easiest to grow. A good area for vines and apricots.

Biodynamics | When I visited in 2019 Franco Pugliese told me that ‘since 2012 or so some Biodynamic practices were being used, but without biodynamic certification (eg Demeter) to their existing organic certification. ‘We like the prevention rather than cure approach.’ They use a Dynamiser (stirring machine) from Montanari. Biodynamic preparations are sourced from Le Madri: Horn manure 500, Horn Silica 501 and Maria Thun’s biodynamic barrel compost 502-507 is sprayed on the soil.

Organic certification: 1980 Certified organic since 1980 (AMAB). | 2019 Still certified organic.

Winemaking: Pneumatic diaphragm press. Temperature control. | Yeast In 2009 some wines were spontaneous and others seeded with cultured yeast. From 2010 onwards all wines fermented spontaneously.

White wines

Marche Bianco, Fiorile: This wine was based on Pecorino, a variety which had been abandoned due to its low yield. The wine is no longer made (I was told at Millésime Bio 2014). The Pecorino now goes into the ‘Fiobbo’. The Fiorile label shows Mount Sibilla and the legend of fairies. 

Passerina Bianco: 2013 Marche Bianco. Passerina.

Offida DOCG Pecorino, Fiobbo: Pecorino. Guyot. North-west facing. Medium clay with sandy veins. | 2004 100% Pecorino. | 2012 100% Pecorino. Fermented in steel (50%) and old 500 litre barrels (50%). Bottled August 2013. Bit old style and oxidised (80mg/l total sulfur) at Millésime Bio 2014. | 2014 100% Pecorino harvested on 15 September 2014. Pied de cuve. Picked, pressed, chilled, settled. Racked off heavy lees. Pied de cuve added. Once fermentation gets going half the lot is transferred to another stainless tank and the other half is transferred to 1,500 litre oak barrels. 10 months ageing. Blended. Filtered to 0.45 microns and bottled on 12 August 2015. | 2017 13.5%. Lemony fruit with smooth texture, lightly oily, nice weight, salty end (tasted at the winery in 2019). | 2018 13.5%. L120419 Smooth yellow-green fruit, clear, lively and savoury mouthfeel (tasted Nov 2019).

Falerio dei Colli Ascolani DOCThe vineyard faces S-E. 180 metres (590 feet) above sea level. The soil is calcareous, clay soil with veins of sandy soil. The label shows a view of the farm with the mytholical cart of Aurora. | 2004 Trebbiano, Passerina, Pecorino. | 2015 50% Trebbiano, 30% Passerina, 20% Pecorino. All three varieties are harvested separately. Pecorino September 3, 2015, Trebbiano on September 4 and the Passerina on the 9th. The grapes were immediately pressed with a pneumatic press. The must was chilled to around 10 degrees C. and decanted for approximately 12 hours. Racking was then done to remove the heavy lees and was inoculated with must which had already begun to ferment spontaneously. The fermentation was temperature controlled at 20-22 degrees C. and continued for around 18 days; another 3 rackings were done  prior to bottling with the first to again remove the heavy lees and the final 2 for clarification. The wine was filtered at 0.45 microns and bottled on April 5, 2016. | 2018 Falerio DOP. 12.5%. L09319. Soft lemon lime citrus, yellow fruit, easy soft style at the winery in June 2019.

Pink wines

Marche Rosato: 100% Ciliegiolo (‘Morettone’, may be a local name for or biotype of Ciliegiolo). Cordon. SW-facing. Clay with moderate calcium levels. Early to bud. One recent vintage hit by nightime hail. Following year. hard as not much left at pruning. | Wine style: Saline, bright pink fruit, lemon and red orange, soft but not at all flabby. | Production: around 4,000 bottles. | 2010 (or 2011) they tried making a no added sulfites style or rosato. | 2018 13%. Stainless steel. Unoaked. Pied di cuve on skins. Rest vinified as a white wine (‘in bianco’). A very soft wine, has high pH (low acid strength). Bright garnet orange pink, lively if soft (tasted at the winery in 2019).

Red wines

Marche Rosso, Brumaio Novello: The label shows a medieval drinking scene. Sangiovese, carbonic maceration, carbon dioxide applied. At Millésime Bio 2014 I was told this was no longer being made.

Morettone2013 Marche Rosso Ciliegiolo. Tank. No added sulfites. Fizzy at Millésime Bio 2014.

Rosso Piceno DOC: Terrain: The vineyards are planted on a hillside about 150 metres (492 feet) above sea level in calcareous, clayey soils. Vines trained with cordon and Guyot. 50% Montepulciano, 40% Sangiovese, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. Fermented and aged in stainless steel. The label shows the Offida carnival scene named “Li Velurd”. | 2004 Sangiovese, Montepulciano. | 2013 45% Montepulciano, 40% Sangiovese, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. | 2018 Rosso Piceno DOP 13.5%. L10019.  Primary style red fruit. Blueberry, soft red fruit, nice fluidity, youthful, wonder what the drinking window might be potential (tasted at the winery in 2019).

Rosso Piceno Superiore DOC: A blend of Sangiovese and Montepulciano (cordon, 150m, calcareous, clayey soils, in an area Ascoli Piceno where the Rosso Piceno denomination allows the “Superiore” designation after a year of maturation. The label shows the town hall of Offida with a representation of the traditional carnival festival, “Lu bove finte” (the fake ox) designed by Carlo Marchetti. | 2003 One year in oak. | 2010 65% Montepulcinao, 35% Sangiovese. 24 months in large wooden tanks of 3,000 litres. A bit bitter at Millésime Bio 2014. | 2017 Rosso Piceno Superiore DOC. 13.5%, L10619. Warm, soft fruit, round texture, youthful, needs a bit more time to settle but plenty of potential (tasted at the winery in 2019).

Offida DOCG Rosso, Barricadiero RossoFrom two plots of 100% Montepulciano vines trained single cordon, one facing south and the other southwest. 50m. Medium clay with calcareous features. The label shows Offida’s carnival celebration “Lu Bove Finte”. |  2003 Rosso Piceno Superiore. Sangiovese, Montepulciano. One year in French oak. | 2011 100% Montepulciano. | 2013 Hand picked October 4, 2013. De-stemmed and crushed. Spontaneous fermentation in oak tanks followed by a maceration of 7 days. After pressing, racked twice to remove the lees and then placed in oak barrels of 228 liters for 24 months. Assemblage after careful tasting of each individual barrel and bottled 4th January 2013.

Other products: Shelled barley, which can be used to make coffee (moka machine, espresso or infusion); apricots (for jam and juice); extra virgin olive oil; olive ascolane; durum wheat, spelt, millet, and some varieties of pulses; wine vinegar.

Markets: 2019 30% sell locally. 30% in Italy. 30% exports. Passione Vino in UK.

Sweet wines

Passito: Made from Passerina.

Contact

Aurora di Gabrielli, Spaccasassi, Pignati e Pugliese s.d.f. (Az. Agrobiologica),

Tel+39 0736.810007 | Website www.viniaurora.it

Tasting: Contrada Ciafone, 98 – Zona S. M. in Carro – 63035 Offida (Ascoli Piceno).

Bibliography

Visit to the winery Wednesday 12 June 2019.