Every once in a while you meet a winemaker who’s so on the edge that he or she gets you all excited to work with their wines. People who are so passionate that they bravely push the envelope is something that I’m constantly looking for and what I live for. Even if these wines can be a little wild, that’s what makes them interesting. And thus this search brought me to Andrea Kihlgren, of Azienda Agricola Santa Caterina in Liguria.
I began hearing rumors last year of someone doing outstanding work in the southeastern edge of the DOC, at the center of Magra Valley. Someone working his multi-faceted, terraced slope soils biodynamically, making beautifully wild natural wines. After a little digging, I found Andrea, and samples were sent. At first sip, we all agreed, this was something special.
Andrea Kihlgren inherited his family’s estate at the end of the 1980s. The 8 hectares (19.76 acres) of vines and 4 of olive trees are farmed biodynamically, and scattered amongst 4 different areas, with differing terroirs that benefit from sea breezes blowing in from the West. The ground’s profile is quite varied, with red clay, loose alluvial soils, stony ancient riverbeds and clay terraces making viticulture extremely challenging. He grows a mix of different cover crops like grasses, herbs, and vegetables between the rows to protect the topsoil from erosion. Despite all this, Andrea has worked hard to bring back nearly-extinct varieties like Ciliegiolo, Albarola and Merla (a local type of Canaiolo), while also working with traditional grapes like Vermentino.
Everything he does is designed to respect the grape and the soil as much as possible. Andrea’s Vermentino Colli di Luni is a gorgeous example of his belief in respecting nature. Grapes are hand-harvested, pressed whole, and native yeast fermented in tank. There’s a bit of skin contact as well, which adds depth and complexity. After several months on its lees in tank, the wine is bottled unfined, unfiltered. This wine offers tons of peach and white pepper and zest on a medium-bodied frame, ending in a long beautiful mineral-driven finish.
The Fontananera Liguria di Levante Rosso is a blend of 70% Merlot and 30% Ciliegiolo. Hand-harvested from eastern exposed sandy soils, the grapes are destemmed, fermented in tank with wild yeasts, and the juice aged on its lees over the winter before being bottled unfined and unfiltered. Extremely dark and complex and wild, it is a wine to drink with food.
I am so happy to say that we now represent Andrea and are importing his gorgeous wines.