I’ll Drink to That: Winemaker Marco Tinessa of Ognostro Winery

Episode 374 of I’ll Drink to That! was released recently and features Marco Tinessa of Ognostro winery in Italy.

In California, it is common among a generation of winemaking bootstrappers to be living in one place, sourcing grapes from another area, and fermenting in a third. Hardy Wallace of Dirty & Rowdy is a good example of this. He lives in Napa, he sources grapes from farther-flung areas of the state such as the Santa Barbara Highlands and Mendocino, and he ferments his wine in Petaluma. By California standards, this is normal, and almost what is required of a younger generation with a willingness to get into wine but without the deep financial resources required to command an estate property. An arrangement like that is highly unusual in Italy. In fact, very, very unusual. In Italy, there are often regulations stipulating that a DOC wine has to be fermented within the region of origin to be labeled with the DOC available to the vineyard. Fermentation location is a part of the identity. That is part of the reason that Marco Tinessa is a real outlier within Italy. He lives in Milan, he sources the grapes for Ognostro from the Campania, and he ferments the grapes in Sicily, on Mount Etna. This means that he has to forfeit the Taurasi name for his Aglianico wine. But Marco is nonplussed by this. For him, there is a knowledge deficit in the Campania when it comes to fine wine and the understanding of it on a global level, and Marco, a student of the bottles of Bartolo, of Allemand, and of Rayas, has other ideas about what is important. Namely, a natural fermentation of organically farmed grapes. Which is part of the reason that he ferments his wine at Frank Cornelissen’s winery on Mount Etna. That’s right, the Cornelissen known for amphora and a hands-off image, the man who is seen as working as far as one can within the Natural idiom. A Burgundy-like interpretation of Aglianico, inspired by the Northern Rhône, and fermented in the cellar of a renowned Naturalista? I also was surprised, as I suspect you are now, that I hadn’t heard about this project already. After all, this label has been made since 2007. But then, there have only been 1,000 bottles produced each year, and sometimes not even that. So what is the full explanation for taking an approach to this wine that not only isn’t easy but is actively discouraged by the Italian authorities? Marco has some answers in episode 374.

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I’ll Drink to That is the world’s most listened-to wine podcast, hosted by Levi Dalton. Levi has had a long career working as a sommelier in some of the most distinguished and acclaimed dining rooms in America. He has served wine to guests of Restaurant Daniel, Masa, and Alto, all in Manhattan. Levi has also contributed articles on wine themes to publications such as The Art of Eating, Wine & Spirits magazine, Bon Appetit online, and Eater NY. Check out his pictures on Instagram and follow him on Twitter: @leviopenswine