Azienda Agricola Posso
Passionfruit. Seaweed. Honeycomb. Wild garlic. Sunscreen. Crystal water. Dried oregano. Fresh conflict. Camomile. Limestone. Green olive. Hunger. Good humour. Lust. Battered peach. Parsley, butter and fish soup. The underside of a dinghy. The early catch. The perfect aperitif.
The ‘Parmaea’ 2020 from Azienda Agricola Posso is a blend of six parts Vermentino, two parts Albarola and another two parts Trebbiano. Harbouring from the only vineyard on the island of Palmaria in the Cinque Terre district of Liguria it is viscous without being oily, zingy without being sharp, full-bodied without being overwrought, perfumed without being sickly, pleasure without a single whiff of pain—at least, not for the drinker.
The wine is the sole product of a single vineyard and the result of what the wine world refers to as Heroic Viticulture (HV). That is to say: small island, terrace planted, steep (30%) incline, high (500m above sea level) altitude, often mountainous, rare-varietal, extreme-weather surviving viticulture. And the vigneron that turn these wines, under difficult circumstances, having braved the elements and overcome seeming adversity and brought juice to the masses, are the heroes and heroines of their own bottlings and certainly champions of the vine. CERVIM, founded in 2011, the Centre for Research, Environmental Sustainability and Advancement of Mountain Viticulture, sights the work and wine of Heydi Bonanini in the Cinque Terre as fitting the bill.
De-stemmed, macerated for a day and fermented in steel there’s a little bit of charcoal on the nose of the ‘Parmaea’ 2020 and the slow perfume of the unattended veggie drawer, of damp fridge and garden hose, of wooden instruments hitting swinging canzone and expensive ash-edged goats cheese. It’s a little bright to the eye, a little golden and deep green though pale. The nose continues with hay and grass and white flowers in bloom and clay and the ‘dirty’ stink you’d only get off the best kind of martinis in only the best kind of bars: the martini you’ve earnt and paid good money for, the martini that hits every muscle of the body and kisses the weary mind. The mouth gives lemon sorbet and chopped herbs and there’s a kind of tug-of-war between the refreshing, resolute acidity and the tacky, flesh-like demands of dried fruit, of stem and leaf and kitchen sink. As the liquid goes down and the aromas go up it’s like licking chalk or chewing tiny pebbles that turn to dust and citrus rind against the teeth, that turn to silken water, lightly sugared by the waves of summer and longingly salted by the Ligurian sea.
They only make about 1000-1200 bottles every harvest. That’s small fry. That’s young fish. That’s not a lot considering how many thirsty mongrels there are out there on any given day—thirsty mongrels much like myself—on the hunt for a stranded bottle, for a mere tipple of the heroes milk. And somewhat noble it is. Proper dusty. Slightly cloudy. Salt-crusted. Stone-washed. Green-lit. Herbaceous. Bitter leaning. Oceanic. Opulent.
It’s a wine that has me thinking of vongole and subtitled cinema and the first sips of (dry, nondescript Italian white) wine (that came to the table in unmarked bottles) my mother allowed me from the wide beakers she so favoured at the local pizzeria on those special occasion ventures when one of us had a birthday or the oft-ignored religious calendar gave us an excuse to go out. The first sips I found sapid, foreign, bitter, singular. The first sips that hit my teeth and my tongue voltaic. It’s a wine that has me thinking about long train rides, about the flashes of the sea that eventually reveal themselves out the window. It’s a wine you’d be best holding onto for those days when you need cheering up. It’s a wine that you can find yourself chewing over minutes after a sip, and a wine that you can just throw back and not even think about. To be both those kinds of wine is no small feat. It takes poise. It takes precision. It takes high acid and lavish waves of fruit and balance and salinity and ease and mess and calm and everything and nothing. Perhaps it even takes some kind of hero.
Vermentino: light skinned, light bodied, white grape, green almond, flowers and zest, largely found in Sardinia and in northern Italy where it is sometimes known as Favorita, also known as Rolle in Provence, high phenols, high acid, gives the ‘Parmaea’ 2020 pink grapefruit, possible mango, Chinese gooseberry, wax mouth, slight bitterness on the finish, overall body and beauty.
Albarola: small/medium, green/yellow berries, often considered neutral, forms the blend of Cinque Terre Sciacchetrà DOC (a favoured sweet wine from Liguria), also known as Temosci and Medea, gives the ‘Parmaea’ 2020 honey and grass and undergrowth, moss, crispness and savoury crunch.
Trebbiano: widely planted (white grape) across Italy and France, big player in brandy and vinegar, high-yielding, often makes vino di tavola, also known as Ugni Blanc, Falanchina, Talia, the list rages on, often shy, often delicate, gives the ‘Parmaea’ 2020 peach and basil, tartness, apple, spice and slate, lavender, mandarin and persistence.
Whilst the folks who’ve planted it, nurtured it and eventually harvested it might be heroes, sitting on the terrace of my Aunt’s (council) place in Richmond on a lazy Sunday watching the remains of an amateur cricket match, watching laconic joggers hesitate outside the pub, watching the great suburban theatre of dogs chasing olfactory wonder and children forging chaos and new romancers splayed across polyester tartan, all illuminated by the ritual of street lamps shifting to life, having finished the final episode of an arduous true-crime podcast and made myself half a decent soufflé, and thinking less about the week ahead and more about the month gone by, I am the fuzzy blithe fool that, with a bottle of Azienda Agricola Posso ‘Parmeae’ 2020 near empty beside me, feels like a hero.
tasted August 2021