Massimiliano Croci is the third generation winemaker of Tenuta Croci, in Emilia-Romagna, and he makes some of our very favorite sparkling wines: super fun and really approachable.
In 1935, his grandfather Giuseppe built the polycultural farm, 16 ha today, with 8.5 dedicated to wine production. Winemaking wasn’t really the focus- like many small farmers of the time, wine was produced primarily for personal consumption. Agricultural production gave way to wine production for Massimiliano’s father in the 1970’s, however, as the small estate struggled to keep pace with industrial farming, but Croci ran into a familiar problem- clean, commercial wines made more traditional wines irrelevant and unpopular, and Croci had to adapt. Charmat became the method of choice, filtering aplenty, too. In 1999, when Massimiliano took over, he did away with all that- the modern tools of winemaking blurred the image, hiding the identity of his wines.
Massimiliano is focused on tradition, not trends- acknowledging that sparkling wine is a way to market maybe some newer, trendier wines, he is undeterred and uninterested, focused solely on making wines as his family always made them. The work is slow and deliberate- the effervescence is achieved naturally over time, it takes about a year from start to finish. Fermentation halts in the winter, beginning again in the spring. In the steep slope parcels of the vineyard, all the work is done organically and by hand, the vines planted in fossilized seabed, a mix of loose sand and clay.
Croci makes a few bottles we come back to time and time again- the cidery, peppery, and refreshing Lubigo, the dry, aromatic, beautiful skin-contact crusher full of apricots & orange peel- Campedello, and our go-to, Gutturnio- a mix of Bonarda and Barbera. It’s killer- deep, dry, and acidic, full of dark ripe cherry and earth. Bold and untamed but really friendly- it’s an ideal companion for any activity- doing the laundry, yard work, walking the dog.
100% Ortrugo. Massimiliano Croci refers to his steep, southeast-facing hillside vineyard as a “beach”: the soils (terre dei fossili piacenzano) are crumbly, sandy clay, full of disintegrating, limestone-rich marine fossils. “Lubigo” translates as “landslide” and is the name of the Ortrugo parcel in this traditional frizzante rifermentato. The farming has been organic for generations, with all vineyard work and harvest into small bins done by hand. The bunches are destemmed and fermented spontaneously without sulfur in cement tank. Maceration lasts 1-2 weeks. Partly due to yeast stress from lack of nitrogen in the soil and partly due to winter cold, the fermentation is quite slow and variable and eventually trickles to a stop with sugar still in the wine. Before it is kick-started by springtime warmth in the cellar, the wine is bottled unfiltered with a tiny dose of sulfur, generally around Easter and always during a waning moon. The refermentation takes 8-10 months to get the wine to total dryness. The bottles are not disgorged and are crown-capped. Lubigo is a Vino Bianco and thus the label lacks variety and vintage.