Giorgio Melandri, the founder of Mutiliana, and his daughter Livia visited London recently and we had the opportunity to catch up with Giorgio and discuss the inspiration behind the project.
Sine sole sileo. Without the sun I am silent.
You might have seen this phrase on a sundial in Italy, it’s the inspiration for Mutiliana’s labels, the words curving at the centre of a smiling Italian sun. For Giorgio Melandri the significance of the inscription is twofold: Firstly, in a fundamental sense wine simply would not exist without the sun, or as Galileo put it “wine is sunlight held together by water”. The second meaning is more metaphorical, and underscores the role of time and place in winemaking, just as the time on a sundial is exact in its unique setting, the qualities that exist in a vineyard at a given particular moment are inherently distinct. Both ideas deeply rooted in Giorgio’s project.
As a native Romagnolo, Giorgio has a profound passion for Emilia-Romagna and its vinous heritage. He spent 20 years tasting and writing about these wines for Gambero Rosso. He has also spearheaded several initiatives (Enologica, Stell dell’Apennino) that promote the diversity and potential of wines from the region. Few people know the area and its varied terroirs as well as he does, so it was a natural step to turn his hand to winemaking. Inspired by his intimate knowledge of the region, combined with a fascination with the region’s native Romagna Sangiovese clone, Giorgio founded Mutiliana. His focus is a terroir-driven expression of Sangiovese, moving away from the overripe and heavily-oaked style prevalent within the region.
“Sangiovese speaks a different language – less alcohol, fresher acidity and more herbal and floral notes”
Based in Modigliana, a small city in the foothills of the Apennine Mountains, Mutiliana takes its name from the ancient name for the town. During his years with Gambero Rosso, Giorgio recognised something special in the wines from this sub-region; according to Melandri “Sangiovese speaks a different language” on the soils above Modigliana, with “less alcohol, fresher acidity and more herbal and floral notes”. Unlike the majority of Romagna, which has clay-based soils, the valleys surrounding Modigliana are comprised on marl and sandstone. Rising from the foothills of the Apennines are the three valleys – Ibola, Tramazzo and Acereta – which give their names to three wines made from the Romagnan Sangiovese clone. Giogrio personally selected the best vineyards and determines when to harvest, so that each wine expresses a unique mineral style that highlights the terroir of its valley of origin.
This focus site-expression extends to the cellar, with the adoption of low-intervention winemaking and maturation in concrete vats allowing the unique geographical characteristics to shine through in the wines. The vineyards and wines are overseen by viticulturalist and winemaker, Francesco Bordini. Giorgio became aware of Francesco through his label, Villa Papiano – also based in Modigliana – and partly provided the impetus behind his decision to try to create something new. Their friendship and work together has fostered a shared desire to challenge the status quo within the Emilia-Romagna wine community and to show the greatness of the terroir and the unique Sangiovese wines that come from there. Giorgio sees Mutiliana as part of a growing movement within the region to bring attention back to the land and believes this is indicative of a wider change taking place in Italy.