Nataša Černic, Castello di Rubbia’s owner and winemaker

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Nataša Černic is one of those persons you could be listening talking about wine for hours. She is so passionate about her work she hypnotizes you with her conversation. She loves what she does and you feel it right away while she talks to you. As we recently talked about in the article about Azienda Agricola Castello Di Rubbia, Nataša has a passion for experimenting with her wines to produce different things. We tasted some of these experiments with Malvasia and they were so incredible. Today we will talk to her about her passion.

Buongiorno Nataša, and thank you for your collaboration. Where does your passion for wine come from?

I could not do anything without passion, I inherited this from my mother.

You have chosen Malvasia for experimenting rather than other varietal. Why this one in particular?

Malvasia grape is amazing, I know I haven’t understood its potential yet. So I like to play with it, in different ways, different times. When I feel there is something special, something worthy in the grape, I start going with my imagination. This is the way Cadenza d’Inganno was born.

You use longer periods of the must in contact with the skins. Do you decide the period by timeframe or by tasting?

By reaction of the grape on the skin contact, I try to understand where we are going.

We tasted your experiment with Malvasia 2011 and it was something really fabulous. Can you tell us how are you doing it?

I love white Passito. It’s a love affair, there is nothing more to explain. I believe Malvasia can be a great Passito. However making a Passito, this is still a mistery to me. It all started when I saw botrytis nobile, a unique phenomenon, on the Malvasia grape in late August/September 2011 and I wanted to try. We lost 70% of our grapes drying it on the plant.

Skin contact was a real experience, fermentation was even more… a life lesson. We decided to cool the must in fermentation, setting the temperature to -2. With more than surprise, tears in my eyes, I remember what I thought when I saw the slow and secure fermentation going on at that temperature. Strange aromas, but they were good, never felt before in our cellar. Yeasts were trying to survive, and I saw the power of life. This value was to me more important than any wine in my mind. More than that, that Sunday noon, bells were ringing, we switched off cooling leaving the wine going wherever it was meant to go and achieve. Wine fermented for months, many months, I will not tell how many, nobody would believe it, with strange but positive aromas. It stopped with a residual sugar too low for a Passito.

In the meantime, the malolactic fermentation was done. I didn’t care. I knew it would be great. When the wine was born, only one name came to my mind, which I associate from my music studies: Cadenza d’Inganno, a sequence of accords that determine a surprise, a music phrase that doesn’t end like it is expected. It indeed surprises you with a sense of “could not be, this is wrong!” before and “why not?” later on. It happens in music, in wine and in our lives. My imagination by the tasting of this wine, accepting the deviation it took, keeps me close to infinity…

What is your goal when you do these experiments?

Discovering life.

Have you thought of experimenting in this way with a red varietal?

The first Teran 2004 in the history of our winery was itself an experiment… but not in vinification… I tell you the story: 3-year-old vines gave their grapes, a barrel from Teran was forgot in the cellar, as not important, forgot by everyone, but no by me. I looked at it after some time, sure and proud of it. After 10 years, I decided to bottle it… no sign of age, a champion! Sorry… Not for sale.

My first, non-declared experiment, was Teran 2007, which name would be “Pure”, later on I found out it already existed as a registered name, so I left the idea, and took it as first step to my own wine universe…

One of our declared experiments, with historical result, is Teran 2011, whose story is very similar to Cadenza d’Inganno’s. I remember acidity before picking up the grape, as 15 was the alcoholic potential, not a Carso standard… but climate was changing. Grape still medium size, some of them dry. Harvest time, let’s go on action. Skin contact for around 24 days, fermentation very long, I won’t say how long, none would believe it. 7 different vinifications, because of a very difficult alcoholic and malolactic fermentation which didn’t end at an acceptable stage for bottling. But it ended for a time, finding its balance somewhere. So we bottled it, knowing it could start moving a bit again. Another champion was born, whose level of antioxidants was incredibly high. The wine is dark, so dark that you don’t see the other side of the glass… more than Teran… more than a wine. Alcoholic by volume is 14,77º. It happened; we are keen on having been part of it.

The DOC authority, considering Teran 2011, gave us a remarkable advice: the whole harvest of 2012 of Teran is RISERVA. Around 1300 bottles in 3 hectares (9000 vines/hectare), that year gave us 8 quintals per hectare, I remember my father furious… the result is still in our cellar, another great champion.

Would the Vitovska variety respond to this kind of experiments in the same way?

The lovely Vitovska is a totally different kind of grape, very slow always: in the vineyard, in vinification and ageing. Its thicker skin tells you it needs longer skin contact. Of course, every year we do 4-6 different vinifications, which are actually similar. The discriminant factor here is Time always, in the maturation of the grapes, in maceration, fermentation, ageing… all it is very slow for the long living Vitovska.

How are your Vitovska wines?

I feel our Vitovska as happy strong wines. I mean they went on all processes: fermentation, stabilization in a natural way and in the right time. The result is a stable wine, without the electricity we often find in young wines without malolactic fermentation, which are in tension to a result of a natural process, which has been stopped by the producer, to get something in-between, a compromise. I don’t like compromises…

You don’t work with Ribolla Gialla, a varietal really important here in Friuli Venezia Giulia.

No, I don’t. I believe everyone should express itself in his own terroir. We are in Carso – Kras, not in Collio – Brda.

You use Cabernet Sauvignon and Terran. The latter is a local variety.

Actually, the 7000 metres of Cabernet Sauvignon are slowly dying, climate is changing, the plants react very badly. Indigenous varieties are stronger, they can afford climate change. Teran is a selvatic vine, it needs place, we plant it very narrow and it is pushing up. We are considering the best way for it to be cultivated.

Which kind of oak barrels do you use?

Only Slavonian, oak and also acacia.

Which style of ageing do you prefer? Steel tanks, oak barrels?

Actually, what the wine needs is what we prefer.

Which of your wines gives you more satisfaction working with?

Teran.

What style of wine you drink when you are not working?

Reds, a deep Lagrein like.

Any new plan for the future?

Huge 🙂

Grazie mille, Nataša!