It is in the ruggedly beautiful hills near Teramo, in the Abruzzo region of central Italy about 8km from the crystalline Adriatic sea, that we find Francesco Cirelli’s natural winery. His own heartfelt words strike a deep note with any true lover of the vinnaturist way:
“I was only a few years old when my maternal grandparents, Giovina and Attilio, took me to visit the countryside from where they had moved to search fortune in the city. I still remember my grandmother busying around in the kitchen cooking a farm-fresh egg just laid by the hen. Memories of my grandfather handing me a newborn chick and then allowing me to sit next to him on the tractor as he headed off to the fields are still vibrant to this day.
Another vivid image is that of my paternal grandfather Francesco who used to escape to a beautiful ancient vineyard in order to seek refuge from daily problems and find true joy and serenity. It is then understandable that for me the countryside of my family’s native Abruzzo has always been a safe haven, a place of true affection, tranquility, and happiness. In 2003, just after graduating from university, and with the precious support of my family, I decided to invest in a small estate. Since then, the countryside has become a vital part of my existence; it is this land that I now farm together with my wife Michela.”
The hills on which the winery sits, near the burg of Atri, draw a tapestry of heart-rending beauty and are dotted with vines and olive groves, a land pulsating with life and rhythms that would have us believe time has all but stopped. Among small farms and pristine woodland we are blessed by the sight of the calanchi, traditionally called “Devil’s Fingernails” in the local dialect. Calanchi - badlands - are steep slopes of dry land, a terrain formation typical to this area of Abruzzo.
Cirelli’s winery, which now hosts also a small agriturismo, has been certified organic since its beginnings and the 22 hectares are home not only to vines - which cover roughly 6 hectares - but also olive trees, fruit and vegetable orchards, and free range livestock. Each culture is rotated, with barley, wheat, aromatic herbs, and vegetables, so that the land can rest and regenerate itself. All chemical elements are banned from the estate and fermentations are rigorously wild; no winemaking additives are used. This rigorous process is essential for the preservation of the true soul of the grapes and terroir.
Francesco grows traditional local varieties Trebbiano d’Abruzzo for white wine, and Montepulciano d’Abruzzo for red wine. Along with a joyously fresh line of easy to drink wines, distinguishable by the label and by the screwcap closure, Francesco produces an unforgettable line of wines vinified and aged in amphoras which display an incredible depth and complexity.
Francesco again in his own words:
“When I make wine I imagine I’m preparing a sort of magic potion. An antidote to sadness, a balm to soothe old wounds, a drink that won’t make you forget but will make you forgive. An existential declaration, my message of unconditional love.”