By Simone Bergese
Ciao! I’m Simone, the only Italian winemaker in Georgia, making wines at one of the most charming and famous wine destinations, Chateau Elan Winery. I have been making wine for almost two decades on three different continents. I crafted my style enhancing concepts like grape diversity, origins, characters and integrity, all under one important denominator TERROIR [ter-wahr].
Terroir, by definition, is the complete natural environment in which a particular grape is grown, including factors such as the soil, topography, and climate. Collectively, these environmental characteristics give peculiar characters to the varieties cultivated. In relation to wine, it is a winemaking concept that focuses on the idea that the land a vineyard is planted on imparts a unique personality to the final product.
To take it a step further, terroir is the word describing the undeniable reality that there is no room for arguing with Mother Nature. Bottom line, if you want to produce a great wine, you grow what grows best where you are and then you let it become wine.
Wine begins at the point of origin. Before the harvest, before the analysis, before the barrels and the aging; before the bottling, great wine begins in the vineyard. There are thousands of grape varieties in the world and thousands of different terroirs which makes the possible combinations limitless. However, only 10% of those soils and grapes combinations are both sustainable and ideal to deliver great wine sensory experiences.
As a winemaker that has worked in vineyards and wineries around the world, I have seen this concept play out over and over. Due to the natural growing cycle of grapevines, seeing the results of grape production takes time. The first real harvest happens three years from the establishment of the vineyard and the complete picture can only be seen a year after that by tasting the finished product. While agronomical practices and vineyard management definitely improve the crop quality, the improvements can be minimal. Great wine cannot start from mediocre grapes.
In 2012, when I moved to Georgia to take over the winemaking process and vineyard management at Chateau Elan, I discovered a phenomenal, unique terroir for some rare and amazing American native grape varieties under the well-known Muscadine family. These varieties have such a rich bouquet and vibrant taste profile and when they hit my Italian tasting buds, I knew I had hit a fantastic opportunity. The scientific evidences of this perfect match are everywhere in the woods! You can find wild Muscadine vines and grapes in almost every trail you hike. If a plant grows wildly without human intervention, how complicated can it be to plant a flourishing vineyards that produces a phenomenal crop naturally?
Here we are three years later showcasing multi-awarded Muscadine wines at major international wine competitions in the country, raising the reputation of the true authentic symbol of the enological potential of the South.
At the Chateau we also offer several other platinum and gold medal winning wines made here from other grapes varieties grown out of state, everything under one only driving force. TERROIR FIRST. Salute!
Simone Bergese is a national and internationally award-winning winemaker from Alba, Italy and holds a degree in Oenology and Viticulture from the Turin University in Northern Italy. After working in a number of well-known wineries in Italy, Australia and Virginia, he joined Château Élan in 2013. Simone’s Chateau Elan wines since won over 150 awards at prestigious wine competitions.