It often occurs that in our search for pleasure in a sip of wine, we find a place for thought. That is because the process behind winemaking has a secret bond to philosophy, so to say. A person who loves the land and is ready to put the soul inside its soil can create exquisite nectar with any grape variety.
“I have the sweetest memories as a little child: running among the fields, touching the flowers of the vines, asking my grandfather and my father how it could be possible that these flowers might become grapes…getting absolutely fascinated by the changing color of Negramaro and Primitivo.”
Lorenzo Marra, the co-owner of the Apulian wine and olive oil brand, Schola Sarmenti, opens up about his journey into winemaking and poetically reflects on the soul of their wines.
It all started with Lorenzo’s family, who owns a vineyard used before to mainly cultivate grapes for selling to the local cooperative. Years later, Lorenzo’s sister pitched an exciting idea to dwell into winemaking along with her husband, Alessandro Calabrese, a wine expert. It has been 20 years since the launch of Schola Sarmenti, but despite its young age, for the creators, it always had a strong presence in their lives. As Lorenzo says, due to the right pace, effort, perseverance, and belief, it was possible to “sail away” while only having land and passion as a lodestar.
The name Schola Sarmenti (in Latin – The School of Brunch) comes from the ancient technique used by the brand – the Bush-wine system, or else known as vite ad alberello. Manual work is essential, where handpicking, pruning, and thorough selection makes the Schola Sarmenti, as Lorenzo likes to say, the crème de la crème. The balance between modern and traditional technologies is the trait d’union of the brand, connecting high tech to the green work and low usage of chemicals and a handmade approach to high quality.
There is nothing that seems hard for Lorenzo when he thinks about his job, pointing out the pleasure of holding grapes in his hands during the harvesting season and feeling the weight of the diligent work done. Even though he is also into communications, psychology, and traveling, Lorenzo believes that all his interests project in a good wine.
What is your favorite wine from your collection, and why?
The very first one that we made, it is an Armentino, and it is jealously treasured at home like a shrine. But I find each one of them perfect for different occasions. If you need to relax, all you need is a bottle of Diciotto (100% Primitivo from 85 years old vines) and a good book. You may want some dark chocolate, too! For a romantic dinner, you may want the help of our Corimei (100% Primitivo), which means “My sweetheart” as it is a naturally sweet wine paired with some almond biscuits and good music. To share with you something personal, when I need to focus on leftover work at home, I like to dine with some cheese and have some Nerio (80%Negromaro – 20% Malvasia Nera di Lecce – Reserve).
What are your all-time favorite food and wine pairing?
Picture this scene: high cliff, gentle breeze, fizzy iodine in the air, the sunsets slowly painting the sky with orange, red and pink, and a platter of raw sea-bass, freshly caught right out of the beautiful Gallipoli Gulf. Naturally, it has to pair with our Cillenza – an intense and enveloping blend of Fiano and Chardonnay, aged in French oak barriques for 12 months.
What is your favorite spot to retreat and connect with yourself and nature?
It is called “Dannata” here in Nardò: a very high and steep cliff from which you can enjoy a breathtaking sunset. From there, you can also see a spot of rich red soil on which, one day, I would like to plant a vineyard. Going there with a glass of rosè is priceless to me. Hearing the waves on the shore washes away the negativity one may have. It helps your projects go on, and it helps this dream to go on.
To fully get inspired by and understand the Schola Sarmenti wines, you should come to Salento and there, create your ideal setting, be it in Masseria, or with a view on the seaside. “Salento is a precious land, you need to experience it as a whole: all pieces need to settle perfectly like a mosaic,” says Lorenzo. Besides the production process, the brand offers daily tours and wine tastings at the Cantene Schola Sarmenti for visitors to show the behind scenes of their work with underground cisterns and scents of maturing wines.
With a turnover of around 1.300.000 bottles a year and international market reach in the US, Northern/Central Europe, Canada, Russia, China, and other destinations, Schola Sarmenti is in the process of obtaining certification for its organic products. But most importantly, it focuses on passing on the wisdom and skills to the coming generations as once Lorenzo has experienced through his grandfather’s and father’s wisdom.
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