A conversation with Tommaso Colò about natural wines

Tommaso Colò

One of the reasons to start writing this website was Orange wines. I’m in love with this style of making wine. The deeper I go tasting and discovering more Orange wines, the more I enjoy them. I have also developed a passion for natural and biodynamic wines, but far from being a natural-wine-only-consumer type, I like to find wines that make me enjoy. Not just because they are natural or not or because they are Orange or not. I can drink any style of wine, as long as it makes me enjoy. For me, that’s the key.

I also look at wines in the same way I look at books. I like author wines, and with this I mean wines I can find the person behind the label, a character, a way of making wine, a way of accompanying wine along its passage through life. I understand that there are wines for every people and every winelover can find the wine they love.

In my case, I normally enjoy more when I drink a wine of this or that winemaker. Not because I’m able to pinpoint the differences between the work of Rodri Méndez and José Luis Mateo (which I’m not) but because I like wines made with passion, with personality, and I think that when a wine company makes one million bottles of one particular wine, it is very difficult for that wine to show a character. Maybe I’m wrong but hey, I’m the owner of my mistakes too.

This approach to wine is growing in many countries. We can find in many wine shops and many restaurants wine lists wines made by independent producers who, in many cases, have a limited production. I like a lot to open a bottle of wine and knowing who is the producer, how they did make this wine, and in many occasions, knowing them personally. That way, I tend to enjoy more the wine. When I open a bottle made by Kristina Mervič, Aleks Klinec or Jean Michel Morel in Slovenia, Franco Sosol or Mario Zanusso in Italy, Orly Lumbreras, Rodri Méndez or Juan Piqueras in Spain, I really enjoy the experience. There are so many things in that bottle rather than just wine.

In Italy, for example, it is very easy to find wines according to who produced them. In this country there are so many winemakers who are producing wines with a distinct personality, wines that not only reflects the soil and the variety, but also a way of understanding winemaking. Recently we talked to Massimiliano Croci about the natural wine movement in Italy and today we will talk to another Italian who has a view from another side, not that of the producer, but from that of the wine seller.

Tommaso Colò is the owner of an Italian website devoted to natural wines. He has been discovering, tasting and selling wines for a long time and now he is working with so many interesting natural, organic and/or biodynamic producers that his views on this topic are well versed. Rolling Wine (www.rollingwine.com) is the name of his business. There, in the website, rather than the typical menu option saying Wineries there is one saying Producers. We will talk today with Tommaso about natural wines.

Buongiorno, Tommaso, and thank you very much for your time. How did you arrive to natural wines?

Hello Aitor and thank you for the chance to talk about wine! My passion for natural wine started a few years ago while I was visiting Tenute Dettori in Sardinia.

I was born in Florence and as a good Tuscan I grew up drinking wines manufactured by the great names of Tuscan enology: great Bolgheri and great Chianti (I’ll leave the actual names to your imagination). When I visited a winery in my spare time, I visited a factory, with a large infrastructure and advanced tech. I liked it, but it was too formal, too “perfect” to truly feel like something that I could belong to.

While I was in Sardinia for a holiday I had lunch at Dettori and Fabio D’Uffizi let us tour their winery I was amazed: a single, large room, no temperature control, concrete vats)… It was a brave new world for me! I felt like when I was 14 when I discovered Joy Division and The Cure!

Since then, I have been discovering the world of natural wine. I started going to specialized natural wine fairs and established direct contacts with some producers – amazing people who transmitted their ideas and philosophies when it comes to winemaking and grape framing.

As time passed, I realized how difficult it was to find these wines I liked so much in ‘classic’ wine cellars and from there I decided against all odds to start Rolling Wine.

Do you think natural wines are a passing trend or are they here to stay?

Definitely they are here to stay. It’s not going to be a fade if only because those who try them and understand them rarely go back. It’s a matter of taste, sure, but also a matter of ethics.

I know so many people, friends, sommeliers and restaurant owners who used to drink conventional wines and they are now discovering wines from small natural wineries. If a restaurant is looking to make the quality of their ingredients part of their identity, I think they are almost morally obligated to have natural wines on their menu – the alternative is nonsensical and against that very same philosophy.

