We are Marie and Marcello, well-travelled, multilingual and above all, curious! We like to explore places. We love the mountains, lakes, woods and the sea. We love monuments, music and art. But above all, our passion is to try and understand the land and its essence. We like places where nature and man are interlaced in harmony and one can feel this intimate connection by the energy that it expresses. Vineyards and olive groves are such places, and we would like to share our discovery and experience with you.
I grew up in the archipelago of Stockholm. For me, it was hard to imagine a more beautiful, inspiring and vivid place. The wild sea, big forests, rounded rocks and clean air were my playground and school of life. My parents spent all their free time there, fishing, gardening, hiking, breathing. And so did I. Almost everything we ate was from the soil, sea or woods. The horses on the neighbouring farm became my best friends. And my guitar and writing – stories, songs, poetry. It was an easy, almost romantic childhood, filled with happy memories and lingering impressions of scents and flavours that I took with me on my life’s journey.
At first I became a linguist. I studied English at the University of Stockholm, and then went onto Paris to study French at Sorbonne. I was an au pair girl in a lovely family, who took me with them to their farmhouse in the Bordeaux region one November week, when the grapes had just been harvested and the explosion of colours in the trees and vineyards took my breath away. The air was chilly and the frost lay white on the meadows in the mornings when I would walk through the vines of Pomerol. The evenings were spent in front of the big fireplace, with roasted chestnuts, apples, bread, cheese and must from the freshly pressed grapes. And then there were the rich, red local wines. I fell in love. And even now, almost 40 years later, a good wine sends me straight back there, and I can smell and taste it all again. After Paris, I had the fortune of spending a year in Italy, high up in northwest Piemonte. Our village, Settimo Vittone, was set in the middle of the steep vines, with the backdrop of snowy-top mountains and the valley and river below. Stunning. A completely different experience – and wines – from France, but equally exciting and inspiring. The joy of seeing the grapes grow and change colour, the harvest and celebrations following the hard work.
Well, now I have worked as a linguist, writer and intercultural trainer for many years. My work takes me to cities all over Europe, my homes are in England and Italy, and I still have my roots in Sweden. Marcello brought me to Italy and introduced me to his passions – the mountains, hiking and wine! And I immediately felt that this was where I wanted to be. It brought back my happy memories. The peace, beauty and genuine life in our village in Piemonte are the perfect place to relax, recharge and recover from the hectic work life that we lead. Exploring the region and its wonderful produce from people who care and put all their heart and soul into making wine, raising cattle or farming the land. And having been a keen (!) wine drinker and explorer all my life – I was amazed to find that here, was a whole new world of satisfying and exciting wines made in traditional, natural ways. It also made me realise what happens when you experience – rather than just drink – a good wine. It brings out all the wonderful triggers in our senses, the memories that we have stored, as well as leads you to gain new ones. And that is why Marcello and I both felt that this, our Vinland, is far too good to keep to ourselves, and we therefore would like to share it with you!
I was 17 years old, with a fresh high school diploma and no idea what to do as a “grown-up”. So, I asked the Gozzelino family of Costigliole d’Asti if I could go and help out with the harvest on their winery “To gain experience,” I said. My father, who had been buying their wine for years, accompanied me to Costigliole. On the way to Bricco Lu (“Wolf’s Peak”) a new world opened up to me. Hills that looked like a sea, covered with vineyards and trees, houses, churches, castles and meadows, and the valley covered in fields and woods, where watercourses and road traffic flowed.
Bruna and Sergio welcomed me like a son. I stayed in the old house with grandfather Guido. Early in the morning he prepared coffee and then we walked towards the cellar. We were greeted by a large table with the produce of their land: fresh cheese, butter, jams, honey, freshly baked bread and large bottles of water and wine. While Bruna was bringing more coffee, I began to get to know the grape harvesters. Some had been coming for decades, every year, others were novices like me.
We entered the vineyard, cutter in hand, and began to cut the bunches of ripe grapes to be put into baskets. You had to be careful not to cut the leaves and not to crush the grapes and especially, not to cut your fingers! It was October and the following morning we woke up in the fog.
From the top of the hill you could see the low clouds. The vineyard was covered with dew and as we descended, we were swallowed up by the clouds. Then the sun slowly tore through those grey veils and began to warm us up and dry the ground. We needed rubber boots to keep our feet dry. As the hours passed under the direct rays of the sun, the boots became a hot sauna, the paths increasingly sandy and slippery, carrying the baskets uphill increasingly tiring … and yet, I felt only the joy of being in the vineyard, intoxicated by the scents of grapes, flowers, pears and apples.
Sergio pressed some grapes, put them in a pitcher, and everyone drank a glass. It was my first grape must! Not the first one I drank, but the first one to which I had contributed. It tasted acidulous… almost bitter, and left my mouth dry, with the desire to drink water… but it was a concentrate of earth, sun, rain and the work of man. It was a revelation, the one we should always perceive the moment we take a sip of wine, when the wine is genuine. Since that day, for me a wine is only good when it fills you with joy and happiness, because it conveys the essence of the land from where it comes. It has soul! That 1984 vintage was not memorable.
But the location of the vineyards on Bricco Lu, the fact of being above the fog and sunbathing for a long time, would have made the wine more than pleasant after a few years of aging. The harvest lasted ten days. When I left, Sergio and Bruna loaded me with gifts: grapes, jam, biscuits… then they gave me an envelope with money. I told them I did not want it. After all, I had gone there to gain experience. But Bruna looked at me firmly and said: “You’ve earned it”. Sergio added: “We could see that you’re not so used to working with your hands, but you’ve shown true commitment. We noticed that you know how to deal with people and wanted to ask you if you would like to help us sell wine”. I do not know if it was the emotion or enthusiasm of the moment, or maybe because I already felt a strong bond with the land and the wine… I said yes and launched myself into that adventure without even knowing what I was doing!
When she heard about it, my grandmother Erminia, beloved by all our big family, because she always had a good word for everyone and dispensed her wisdom with simplicity, told me how her father, Gaetano, had been one of the largest wine merchants in Milan. Gaetano travelled to Sicily at least once a year from where he had his barrels of fine Marsala wine and less prized wines transported, strong and full-bodied, to be “blended” with the more fruity, but also lighter wines from the North. She concluded smiling that this new activity of mine was due to the call of the blood! Marie, my accomplice in tastings, and I would like to invite you to travel with us through the land of wine, in the footsteps of my great-grandfather Gaetano Verganti.