Gabriele Moratti’s involvement in wine has centred around his Castello di Cigognola estate in Oltrepò Pavese in the north of Italy. But this new venture takes him to a very different Italian region, the island of Sardinia, and a start-up venture called Bentu Luna. The new operaton accesses very old vines from the Sardinian hinterland, using only vineyards between 35 and 115 years of age.
Sited in an area of mixed agriculture and listed in the National Register of Rural Landscapes of historical interest, Bentu Luna say the land use here has not changed for 200 years. Vineyards are located on a plateau ranging from 350 to 700 metres altitude, composed mostly of granite and sand. They are protected by mountains to the south, whilst benefitting from the constant mild breezes from the surrounding ocean. Temperatures range from around 10º C in winter and generally stay below 30º C in summer.
The wines come from the area of DOC Mandrolisai, based on three main red wine grapes: Bovale Sardo (Graciano), Cannonau (Grenache), and indigenous speciality, Monica. Several other varieties are planted, and Bentu Luna also makes a white wine from Vermentino. However, in this region of ancient agricultural tradition, mixed vineyards are common with co-planting of varieties. They joke that it is a “Jurassic Park of viticulture.”
A New Way of Working
The project began after discussion with farmers and locals, aimed at saving a unique ampelographic and wine heritage. Vineyards risked being abandoned because they no longer created sufficient income. Bentu Luna operates on a system of shared management of vineyards – not buying them, but renting them, so they stay in family hands. The idea is to integrate local farmers and workforce, employing them and bringing investment and technological knowledge. In-house winemaker is Emanuela Flore, but various other experts are involved, like Federico Staderini who consults about spontaneous fermentation, and Beppe Caviola who is responsible for blending.
A new winery has been built using sustainable solutions and ensuring minimal environmental and social impact. Windows only on some sides of the building save energy, natural cork is used to insulate, and waste water is cleaned and reused in the fields. In the vineyard, no tractors or machines are employed: all work is by hand, and grapes are foot-trodden before vinification in concrete tanks with spontaneous fermentation. Each ferment is begun by a ‘Pied de Cuve’ – a system where a small amount of grapes ferment in the vineyard, and the yeast that develops acts as a starter for the rest of the fermentation. Use of oak is limited to second or third-fill barriques and even the bottles are lightweight. Recycled, tape-free cardboard packaging is used for transport and cork is sourced from local forests.
This tasting of the current Bentu Luna portfolio was led by CEO Gian Matteo Baldi. It’s impossible to review these wines without mentioning the alcohols which, for the reds, range from 14.5% to 15.5% declared on the labels. That’s a product of the climate and these Mediterranean varieties and may be problematic for some, but as always, alcohol is only one part of the picture, and more important is whether the wines are balanced.
At time of review the wines are imported by Passione Vino of London.