Terraces perched above the sea like the ones set up for winemaking in Cinque Terre cannot be found anywhere else in the world. One fascinating example is the vineyard of Azienda Agricola Possa, a farm and winery in Riomaggiore. Here your eyes feast on the breathtaking scenery of the Cinque Terre National Park, your palate indulges in the renowned Sciacchetrà wine, and your spirit is delighted by the story of a passionate artisan producer. But let’s proceed by steps.
What is heroic viticulture?
This name is quite eloquent, as it gives you an idea of the extreme conditions of the terrain where vines are cultivated. Heroic viticulture involves vineyards on the steep slopes of high-altitude mountains or hills. This practice usually produces intriguing and unique wines that speak of their pristine terroir. It is quite widespread in Italy, notably in the mountainous areas of Piedmont, Lombardy, Veneto, Trentino Alto-Adige and Abruzzo, and in the rugged coast of Liguria. Although these vineyards represent only 7% of total European vineyards (according to wineandtravelitaly.com), they have an undeniable identity, heritage and historic value.
History of Winemaking in Cinque Terre
This territory has been known for viticulture since Roman times, and the incredible terracing was created over the course of a thousand years to create space for the vines. Winemaking played a key role in the growth of the villages of Cinque Terre throughout their history. The sector was put to the test during the 1900s due to calamities and the phenomenon of globalization. Nonetheless, the determination and passion of local micro-entrepreneurs has re-launched viticulture with full respect for nature and traditions.
Meet local winemaker Samuele Heydi Bonanini
If you want to understand the meaning of heroic winemaking and see the back-breaking effort that goes into every bottle of wine made in the Cinque Terre, head to Azienda Agricola Possa in Riomaggiore. Here you will meet Samuele Heydi Bonanini, artisan producer of natural wines and artist of heroic viticulture: “I started producing wine in 2004. Despite all the difficulties that I encountered in the Cinque Terre – from bureaucratic complications to the narrow spaces that do not allow for any machines but only manual work – I was able to build a farm of 14.000 m² and achieve remarkable results.”
Bonanini recalls: “The first decision I had to take was whether to follow the market demand or to follow the identity of this territory. I did not hesitate and went for the second choice. I studied and recovered different autochthonous varieties that had almost disappeared. In the wine cellar, I re-proposed the use of wood – not necessarily durmast – but the woods of the local tradition, such as acacia, chestnut and cherry-tree.”
As if the above were not impressive enough, there are other aspects that positively distinguish Azienda Agricola Possa. “My efforts include safeguarding local products that do not have a famous name like the Sciacchetrà. That’s why I have brought back into production an ancient passito made of red grapes and an infusion in local peach leaves. Apart from the vineyards, my farm is also involved in beekeeping and the production of integral honey; and we have a small plantation of lemon trees used for limoncello and jams.”
Tour of the Vineyards with Wine Tasting
Grand Hotel Portovenere, only one ferryboat-stop away from Riomaggiore, proposes a unique experience of Cinque Terre’s typicality. During the tour you can visit the sea-view steep slopes and explore the dynamic vineyards of Azienda Agricola Possa. Later, you visit the cellar and enjoy some quality wine tasting, from the renowned Sciacchetrà, to the classic local white wines, but also surprising reds and rosés. Listen as Samuele Heydi Bonanini proudly explains the awards and acknowledgements that his winery has received.