A Matter of Taste

Winegrowers

Danilo - Italy's Lord of Natural Wine

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Umbria is home to many quintessential Italian pleasures. Fertile soils and rolling hills hold quaint villages built of stone. Sun and blue skies bring bountiful harvests of everything from truffles to grapes.

For about a decade, Umbria has also been home to the humble estate of the quintessential Italian Natural Wine Grower, Danilo Marcucci.

You hear Danilo’s name across Europe, from trendy natural wine bars in Paris and Rome to grand wine expositions in Veneto. Restaurants are as proud to offer his wine as wine drinkers are to order it. Young wine growers flock to Umbria to seek his advice on farming and winemaking. Many prominent American and European journalists have been attracted to tell his story (he was the wine cover story in Bon Appetit Magazine two months ago).

Plainly put, Danilo is famous and for good reason. To the world, he is a celebrity of Natural Wine, an influential voice in the movement to fight commercialization and the return to honest, family farmed Natural Wines.

But in his heart, Danilo is a humble farmer. Ever since a young age, he has been captivated by Nature. Soil, air, vine - he draws life from the natural world.

As a young adolescent learning about winemaking, he left the path of his father and brother in industrial wine to find his own way. He started making “vino naturale” - honest wine grown according to Nature’s logic. No chemicals in the vineyards, no additives in the cellar.

At first, his wines were strange. Funky. Some called them too wild and off putting. Even his own family told him his wines did not taste good.

These negative reactions helped Danilo realize, I am onto something. He doubled down.

With every vintage, he continued to perfect his craft. More precise winemaking, better timing for harvests, a deeper connection with the soil. With his experience came a more elevated taste aesthetic, and pretty soon his wines were gaining international attention.

It’s hard to explain, but Danilo’s wines taste different from other Natural Wines. Every sip vibrates with life. The aromatics are dynamic, focused, expressive. His wines are personalities, anxious to tell their story because they are so authentic and born from nature, or as he says “the natural.”

If you ask, Danilo will tell you this unique character comes from mineralization. It’s a simple, elegant process of how wine can transfer earth - i.e. pure mineral - into a fermented product. The French call it terroir (pronounced “tear-WAR”), a wine of place.

The most soulful wines in the world, as Danilo describes them, are essentially liquid rock. He explains that wine is unique in this way: fruit from a vine carries minerals that come up from the deep soil below (roots of a non-irrigated, natural vine can grow 30-40 feet deep). Then, spontaneous fermentation amplifies the focus and precision of this earth as native, wild yeasts breath life and energy into becoming wine.

This beautiful marriage of minerals and energy is not seen in any other food or drink product. It’s a delicate balance of all the forces of Nature, the harmonious integration of acidity, fruit, earth, polyphenols, and alcohol. The result? An uninhibited Natural Wine that is the truest form of earth and nature.

This is Danilo. His creed is, “no soil, no soul.” His hands are rough, marked with the endearing signs of farm work. If he steps away from his vineyards for too long, he feels a longing to return. Nature energizes him, fills him with joy and peace. It’s his best friend.

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Perhaps his most compelling reason to farm with respect for Nature is his family. Danilo wishes to leave a better Earth for his two sons. You can see this dedication to future generations in his farming, his winemaking, his inspired cooking, his hospitality, his generosity, his love and belief in a universal human spirit. Visit his vineyard, and you will feel it. He welcomes you as he would his own family. He acts with his heart, and good things come; this is one of the first lessons he teaches his sons. We have visited him many times, and he has also taught us so much about farming, nature and life as a spirit force.

The funny thing is, you don’t need to know any of this backstory. Just pick up a glass of Danilo’s wine, instead. You can taste Umbria, the history of winemaking from stone monasteries to today’s honest natural growers; you can taste the earth, mineralization expressed through high-toned fruit and delicate hints of alcohol; you can taste family, a wife and two sons alongside a humble farmer enjoying the gifts of Nature and the delight of sharing that place and expression with the world.

And above all, you can taste soul. A compelling force of elegance and raw emotion. A reflection of honest winemaking at its finest.

Thank you, Danilo, for your passion and sharing your rare wines with the Dry Farm Wines Family. It is a pleasure to experience and share.

We are grateful.

Shawn Bankston