Podere Sottoilnoce

Castelvetro di Modena - Emilia Romagna

As the old saying goes, nothing grows under a walnut tree. A few rows of very old vines in Castelvetro di Modena are the exception to this rule. Max Brondolo, who subsequently named his winery Podere Sottoilnoce, which was founded in 2017, pays tribute to this peculiarity. Under and beyond the walnut tree, he cultivates around six hectares of vineyards that stretch up the slopes opposite the beautiful medieval town.

It is hard to believe that Max has only been making wine for five years. Due to his clearly defined principles, his profound knowledge of everything to do with vineyards and cellars, but above all due to his deeply independent and extremely precise wines, you could be forgiven for thinking that he is deeply rooted in the region.

In fact, after many years of working in Milan, he joined the wine business, although the idea of making wine was probably already ingrained in his subconscious as a child. Back then, he accompanied his grandfather to his vineyard in Asti, helped with the harvest and was given a small glass of Barbera for lunch as a reward - and because it was simply part of the job. 

The archetypal grape variety of Piedmont also plays a role in its walnut vineyard, albeit a subordinate one. Castelvetro di Modena is the epicentre of Lambrusco di Grasparossa, the variety of the Lambrusco family that produces its darkest and strongest wines. Naturally, Max has no shortage of it, even if he does not predict a promising future for the grape variety, at least in the current locations. ‘It has become too warm for it,’ he says. Sugar gradation and tannin maturity are now asynchronous, which is why it is becoming increasingly difficult to get balanced versions of it into the bottle." 

Which is why he is gradually replacing Grasparossa in his lower-lying vineyards with other grape varieties that are at least as interesting: Lambrusco di Sorbara, for example, which, accustomed to the heat, was previously responsible for vital and elegant sparkling wines, especially in the plains north of Modena. Or Lambrusco Fiorano, a rather rare member of the Lambrusco clan, which retains its freshness and captivating flavour even in extremely dry conditions.

Even though Max's sparkling red wines are certainly among the best that Lambrusco has to offer in general, it is above all his white wines - sparkling and still - that add a completely new dimension to the stylistic and ampelographic diversity of the region. 

The Trebbiano di Spagna, which is only known in the zone, plays a decisive role in this. Max uses it to press Funambol, a profound, complex and immensely multi-layered wine that, at least in our perception, condemns everything else the region has to offer in terms of white creations to pure statistics. Max answers the question of why the variety is not planted more often by pointing out that even in the best years it only produces minimal yields and is more of a passion than a livelihood for him. 

The vineyards are cultivated organically, but biodynamic preparations and methods now also play an important role. Max learnt a lot about this from Gianluca Bergianti, whom he describes without thinking twice as his mentor and most important contact from his early days. The work in the cellar is extremely meticulous and manual. Due to the often scorching hot temperatures during the harvest, Max cools the must of his white grapes to prevent potential bacterial aberrations. The fermentation itself is spontaneous and not temperature-controlled; there is no filtering or fining. For his sparkling wines, secondary fermentation takes place in the bottle and, in keeping with local tradition, without disgorgement.  

Max's sparkling and still interpretations reveal the immense potential of the region. However, they also stand for a highly individualised approach, in which clarity, precision and elegance are inscribed above all with astonishing depth.

The Wines