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“The story of i Clivi starts in the 90’s with the purchase of a small vineyard in the heart of Collio”

The passion of my father Ferdinando for wine came unexpectedly, almost fortuitously. In his youth he was basically a non-drinker, since the only wine he knew was the sort my grandfather Adolfo produced and served in his tavern, in a small village in the lower Province of Treviso. My father waited tables, helped behind the counter, and occasionally went to the fields to harvest, but the harsh taste, typical of wines of that area at the time, had never allowed him to fall in love with the “odorous liquid”.
If he had not decided to give up this life – partly because of the economic restraints of the time partly because the native village was a bit tight to him – accepting an employment opportunity in West Africa at the service of a French transport Company, probably this story of i Clivi would never have been written.
The many trips he had to make in the following years, which for logistical and work reasons made him transit trough the city of Paris, gave him the opportunity to discover that in addition to the wine he knew in his father’s tavern as a youngster there were on the market great wines available in the French capital.
Against all expectations hence a true passion for wine arised in my father, not only for its hedonistic value but also for the cultural and historical interest it had.
Burgundy, Bordeaux, Champagne, but also many Friulian wines of historic producers as Schiopetto, Gravner, Jermann, Abbey of Rosazzo, Ronchi Cialla, the Barolos of Giacosa and Mascarello, Tuscany Montevertine among others, accompanied the dinners and evenings of my father at the turn of the 60’s and the late 80’s.
A great deal of research and study trips in which he often took me with him at a time when there wasn’t such a media hype about the wine, nor about the superstar winemakers nor about brand labels.
It was an era free from preconceptions, with affordable prices and in which the substance and the bottle content were worth a lot more than the label. In subsequent years, still in Africa, my father began to think about buying an estate in Friuli, which he did in the mid 90’s when he moved back to Italy; it was just a small old vineyard of two hectares in my mother’s birthplace, Brazzano di Cormons.

During the same period I graduated in Eonomics in Milan and returned to Friuli to fulfill the obligation of civil service. In my spare time I started helping my father in the vineyard, discovering that working the land had a very powerful “grounding” effect on me, digging my hands in the earth after years of abstract studies.
My civil-service year went by fast. Free from other commitments I devoted myself full-time to the vineyard: I learned pruning, bending, spraying, plowing the soil, the management of the harvest …
Ferdinando meanwhile found another old vineyard, a little further west, in Corno di Rosazzo, in the eastern hills, with an adjoining ruined house. Over the years the house
It will be slowly restored, and will be dug an underground cellar.
In the meantime – while awaiting for our own cellar to be completed – we brought our grapes to a local winemaker recommended by another producer we estimated a lot: Gaspare Buscemi, who provided us with the press and the tanks, and taught us how to conduct fermentations on indigenous yeast, always and only in steel vats. We were at the end of the 90’s, indigenous yeasts were not on the hype as they are now, his was a choice of common sense, not ideological nor romantic, we liked his vision and the principle underlying the technique, beautiful in its simplicity.
We decided to adopt it, as steel was ideal for us to understand the quality of the raw material we had in hand without contamination given by the container; indigenous yeasts took away the anxiety of having to choose between thousands of yeasts on the market, to have to think about how to build a wine, at a time when fashion led to banana and passion fruit aromas even on our local, austere grapes. Our idea was instead of leaving the wine as whole and intact as possible.
At that time we produced 4 wines, a white and a red for each of the two vineyards: Galea white and red, Brazan white and red. The whites were field blends, made with all of the grapes of the vineyard (Friulano and Verduzzo in Galea, Friulano and Malvasia in Brazan), while red wines came from the only red grape that we had, Merlot. The choice was perfect, but complicated to explain to a market entirely focused – when it came to Friuli – on single-variety wines.
Over time we began to mature different choices: we began to separate the varieties, noticing that Verduzzo and Malvasia were marking aromatically too much the Friulano; we started making wine all by ourselves – so we could experiment freely and shorten the process, by avoiding clarifications, extracting only the purest juice…in short, we became independent. We bought adequate cellar-equipment so we could express our view to the best of our skills .

It was 2008, a turning point year. We lost almost all the crop because of a severe attack of meldew that struck our vineyards. On top of that, following an accident with the tractor, I could not complete the defense treatments, and the production of a mere 20 hectoliters (less than 3000 bottles) was the result of several hours of sorting and cleaning of the grapes harvested. A disaster which however made us understand what we wanted from our wines. No clarification, pressing only of pure must, malolactic fermentation according to the season, long aging on the lees previously cleansed in oak. We were aware this was our own way.
We began to vinify our grape varieties separately, avoiding the excessive extraction and focusing on the recovery of lightness, of weightlessness as a value not as a sign of poverty for wines.
We wanted to oppose a new vision to the buttery hyper-concentration that prevailed at the time and which for many years has been the dominant aesthetic model.
This process was also accompanied by a return to a certain
alcoholic moderation, to concentrations better suited to the great tradition of these lands: 12.5 degrees for Friulano, 11.5 for the Ribolla … we could and we did get back to crispy white wines with classical aesthetics. In all the early years of this work we have always cultivated the idea of planting Ribolla, a magnificent variety, which wasn’t included in the vineyards we bought at the very beginning of our journey. For years we have experimented microvinifications for personal use, using grapes from a vineyard we had for rent. Those remained experiments until the day when, finally, we could have our own vineyard of Ribolla, a variety which we believe will probably be the future for this wine-growing area. For us, it’s the wine we open more often at home, and it’s the cornerstone of a process that is starting to be quite substantial. A ribolla as a philological wine, with no maceration whatsoever.
Some would say that our wines are made by subtraction, and perhaps yes, we like to give a more light and crisp character to what we produce … “Less is more.”
The rest is recent history.

Mario Zanusso

Ferdinando Zanusso
Mario Zanusso