Obviously we all need to do our best to communicate our passion and help customers understand our wines, since they can be somewhat inaccessible to the layman.

Italy is very rich now in the natural wine movement. How do you see its development?

Italy has a real shot at excellence and a great potential for growth. Each year we see new experiences pop up in every region – wineries doing great work and rediscovering the original grapevines native to their areas.

It’s important to note however that the rise of natural wines is not a phenomenon that is uniquely Italian: there are new natural wineries in Austria, Greece, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Canada, the US, Spain, France, Australia, Chile to say a few. The world of wine is constant evolution and our passion, our drive to improve our product and discover new ways of making wine will never stop!

Do you think we will see more natural wines than conventional wines in the future?

My hope is seeing more and more natural wines, in restaurants and homes alike, but it’s hard to deny that today the market share occupied by natural wine is still small (about 5%). Conventional wines still dominate the market and are still the most appreciated by the public at large. However, as time goes by, we are seeing more and more producers making better and better wine, so there is a very real chance that in a few years natural wines will be a much bigger slice of the winemaking pie and will be enjoyed by more and more people across the globe!

Do you have any particular favorite region in Italy?

It’s too hard to choose a specific region. I don’t care where a wine comes from as long as it tastes good and it’s made with care! The most exciting thing about what is happening is that there are regions that nobody was talking about in the context of wine production until a few years ago, but now are creating some real gems. Take Lazio, for example, a region that has shown us incredible growth in the last few years, carried by the fantastic work of Le Coste. Now we have rising stars like SETE and Il Vinco, which I am sure, are going to show us great things in the coming years.

You are also distributing a few Spanish producers. What do you look for in a producer for beginning doing business with?

I love Spanish wines! From the wines I am selling on Rolling Wine the only ones I already knew before I started are the ones from Fabio Bartolomei (Vinos Ambiz). I was recommended the other producers (Clot de les Soleres, La Gutina, Costador, Vinyes Singulars, Daniel Ramos) by a dear friend, Antonio Sicurezza, and I took advantage of their booths at Live Wine in Milan to taste all their wines. I was impressed by their superb quality. It was an awesome discovery and almost a year later I must say that Spanish wines have been selling well, even with my Italian customers.

What these Spanish producers bring to your portfolio so special?

These producers brought with them a lot of curiosity about Spanish grapes and production zones that were a novelty to many of my customers. This was my goal to begin with. Going back to what I was saying earlier, the starting point of this journey is always a desire for discovery – of a new area, of a new grape, of a new winery. These days, there is no place in the world that doesn’t have something to offer, it’s just a matter of finding it. From this point of view, Spain has a great heritage and many, many amazing wineries – all the more reason to make sure people learn to know them and want to drink them!

Any interesting producer in France?

The same goes for France. Lots and lots of great producers and a natural culture in constant expansion. France is another nation where some regions have been historically considered “minor” such as Languedoc, Rossillon and Savoie, but now those regions are producing wines of spectacular quality. Off the top of my head I can name Antony Tortul de La Sorga, Bruno Duchêne, Collectif Anonyme and Jean Yves Peron as some great winemakers. I am going to stop the list now, but I could keep going for a day if I wanted!

You also take part in a wine fair in Milano. Can you tell us something about this fair?

For the first time, this year I will be at LiveWine Milano on 3-4 March 2019. I’ll present some new producers and wines from winemakers not present at the fair! For me it’s a great satisfaction to be present at one of the most important wine fair in Europe!

Who will be your next important discovery?

The last few expos I attended I discovered two or three new producers that I find very very intriguing. I can’t say who right now but I am hoping to start working with them very soon.

Is there any country producing natural wines we still haven’t heard about?

As I was saying, there is a whole world ready to be discovered, from Spain to Australia!

Which wines do you like to drink? Just to enjoy, no work?

When I am home, drinking for my own enjoyment, I like to be daring and to be surprised. Lately, I am exploring the world of French natural wineries. What I am drinking exactly depends on what I am eating, my mood, and the music I choose as a background… My most common choices as of late are orange wines and easy to drink reds with low alcohol content.

Grazie mille, Tommaso!!