Welcome back to the “Our Italians” series of interviews that focuses on food artisans, experts and producers in Italy or abroad. These passionate individuals are committed to sharing the best in Italian food, wine and traditional products, through family-owned businesses and small scale enterprises, and we’re here to introduce them to you. Today we meet wine maker Joanna Dubrawska.
I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Joanna in Sicily on more than one occasion. Her job title is PR for the COS Winery but she’s does much more than PR. She’s a jack of all trades. She immediately struck me as a kindred soul, strong, smart and fun. I asked her if she’d be willing to share some of her journey with us as a female winemaker living in Sicily. I’ll hand over the word to Joanna. Each day I see people complaining about everything. It’s the same with wine – the color is too light or too dark, the smell too floral or too much like something else, the weather is too hot or too cold…we have a problem appreciating the simple things. It’s OK to have expectations but I believe the real problem is that people don’t know what they really want. The only thing they really know is how to complain.
It’s at that point that I want to say: wow slow down…sit down, relax, look how wonderful everything is around you, the spring will arrive soon. Here is a glass of wine. Just enjoy this moment if you can for heaven’s sake!
We will always complain about something – it’s human nature, not enough money, not enough time, not enough friends, not enough of what we want. But the real problem that I see today is that we are searching for something to trigger our emotions. When we can’t find that thing do we give up? Do we stop looking for emotions, feelings that move us? In the end we find emotions in the simple things.
At this point you may be wondering why I’m talking about emotions? Destiny placed me in wine and this is where I’m looking to create and share emotions with others. Maybe even the word “create” is not correct because feelings are already there, it’s about making them more evident.Today we talk a lot about artisan wines, industrial wines, good, bad and all the rest…I think that every winemaker and wine drinker has to be free to make their own choice. There’s no doubt that we need a clear definition of several things and some rules that define artisan wine making practices versus industrial wine making practices but they cannot all be the same. It’s impossible to have the same rules and regulations for wine making in each region of Italy.
Obviously my feelings are very personal. It’s great to work with the wines created by the COS winery, but after years of working with COS I wanted to create something of my own, something more personal, an expression of my feelings. That’s when I knew that I had to make my own wine. There’s no doubt that once you’re in the wine world you should try to make your own wine to gain a clear understanding of what goes into creating wine.
There’s just one problem…wine is a trap. So probably once you try making wine you will never stop. At least that is how it is for me.My first attempt was in 2015. I decided to buy the grapes since I did not have a vineyard. As it often happens things were complicated. I felt like I was being judged so I started calling my friends – winemakers from Sicily- asking each of them for 3 cases of grapes. I was thrilled by their enthusiastism. After numerous calls, I had grapes from Arianna Occhipinti, COS, Riofavara and Piano Grillo. And that is how the story of Maninalto started. It’s a blend of 60% Nero d’Avola and 40% Frappato.It was fermented in an open oak tank of 700 liters, had 11 days of skin contact with almost no sulfites added. I manually bottled 178 bottles on the 23rd of May 2016. In January 2016, I was given a piece of a vineyard to manage comprised of about 800 Nero d’Avola plants which are 40 years old. That’s where my entire heart is.My concept of working in the vineyards is expressed by one word – respect. With climate change we cannot be lazy. Life goes on with or without you. So for instance, if you do not have enough money to hire a team of people to work with you, you just have to hustle, run, do it yourself…simple.
Harvest time is full of emotions. The fruits which you pick are the fruits of a year of work, good or bad. As a small producer, I’ve made a choice to let nature prevail. I feel that making things “work” in the cellar through the use of chemical products to make better acidity, tannins, colors is an attempt to hide failure. I prefer to say – I made a mistake this year. I’m comfortable in this situation. Wine making isn’t life or death to me. I do not make my living from my wine today.
Thank you Joanna for sharing your life and wine making philosophy with us. If you’re curious, Joanna’s wine “Maninalto” will be available to the public in 2018.