Deperi Winery: a journey through experimental Liguria

Deperi winery is not only a place where wine is produced.

Pack your patience before reading what I have to tell you; this is a place where wine is created by mixing technique, discipline, experience, passion and imagination.

Much more could be written about this winery, but nothing compares to a couple of hours spent listening to Iggi, Pierluigi, Deperi, nephew of Clemente and son of Clemente.

Right, father and son have kept the same name, the same love for their land. Today, they give their name to the Pigato Cremen (Clemente): this is the tribute of Iggi to his predecessors. Entering a family-run business is a unique experience. It means entering, physically and emotionally, into somebody else’s home and feel like it was your home. As for the visit to the Castle of Pornassio, we are welcomed as old friends by the owner.

We start drinking straightforwardly, because in this way the dialogue becomes looser and because wine interests us above all. We are in Ranzo, in the province of Imperia, in a splendidly green and humid hinterland, reached by sea breezes. The first bottle came out at the beginning of 2000, from the enthusiasm of Iggi, his son Paolo and his brother Mauro, who in 2004 opened a modern winery where tension for renewal and constant growth can be physically perceived. All this could not exist without keeping their strong identity and connection to land.

And it couldn’t be otherwise in a land that expresses its vocation for the cultivation of Pigato grapes, a white grape that is the image of Western Liguria. Iggi is a genuine man, as his homeland is, a man who has lived more lives than the ones someone can normally live. He is the proud son of peasants, he has provided military supplies to warships, before coming back home in 2004, wearing the clothes of the winemaker. He finally made the dreams of his family come true.

He elected Ranzo as the most beautiful city in the world and he messed up with wine, as he himself declared. I ask him for some technical information about the quantity of hectares, but he immediately declared that these things annoy him, he does not even want to know about such issues: the bureaucracy is left to an administrative officer whom he trusts completely. These is everything I managed to extract from him: he produces 400 quintals of Pigato grapes a year, he has 5000 Vermentino plants and 1766 Pigato plants on the seafront, in Ceriale.

When I tell him I live in Florence he becomes happy, because he had introduced his wines in a famous wine bar, in the city center, whose name, however, escapes him. I whisper to him that it could be Enoteca Pinchiorri and he nods. Given the natural tone of the conversation, let me take it back with sympathy, they are not names you can easily forget. “Bullshits!” he answers immediately, because “the important thing is to be able to distinguish the good from the faulty” and because his conviction is that “wine is made from the vineyard and if the grapes are beautiful, then the wine is good too, if they are damaged, only angels make miracles”. He is interested in that kind of wine that tastes of terroir; distribution and marketing are his son’s business. He does not blend his wines, he uses only 100% Ormeasco, Vermentino and Pigato grapes, in all their shades of color and taste, from the characteristic wood and undergrowth flavour of Ormeasco to the “savory wave” of Vermentino.

One of the most immersive tasting ever tried was about to begin, directly form my tasting notes

We started from the range of white wines

The range of white wines
  • Riviera Ligure di Ponente Vermentino 100% – 2018 – vinification technique: cryomaceration. Straw-yellow color with green reflections. It is a sea wine. Fresh, tasty, mineral and intense. Goes well with a golden sunset and the salt still on your skin after a regenerating swim
  • Pigato, 100% pigato grapes – 2018 – It is vinified by crushing, macerating and destemming the grapes; a contact between peel and must follows for 36 hours at 0 degrees
  • Pigato superiore; grapes 100% Pigato – 2014 – Cryomaceration of the very selected grapes, according to the highest sugar level. Straw yellow color. Intense. As intense as is the smell of honey and yellow flowers. An aromatic herbs ending. Persistence is its strength
  • Cremen – 2018 – After the harvest, Iggi chooses only the very best grapes, which stay in barrels joined to the stalks for 36 hours at 0 degrees. Then comes the racking; before bottling Cremen is kept in a barrel for cold stabilization at 3 degrees below zero, in a barrel of 53 quintals that he himself has modified. The liquid spends 10 -12 days in such cold maceration in French oak tonneaux. The result? An intense and enveloping straw-colored nectar. Dry and with a dominant note of amaretto.One might expect this is the most intense of Iggi white wines, but I found it a delicate wine, that brings respect to the name it bears: Cremen, Clemente (it would sound like Merciful in English), the predecessors of Iggi who is leading us on a sensory journey into the most authentic Liguria. Between a sip and another, Iggi explains to me that the quality of the Ligurian white wines has much improved, thanks to the steel that allows a controlled fermentation at 18 -19 degrees and never higher.

