Gorizia, Friuli, Italy
Lessons on silence, calm and balance
Very few producers can claim to have established benchmarks for a whole region, a production method, a viticultural approach and the expression of multiple grape varieties. Such is the case with Josko Gravner whose legacy is, above all, a lesson on how to live the ‘good life’.
Location: Gorizia, Friuli, Italy
Viticultural standards: Biodynamic
Total area under vine: 15 hectares
Interesting fact: Josko did not initially set out to make wines in a purely natural way. He himself recognises that he tried all possible techniques and ‘ultimate technology’ in his cellar and first had a ‘quantity and quality’ approach. He soon realised he was simply overdoing it, without giving his wines any identity and effectively erasing five thousand years of winemaking history. This realisation set him on his enlightened path, slowly stripping away all props and gimmicks, to focus on the pure approach he is now a legend of.
One could argue that Gravner’s wines are just a by-product of an all-encompassing philosophy of life. Josko Gravner’s approach to viticulture and winemaking is the one that follows his overall understanding of how Man should relate to nature: in harmony with its pace, cycles and transformations and resisting an urge to continuously intervene.
It this holistically low-interventionist approach that Josko uses in his work, from the vineyard to the cellar, and is translated into the wines he makes. He single-handedly transformed the world’s understanding of Friuli and of orange wine, with his gentle character and his commitment to a calm acceptance of what nature has to offer.
This means that, with a relentless commitment to biodynamic principles, he is even ready to accept big losses in yield if a harvest is affected by natural conditions. Calm is, according to Josko, all one needs to face adversity; wait, and ultimately be rewarded with the right fruit and wine at the right time. These principles have allowed Gravner, on the other hand, to then use the best, most expressive fruit, grown naturally and ripened slowly.
This is the raw material that he then vinifies using the local traditional techniques that he has since elevated to a new standard of purity, expressiveness and ageability. Gravner has become the absolute benchmark for skin-contact and clay fermented wines, to whom winemakers all over the world look up to. Without, however, ever being able to quite replicate his style – not due to technical disadvantages but because his wines are so linked to his way of living and thinking.
Gravner vineyards are located around the family’s home, named Hum, in the village of Oslavia. They bought the house and the original 2-hectare vineyard in 1901. The house itself had to be fully rebuilt following the 1976 Earthquake and the estate now covers 32 hectares, 15 of which under vine, sprawling along the sinuous Colio hills. The vineyards’ slopes are supported by carefully co-planted olive trees, cypresses, wild apple trees, rowan trees and manna ashes. These prevent erosion, keep water equilibrium and promote biodiversity.
The cellar now includes an impressive line-up of old casks and amphorae, where long periods of fermentation, maceration and ageing allow the wines to come into their own, with silence and time.
Having formally retired a few years ago, Josko has handed leadership of Gravner to his daughter, the equally passionate and committed Mateja, under whose leadership his legacy is safe to continue.