Nestled between Tuscany and Umbria, in the Lazio region, sits Gradoli. A quaint Italian town that the energetic Gianmarco and Clementine Bouveron call home, tending to their diverse and natural fields. The vineyards that reap the Le Coste grapes are accompanied by hectares of olive groves, chestnut trees, shrubs and oaks. In 2004, having acquired a piece of wild terrain, called “Le Coste”, they decided to plant indigenous grape varieties spanning Procanico, Malvasia, Moscato, Vermentino, Merlot and others.
The duo has an intrinsic drive to care for the fields in the most natural way. Everything is done by hand on the property. With ungrafted vines and biodynamic practices at play, the wines themselves are fermented in an ancient cellar in the village’s centre. Nothing is added or removed.
Why did you choose winemaking as a way of life?
My grandfather used to make wine and sell it privately in Gradoli. I was born in Rome and my family is very passionate about food and wine so I started drinking wine early, I was a sommelier then started working as a gastronomic journalist. It was my life. In 2002 I decided to go to Alsace, in France, to write a book about different kinds of terroir. I was very focused on the importance of terroir, the soil, the weather, the exposition and the men. It’s all these elements put together.
So I’d write in the morning and work on the vineyard in the afternoon and for me it was beautiful, better than writing. So I wrote my book but never published it. I kept working and travelling in France and became very passionate about agriculture so I decided to buy a piece of land in the country of my family in Gradoli. It was completely abandoned, so a good place to make natural wine; free of chemicals, neighbors or estate.
What is natural wine to you?
For me making natural wine is sharing the energy of my soil, an expression of my family and me. But it’s also a sort of revolution. Natural wine started in 1929 in France, because people in South of France didn’t want sugar in the wine because they said to the system my wine has plenty of sugar already.
With this wine, I want to give people pleasure but in a way that is good for our body and good for the environment.
What made you choose to employ biodynamic principles and an entire winemaking process by hand for Le Coste?
I started to make biodynamic in 2003. It’s not only matter of applying the biodynamic principles but to be reasonable, to be a « paysan », to have a sensibility. There’s a lot of ‘blabla’ in bio, and I remember the owner of a vineyard giving us a tour in a Range Rover. Sometimes it’s just not coherent, so I stopped.
In 2006, I met another producer from Alsace Patrick Meyer. We started talking about bio together, in the good sense. Dynamic in relation to organic. Organic agriculture is the same as conventional: I need more production, my soil more fertilised. So we’ll look at how many units of nitrogen we need, work on the analytics, do the maths. Instead of synthetic produce, I use natural produce. But it’s the same approach.
Biodynamic approach is completely different. Instead of 1000 kilos of fertilizer for a hectare, you put 100 grams of biodynamic preparation. I give the soil the idea of fertilisation. It’s like homeopathic approach in medicine.
Bio is not a recipe; it doesn’t work in the same way every time. You have to feel it. This is my approach. I used to buy the preparation from France, but now I started making my own for coherence. Why do I have to take information from France and put in my soil in Italy? I have to produce in my farm. That’s what biodynamic is. It’s like permaculture, it’s a closed system. And this is the point of my estate and my life. I want my estate to be a closed circle, a closed ecosystem.
What’s behind the vinification of your wine in your village’s ancient cellars?
Because it’s beautiful, I could feel the energy immediately. When I bought it, I could visualise Le Coste finished and planted instantly. After 15 years, I got the energy measured with a pendulum - The energy is normally 7000, it was over 2 million. That’s a lot of energy.
The cellar is beautiful, very ancient. It’s a quiet place and the temperatures stay the same, you have a lot of humidity, microorganism and no lights. So it’s ideal to make natural wine.