It’s a challenge alright, but Nicola Biasi was pertinacious in planting small vineyards in the backyard of his father’s ancestral home in the town of Coredo, the heart of Val di Non to produce the right wine he had in mind. Apples are the symbolic production of this area of northern Italy in the region of Trentino because the climate, terrain and the natural elements that are found in the area give beneficial influence to the taste and quality of the fruit. In fact, on the drive towards his winery, I noticed how much the area is covered with apple trees left and right. Nicola, armed with his educational attainment as an enotechnician strengthened by the fundamental local and international experience in oenology, he decided to start planting Johanitter in 2012 and defy the fact that only apples can rule in the area.
Born and raised in Cormons in Friuli – Venezia Giulia, a northern Italian region known as the land of wines, Nicola had been deeply influenced in viticulture and viniculture. With a family who is also firmly-rooted to the vineyards, especially his father who is an oenologist, it was quite natural that he followed this path. After his studies, he embarked to enhance his knowledge at Gapsted Winery the Victorian Alps, Australia and Bouchard Winery in Walker Bay, South Africa while in Italy, Jermann in Friuli and Marchessi Mazzei in Tuscany. Then prior to the production of Vin de la Neu, Nicola had been working as an oenologist at two wineries in Bolgheri Poggio San Polo and Poggio al Tesoro owned by the Allegrini Family. In the year 2020, Nicola was proclaimed by Vinoway as the Best Young Winemaker of Italy.
What convinced Nicola to commence with the viticulture project is when he found the right grape variety to plant that can withstand the climatic conditions of the area. Johanitter is a white grape variety that is a result of the cross-breeding between Riesling and Seyve Villard 12481 with Pinot Grigio and Chasselas. It was created by Johannes Zimmerman in 1968 at the State Institute of Viticulture in Freiburg, Germany. It is tolerant to fungus especially oidium and peronospora and as a result reduces the use of pesticides in the vineyards. Having Riesling as one of the parents, there is a big capacity for longevity and complexity while the Pinot Grigio gene makes it possible to be harvested early. In Italy, there is only about 1,000 hectares of land dedicated to the cultivation of Johanitter, 90% of which is in Trentino – Alto Adige because the region receives constant rain more than the rest of the country.
The vineyards of Vin de la Neu are designed to obtain high quality grapes at 2 hectares of land. The vines are trained with the head-trained (alberello) method to allow the development of the vines without forcing them. The extreme low temperature in the area quite affects the maturation of the grapes which tends to slow it down thus placing the harvest period in the middle of October. Indeed, the higher the altitude is, the less the weight of the grapes come out and the vineyards are located at around 1,000 m.a.s.l. When the grapes are manually harvested in October, they are left outside in their baskets for the night. The next morning, when they have reached the optimum temperature of around 5°C, they proceed to the soft pressing of the grapes. This is then followed by static clarification of the musts in concrete vessels then the fermentation in new French oak barrique takes place for 11 months with frequent batonnage and goes through malolactic fermentation. The choice of barrique is fundamental to the the resulting wine that comes out. Nicola has a preference for lightly-toasted French oak seasoned for 36 months which is specific for white wines. After bottling, the wines are stored in the cellar for 1 1/2 years before they are released to the market. The outcome? Only an average of 500 bottles and 30 magnums. But in 2017, he planted more vines which put up the annual production to around 1,000 bottles.
Vin de la Neu (pronounced vin – de – la – ne -u), meaning wine of the snow in the local dialect, has a story behind it. On the morning that Nicola was going to do the harvest of his first vintage in mid-October 2013, the vineyards had received 20 cm. of snow throughout the night. Everything was white and this natural phenomenon that has never happened in October in the area became a memorable day for such an important day for Nicola, thus Vin de la Neu was pegged as the name of his wine.
Vin de la Neu Johanitter IGT Vignetti delle Dolomiti 2016
The bottle had been left open for two weeks prior to tasting and amazingly, the wine showed almost no sign of oxidation. Crystal-clear with straw yellow color, the nose has dominant white floral characteristics followed by hints of hay and herbaceous aromas. Elegant, harmonious and persistent in the mouth with a lasting acidity and evident sapidity. This is one of the best vintages of the last decade which managed to make the grapes reach perfect ripeness gradually that when the harvest arrived, the aromatic profiles were preserved thanks to the low temperatures at night time.
Vin de la Neu Johanitter IGT Vignetti delle Dolomiti 2017
Crystal-clear and bright straw yellow in color with an intense acidity, notes of ripe yellow stone fruits like peach and nectarine and light creaminess in the nose. The mouth ascertains a pronounced acidity, a trace of tannicity, more body and finishes long. A complex wine that at four years old, still demonstrates such youth, freshness and great complexity. 2017 was described as a vintage of brightness characterized by a balanced and generally dry climate. The area has never experienced such high temperatures before that the grapes ripened well thanks to the brightness of the season.
Vin de la Neu Johanitter IGT Vignetti delle Dolomiti 2018
This is the latest vintage that’s out in the market and the bottle that we paired with food over lunch at Pineta Nature Resort in the nearby town Predaia. The vintage is dubbed as a classic one with a cold and snowy winter followed by a lot of rains in spring. Summer was hot and dry then afterwards, the climate became fresher which allowed the grapes to reach healthiness until the time of the harvest. This vintage marks more of its Riesling profile in the nose with mature white peach and delicate white flowers. Very elegant, the mouth has a very nice crispiness and acidity that persists. This is an excellent wine to enjoy at its youth and promises to shine more in the next years.