Welcome back to the “Our Italians” series of interviews. In these we focus 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 introduce Denny Bini.
Casa Mia had the deep pleasure of meeting Denny Bini, owner of Podere Cipolla, in Reggio Emilia this past September. During the height of la vendemmia, Denny took the time to introduce us to his love, his work, his vineyard. He is genuine, dedicated, and beyond humble. As he spoke, his authenticity was palpable. His wines, unforgettable. It was a distinctly delicious endeavor, to say the least. Allow us to introduce you to Denny Bini.
Casa Mia: Describe how your interest in winemaking began. How has it shaped your life?
Denny Bini: It started when I was a kid and my relatives came to help my grandparents harvest. For me, this was a time of celebration and fun to be with my cousins with whom I would steal the grape must in the demijohns!
When I was older I liked helping my grandparents make wine. We made little, just for the family. I also went to our neighbor to learn how to make wine with white grapes because he made a white wine that was much better than ours.
Later, in the last year of university (I attended farming school) they took us on a week trip to Bordeaux and Sauterne. There I fell in love with wine and the passion behind it. So I abanodened my childhood dream of becoming a vet and decided to specialize in winemaking. After a few years of working at a local winery and visiting numerous vineyards, my grandfather rented for me a field on which I planted my first vines at the age of 26. Here my ideas were put into practice.
CM: What have been the biggest challenges thus far been in developing your wines?
DB: The countryside is a daily challenge, unpredictable in many respects. If you manage to bring grapes in good condition to the cellar, you are already happy! Then it’s all fun! To take the grapes in your hands, choose and adapt where you want to go with them. Create new wines and abandon the old if the vintage is too different.
The real challenge was to be able to make these wines understood as they reflect a territory which differs greatly from the lambruscos in the supermarket.
CM: What would you like people to understand about lambrusco?
DB: That Lambrusco is not a B-list wine! Lambruscos are like us Emilians, outspoken, sincere and welcoming. They, like us, like to be in company: in the company of many diners, in the company of a second bottle (because the first one always ends quickly), in the company of charcuterie. Maybe simply to welcome a friend or for dinner of a plate of tortelli or lasagna, fried dumpling or roast.
The lambrusco that’s refermented in the bottle is a wine that changes and improves over the years. You have to know how to give it its time. Do not think that it’s like the one made in tanks that lasts only a year.
CM: If you could create your most perfect meal utlizing ingredients from Emilia-Romagna, what would it be?
DB: I often find myself appreciating the simplest meals. I think that some good bread with Emilia cured meats made well, Parmigiano cheese, erbazzone (a pastry shell containing summer greens, pancetta and Parmigiano), or gnocco fritto with a little ricotta and honey are the most satisfying. Of course, if you want a full Sunday lunch, I’d include cured meats, gnocco fritto and erbazzone for antipasto. Then, tortelli verdi and cappelletti for pasta course.
Boiled meats and roasted rabbit as the main course. And for dessert, a sweet plum crostata. Lastly, a piece of Parmigiano Reggiano to close because, as they say here, da la tévla alveret mai if la bòca la’n sà e fòrmai, or, “the mouth at the end of the meal must taste like cheese.”
CM: Why did you choose the name Podere Cipolla? Tell us about the labels?
DB: I originally named the farm Denny Bini Farm. I then found out what the farm was originally called on land maps of the 1800s: Podere Cipolla. I loved it. I discovered this just as I was about to come out with my first vintage. It was a little self-deprecating and a way to take it all less seriously. It represented me a lot. Now I have officially changed my name to Podere Cipolla.
The labels all bear the name of a wind, which recalls my other passion, sailing. Unfortunately now I don’t have time to sail much!
CM: Describe the community you have found within the natural wine world.
DB: The fact that I took the path of “natural wines” has allowed me to meet many beautiful people, real as the wines they produce, a world and a circuit that’s very different from the glossier one that I had known until then, of conventional wines.
CM: What do you hope people gain when they visit Podere Cipolla?
DB: The passion I put into what I do, the love for my land, and the respect I have for her.
CM: Which is your favorite wine this year, and why?
DB: Never ask a question like that to a winemaker, it’s like asking which of your children is your favorite!
CM: What do you envision for Podere Cipolla in the next five years?
DB: A small new vineyard is already in the works! I would also like to expand the orchard and resume the production of jams that I had set aside in recent years. I’d like to start working on ancient grains, but I still have to think about it. And maybe a couple of new wines. In addition to tidying up the cellar!
CM: What have you learned most about yourself through winemaking?
DB: That in front of a glass of wine, it is easier to become friends!