Now the red wines come

The range of red wines
  • Sciac-Tra – 2018 -: the cherry lends color and scents to this wine. Brilliant. Intense. Harsh. Fresh and very, very balanced. Red wine vinified in white. It is fermented in total absence of the skins and then it goes to the barrel
  • Ormeasco Superiore. Fun fact: only 42 hectares in the entire Liguria are planted with this grape. A jewel to be preserved. Ormeasco is the local name for Dolcetto. Obtained by vinifying the best selected grapes in red, it is ruby with garnet reflections and intense aroma of undergrowth. Sinuous, soft and full bodied
  • Ormeasco of Pornassio DOC – 2017 – No special secrets: traditional vinification in red, ruby red color with purple hues and scent of undergrowth, plus strawberry as a dominant note. Balanced and vaguely tannic, actually with a soft, unaggressive, tannin.

I have almost finished the Deperi wine Marathon…

…. it’s the turn of Pigato Passito. After the first sip Iggi asks me by about the food I would pair with this wine. Fortunately, I felt to give a punctual answer, I would never combine a passito with a dessert: I find it very cloying and demodé. It has a very high acidity, but it is peculiar to the vine from which it comes. We therefore agreed on the marriage Pigato Passito – French cheeses. Moreover, I felt a certain affinity with egg noodles – imagine the butterness of butter.

The exuberance of Iggi does not end here and my dream comes true: it gives me the opportunity to taste the current vintage directly from the barrel. The slate sign tells “Wine suitable for becoming Ormeasco”. He takes a sip and I feel honoured. Ordinary administration for oenologists and agronomists, a dream for a young wine enthusiast.

An happy version of me

The forest immediately arrives with its red and black fruits, followed by freshness. I ask him when he was going to bottle it, the wine was full and ready. “Whenever I want”, he answers me, ready and direct, like the wines he makes. “As long as I want to keep it dirty. Then I will pass it through the filter.”

Deperi Metodo Classico: History + Culture = Wine

The last oenological treat from the alchemical fantasy of this winemaker: the Deperi Metodo Classico Champagne. Even in this faraway land, one can get the smell of bread crust. The beauty of this wine lies in the consistency that reminds of the grape variety; this wine is mineral and of a brilliant straw yellow.

100% Pigato grapes, like all Iggi white wines. A balanced and dry character, with a slightly gossipy but elegant perlage and a bitter finish.

A sparkling pigato is like a chatty and shrewd lady and reminds a revitalised mother-in-law.

The secondary fermentation takes place in Rezzo, a silent and ancient place, where old people meet in the town’s grocery store among boxes of biscuits, cartons of milk and glasses full of wine at every hour of the day. The heat is maintained by the wooden curtains that clink in the torrid and silent afternoons in the deepest and most immobile Italian province.

In this village outside the of time, there is one of the most beautiful examples of Ligurian fortresses, built in the last quarter of the XVI century by the Marquises Clavesana di Rezzo

Nec Silentio Transeunda (I must not be passed without a password), tells the writing on the architrave of the entrance door, indicating the password required to access the castle.

The entrance of the castle

An ante litteram speak-easy. In this fortress, recently bought by Deperi family, every element has played an important role in the course of history. We find the ancient prisons, the room that hosted San Leonardo da Porto Maurizio and the one that most interests us, namely the cellar, where the bottles rest.

No legends nor ghosts roam in these rooms. The protagonists here is a detail that I have never dared to ask. That secret that no champagne maker dares to confess for any reason. The secret of a sui generis Metodo Classico. Iggi wanted to forget about the liqueur d’expédition machine; the refill is nothing but Pigato. A signature that is the symbol and the expression of his attachment to the identity of his land.

If you have come reading up to here, then a journey to discover true and authentic tastes will not frighten you, a journey in which every bottle is truly the end result of a human achievement made up of sweat, patience and waiting. From generation to generation.

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