WWC21 – Vigna Quattro Stati, Slovenia

WWC21 Graziotto I - apple tree in the Vigna Quattro Stati

For her introduction to her competition entry, Irene Graziotto writes: 'I have been surfing the wine world for over a decade so far, specializing in Italian wine promotion. First as a certified sommelier and wine writer for national and international publications and then as an educator, University lecturer and PR person. Currently, I am the International Press Office Manager at Studio Cru (www.studiocru.com), one of Italy's most important food & wine communication agencies based in Vicenza, Veneto, which offers strategic and integrated communication between PR, media relations and digital marketing. At Studio Cru I am in charge of foreign communication (US, UK, EU) for wineries and consortia such as Gravner, Cantina Tramin, Tenuta Sette Cieli, Castello di Cigognola, Asolo Prosecco Consortium, Bardolino Chiaretto Consortium, et cetera.' See our WWC21 guide for more old-vine competition entries. 

It does not happen very often to hear of a vineyard that has travelled. Well, I guess travel is maybe too strong a word for something which is well rooted in the red bioclastic limestone soils of Komen, Slovenia, but how would you then explain a vineyard has changed nationality not only once, but four times?

The walled Vigna Quattro Stati, translating in “Four States Vineyard”, was planted in 1909 in Gorjansko, in the municipality of Komen, but got its name only many years later. Mixed to fruit trees ‒ as it used to be back in time, when wine served also as food in liquid state ‒ the old Malvazija vines are knotty and intertwined like Bauci and Philemon, mixing memory and desire. “The thread linking Quattro Stati throughout all this time, relies in the fact that the vineyard has never been abandoned. There has always been somebody looking after it” explains winemaker Marko Fon of Vinogradi Fon who took over the vineyard in 2009 from a family of Gorjansko and farms it together with friend Marco Tavčar, owner of Pietra winery. “Despite having experienced two World Wars, Quattro Stati has never lost hope in humanity”.

Not a minor detail, considering we are in Carso / Kras, on the border between Italy and Slovenia, one of the most devastated battlegrounds of World War I. “Non sono mai stato tanto / attaccato alla vita” writes Giuseppe Ungaretti on December 23rd 1915 on Cima Quattro, twenty kilometres far from Komen, after spending the bitterly cold night next to a slaughtered comrade. In the region the war swept away sì lunga tratta di gente ‒ so many, I had not thought death had undone so many ‒ entire neighborhoods and whole villages, leaving nothing behind but a waste land. Today’s borough of Lenzuolo Bianco can serve as an example of the havoc experienced by locals. The name recalls how the bombing left behind only a wall stuck by two trees like it were a white bedsheet, un lenzuolo bianco.

Luckily, not the whole region witnessed such a ravage. Carso owns different identities, landscapes, hues and destinies. Whereas the Carso nearby Gorizia was totally destroyed, left white bare and deprived of vineyards, winemaking tools and cellars ‒ O Gorizia tu sei maledetta ‒ the Carso closer to Trieste, whose main colours are the refreshing blue of the sea and the deep green of the woods embracing Komen and Quattro Stati, was partially spared explained Marko on our first meeting in 2013 during a late-August pilgrimage set up by Italian journalist and dear friend Michelangelo Tagliente.

Quattro Stati vineyard gets its name from its most unique vicissitude of borders shifting and identities changing fast as the Bora wind blows. It was planted during the Hapsburg Monarchy and then it became part of the Italian Empire as Italy expanded. Yugoslavia was the next step before finally being recognized as a Slovenian citizen.

WWC21 Graziotto I - Vigna Quattro Stati
Vigna Quattro Stati

The vineyard is ungrafted and at a closer look it reveals to host not only Malvazija. In fact the 350 vines include one plant of Glera, two of Sauvignon, four of Vitovska and one whose identity has not been pinpointed yet. The latters were all planted over time as substitutes of vines that had died. 90% of Malvazija vines belongs to Malvazija Istarska, a variety which is thought to have an Istrian origin as suggested by its name but “interestingly, I have found no documents specifically mentioning this variety growing in Istria before 1891” notes Ian d’Agata in Native Wine Grapes of Italy. Along with Malvazija Istarska, Quattro Stati also feautures other Malvasia varieties such as Malvasia di Candia, “a fact which is pretty surprising for us” highlights Marko especially if we consider Malvasia di Candia is common in Central and Southern Italy but not at all in the regions bordering with Slovenia.

Quattro Stati is farmed organically “but there is more, much more, to it” underlines Marko. “The work is based on a constant game between our feeling and the capacity to be connected with this place, as it were a sort of wireless”. This comes as no wonder, considering how much this plot of land must have meant for local people in years of political uncertainties.

WWC21 Graziotto I - Vigna Quattro Stati close-up

Except for 2018 vintage when Marko & Marko blended the fruit of Vigna Quattro Stati “with another great-souled vineyard”, grapes coming from the clos have always been vinified as a cru wine. Grapes are manually destemmed and native yeasts are used for the fermentation. Usually maceration is carried out for a couple of days before skins are removed. Once fermentation is finished, Marko Fon and Marco Tavčar split the wine in two and gives life to two wines, respectively Malvazija Quattro Stati and Gorjanka. The wine, of an intense gold colour, exudes aromas of apricot, candied orange, ginger, white blossoms and herbs. On the palate it reminds of The Weather Project by Olafur Eliasson, a bright round core exuding energy and warmth.

The uniqueness of Quattro Stati relies not only in its story, in the multiple hats it has worn over the years, but also in how it is handled nowadays, with two winemakers, and their families, joining to save a jewel that would have gone lost otherwise. Srce, Kras, Roke ‒ heart, Carst, hands ‒ it says on Marko Fon’s label, summarizing pretty well the social value of wine as an (agri)cultural product that is well rooted in a specific place and at the same time is able to bring people together.

The photos are provided by Irene Graziotto.