In the surroundings of Andria in the Puglia region of Italy, near Bari in Apulia, at an altitude of 250 meters a.s.l., lies the farm GIANCARLO CECI. The vineyard is situated just above the famous Italy boot on the Adriatic Sea, an area that is perfectly suited for the production of fine wines. For eight generations and 200 years, the Ceci family has cultivated the land with the greatest respect for nature and traditions. The Mediterranean climate, the location amidst a landscape of low hills, the presence of oak woods, and the non-intensive cultures contribute to preserve the biodiversity and the precious balance of this ecosystem. The farm experienced a significant upturn in 1988 when Giancarlo Ceci, upon his return from agricultural school, converted the acreage to organic. He developed the AGRINATURA brand, focusing his efforts on innovation, quality and operation of a full-scale fresh produce growing, packing and shipping facility, along with organic olive oil, which is grown, pressed and packed on site. Giancarlo Ceci with AGRINATURA was a pioneer in growing and marketing organic products and was one of the first certified organic producers in Italy. In 2000, fresh grape vines were planted over an area of 70 hectares and the first organic wine production took place in 2004. The vineyard received USDA organic certification in 2006. In December 2011 Giancarlo Ceci’s Agrinatura became Demeter Biodynamic Certified. The resulting award-winning wines are sold throughout Europe, and select varieties are now available in the United States under the CASTEL DEL MONTE DOC label including a beautiful unoaked Parco Naturale White Blend and a Parco Naturale Red Blend of traditional Italian grape varieties from the Puglia region of Italy.
Both red and white varietals are grown in the vineyard. The soil is shallow and permeable thanks to the chalky layers that facilitate the vines taking root and their careful irrigation. Giancarlo Ceci still cultivates the land in the traditional manner, without machinery, with the utmost respect for his land and resulting products. The European cultivation techniques utilized within the vineyard result in a more concentrated higher yield per acre than traditional American vineyards, but are much more hand-intensive. Some vines are carefully harvested by machinery while other varietals are harvested by hand to maintain the grapes’ integrity. The grapes are trucked a short distance to the winery where production begins in earnest.
The Wine Making Process
With ceaseless high-quality consciousness, Giancarlo Ceci invested in the finest state-of-the-art organic wine making equipment as well as an acclaimed winemaker at the onset. After harvest, stems are removed and a high-tech machine carefully crushes the grapes. The resulting liquid is poured into steel fermentation vats which are carefully regulated under computer controlled temperatures. The farm is equipped with vast cellars for the ageing of the wine underneath the 400+ year-old family mansion. Minimal sulfites are added to the wines and high-tech filtration equipment keeps the naturally occurring levels of sulfites as low as possible. The resulting wines contain 1/3 the levels of sulfites found in most conventional wines and all fit within the USDA regulations for “made with organic grapes” wines. With an eye toward innovation, Ceci is working on a proprietary method of producing top quality wines without any sulfites added which will allow future sales of 100% organic wines for the U.S. market. The grapes are cultivated, processed, fermented, bottled, boxed and shipped on site, ensuring the quality control during every step of the winemaking process.
Behind the Parco Naturale Label
As Giancarlo Ceci converted his winery to Biodynamic, he paid great attention to the control of the entire production chain: from the cultivation of land to the final consumer. The modern winery includes large areas dedicated to the aging of wine in the floors below the ancient family home and a guesthouse surrounded by a forest of oaks at the service of guests for the tasting of products. The Parco Naturale label embodies the beautiful winery and its “natural park”-like surroundings which are preserved and cultivated to create a healthy ecosystem with thriving biodiversity.