Roberto Cipresso is a winemaker with a reputation for extreme marginal winemaking; he is determined to push the boundaries of how and where it is possible to produce wine. We made his acquaintance after being introduced to him by the team at Venissa, the unique vineyard located in the Venetian lagoon. Venissa is just one of Roberto’s many winemaking consultancies, with the proximity of the sea posing a significant challenge. Classic viticultural regions have been shaped by vignerons with very few tools at their disposal. However as technical understanding has grown, so too has their ability to trial new and more extreme locations that could potentially produce wines unlike anything made in the past. Today sees a new band of pioneering winemakers willing to experiment in new regions, to discover the new classic sites of the future…
You have got a reputation for making wine in difficult places – how did this come about?
The topic that most interests me in my work is the study of terroir – the unique and particular interaction that occurs in each vineyard between climatic and pedagogical factors; I like so much to individuate the terroirs with the greatest potential in order for the unique terroirs to express themselves through the grapes and the wines that they will produce. During my career, I often saw how the most expressive and most incisive terroirs are precisely the areas and the vineyards that we can define as extreme. So, these are the situations in which I love working the most.
Which have been some of your most challenging projects and why?
Every extreme project is different from the others, and therefore requires diligence, attention, and specific wine making programs. Among the most interesting projects that I had the pleasure of following include some vineyards in Argentina, like the project in Tacuil in which vineyards are growing at 2.660 metres above sea level (m.a.s.l), the vineyards in Cafayate (2.200 m.a.s.l.), or Piedras Viejas, the highest vineyard in Mendoza Area – Las Heras, (about 1.700 m a.s.l.).
Also, the insular projects that are not extreme because of altitude but extreme in their unusual growing conditions, like Venissa where a unique variety is grown in a flooded saltwater vineyard, or the wines I produce with Bodega Santa Catarina in Mallorca (Andratx area).
In Italy, besides Venissa, there is the Corte Capitelli project near Montebello Vicentino; this last vineyard can be defined as extreme not because of the altitude but about the steepness of the slope (more than 30%). I like to think that the most beautiful project will always be the next one, I’m glad to introduce to you also my new project, still work in progress, in Perù, near Cusco, in Moray area (at about 3.400 m a.s.l.). I cant disclose too much at the moment during this early stage but the vineyards will be at about 3.400 m a.s.l., and unusually for grape growing there will be very little marked difference among the 4 seasons, making the working conditions very difficult and slower ripening due to the altitude.
We have loved getting to know the unique wines of Venissa, who you have advised over the last few years. What were your initial thoughts on coming across the winery?
The Venissa project stems from Gianluca Bisol’s “vision”: he found some plants of this ancient and autonomous vine now in disuse in a courtyard in Torcello Island, and we decided to replicate them and to actualise this wonderful varietal, making a wine full of charm due to this special relationship between varietal – Dorona – and the unique vineyard terroir on Mazzorbo Island. With Gianluca I especially shared the vision behind the project, and with Desiderio its enological and technical definition.
What are the biggest challenges managing the wines at Venissa?
Venissa is a wine from an extreme terroir and it wants to be the perfect interpreter of its “genius loci”. So, the biggest challenge in this case is to express its environment of cultivation, but also to lead back to a different time, to the first colonizers of the Venetian lagoon, fleeing from the barbarians, and to the gold and splendour of ancient Venice.
Where in the world do you think there is the greatest potential for producing fine wines that has yet to be fully developed due to difficult growing conditions?
Almost all the classic viticulture regions have developed having a smaller quantity of instruments and knowledge available compared to today, and following radically different criteria and philosophies of interpretation of vineyard and wine. I suggest to plant all the new vineyards on the hills and on the mountains where it is possible, and always to give preference to environments more able to leave their inimitable footprint in the wines they produce.
Which wines bring you most pleasure and why?
All the wines that are able to tell of their place and time. Among them, I especially love some Burgundy wine and some wines from the Tuscan hills.
What do you believe is the greatest wine you have helped to produce?
I can mention Montsclapade by Girolamo Dorigo, Pianrosso 1990 Ciacci Piccolomini, Altamira Achaval Ferrer, Piedras Viejas by Matervini; but I loved so much also many other wines I helped to produce, and I hope that the best wines will be those that are yet to come!
Which ambitions do you still have in winemaking that you have yet to achieve? What is next for you?
I quote again the Peruvian project as the highest and most difficult challenge of my near future. An exemplary case of extreme viticulture.
We look forward to catching up with Roberto again as this exciting Peruvian project develops…