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Morella is based in Puglia. While studying a Roseworthy College, owner/winemaker Lisa Gilbee participated in an inspiring Super Tuscan tasting, and decided to investigate Italian wines at a closer level. In 1992 she worked a memorable Tuscan vintage in Chianti Classico. Then she followed up with vintages in Soave, Emilia Romagna and finally in the south of Italy with Sicily and Puglia.
It was in Puglia in 2000 that Lisa met Gaetano, a passionate wine appreciator, and son of a grape grower in Puglia. One thing led to another and the family was eventually completed with two small italo aussie kids and a winery. The project Morella began experimentally in 2001 with a small batch off an extremely old bush vine plot. The primary drive was to preserve a unique heritage, that of the irreplaceable Old Bush Vine Primitivo, found around Manduria. These gnarly old vines produce ripe, concentrated, small berries full of flavour under the warm Mediterranean sun.
Eventually after extensive searching and evaluating the project became a larger reality when Lisa invested in 5hectares of bush vine Primitivo, aged from 30 to 75 years and grown on “terre rossa”, two kilometres from the sea. Now they have 20ha, including 2ha ancient olive grove; 16ha is given over to growing Primitivo. The production is around 18 hl per hectare. They continue to buy old, neglected, alberello Primitivo vineyards; most recently Mondo Nuovo, first harvest 2014. They are now planning a new winery, in among the vineyards.
> Organic & biodynamic, uncertified.
‘Mezzogiorno’ Bianco (Fiano)
‘Old Vines’ Primitivo
‘La Signora’ Primitivo
‘Mondo Nuovo’ Primitivo
2017 ‘Mezzogiorno’ Bianco – tasted April’18, to be bottled May’18, 13.5% Fiano (aka the Riesling of the South!), vinified both whole bunch & part crushed, 3grams RS, saline and herbal, white lime flower & musk, fragrant, arancia, grapefruit, textural, elderflower, very pure….sapido!
2016 ‘Mezzanotte’ Primitivo – tasted April ’18, 14%abv, 95% Primitivo, bottled December 2017, the 2016 vintage was notable for the hot July & dry summer, but it then rained on 26th September once the Primitivo (the first in) had been harvested, but the rain caught the Malbek & Negroamaro. Bigger harvest – including some ‘alberello’ (Signora/Old Vines) fruit into the blend! – of ripe dark berry fruit, of plums, atypical vintage in that no passito fruit present, hence pretty violet fragrance, succulent, with gentle framing from 4/5 months in tonneaux.
2015 ‘Mezzanotte’ Primitivo – 15%, c. 10k bts produced, 95% Primitivo, great nose of tapenade, plum skin, rose/violets, gogeously supple, choc rose, no sense of heat (due to biodynamics?), fragrant & alive (& sold out!)
2016 Negroamaro Primitivo – tasted April’18, 14.5%, 50/50 Negroamaro/Primitivo, harvested after the late Sept rain, hence pretty, fine, bright fraises/fragolini perfumed, spicy nose. Wonderful concentration of dark plum and loganberry fruit, a peppery edge, and menthol, balsamic lift. Tannins are silky and fine, lending good but gentle structure, whilst the abundance of fruit and refreshing, crunchy acidity make it so drinkable.
2015 Negroamaro Primitivo – an easier vintage in Puglia: one can sense this in the wine’s natural balance, very much at ease with itself. A bright red plum colour; swooning warm sunset, loganberry plum fruit, of curry plant, spice, eucalypt, Dundee cake; a gorgeous roll, seamless, suave, loganberry crunch, alive, silky, no tannins to speak of, lovely, gliding 2nd phase, raspberry fragrance, amazingly light/medium bodied & light on its feet, & drinkable for a 15% wine! Recalls Cerasuolo di Vittoria?
2015 Primitivo Malbek – tasted April’18, bottled Sept’17, 15%, a blend of 80% Primitivo from old alberello (free-standing) vines, & 20% malbek from younger VSP rows, bottled in September 2017. Very fruity, rich and succulent. Luscious dark, glacier cherry fruit and hints of dark chocolate and very subtle sweet spice – 12 months in tonneaux. Compelling, brooding, but accessible and very drinkable. The Malbek provides the sapidity & tannins, whilst having lower acidity compared to Primitivo.
2014 Malbek Primitivo – 14.5%, bottled Nov’16, a blend of 15% Malbek, 85% Primitivo, fabulous! Primitivo lush, kirsch dark cherry, compelling nose of rum/raisin (choc!), sumptuous, aged for 12 mths in 300 litre tonneaux used, dark, drive, with Old Vines profondita & brooding character as a foundation. Molto buono. Pocchissimo made.
2014 ‘La Signora’ Primitivo – tasted 29 Oct. 2017 having been bottled in Giugno’17: the slenderer, scented, younger vine (70 years!) expression of their free-standing Primitivo vineyard lying adjacent to that of ‘Old Vines’, literally. Perhaps a different clone? Pretty blush red, it caresses the senses like a warm Mediterranean breeze, generous with raspberry essence, root ginger, blackberries & cream fruit; a big heart, so seductive, so svelte, so alive! As ever, it’s very ‘Lytton Springs’, with pulpy charm, it glides, the silkiest of tannin structures as if to be invisible. In 2014, it’s more La Signorina than Signora! Alas only 3k bottles made!
2013 ‘La Signora’ Primitivo – c.5k bts, from medusa like 70 yo vines lying adjacent to those of the Old Vines vineyard (clone next to masale selection?), gorgeously scented, kirsch griottines, rose petal, pine, fabuolous, such poise, & balance…
2014 ‘Old Vines’ Primitivo – tasted 29 Oct. 2017 from Giugno’17 bottling: while La Signora’s free-standing vines are statuesque, reaching upwards; ‘Old Vines’ are gnarled, bent low to the ground – feeling their 87 years perhaps? Old Vine berries are apparently bigger than those of La Signora, so more pulp! And ditto the wine: darker in hue, brighter too (lower pH?), brilliant indeed! The nose is distinctly balsamico, with darker mulberry fruit, more profondo, compact, spicy pepper, black licorizia; classic Old Vines ‘rum ‘n raisin’! I know Lisa & Gaetano use a basket-press, but this has Barossa…or is it Geyserville all over it!? Sensational, it’s precise, tonic-fresh, eucalyptic/tamarind esque, a cool mulberry heart, racy, more structured & tannic than the Signorina! Dark chocolate, herbal, & very long. Wow! One to tuck away?
2013 ‘Old Vines’ Primitivo – c.5k bts, from 85/87 yo alberello vines on red loam over chalk/limestone, more dark olive tapenade than the scented La Signora, more masculine/feminine, dark brooding, forest floor/pine, brambly, mysterious, classic gnarled Primitivo, lush, velvet…vintage 2013 was a classic: normal weather, no great heat, regular, spring rains, 15th August cooled by fog, then the arrival of the tramontana to dry out the bunches.
2015 ‘Mondo Nuovo’ Primitivo – a very exciting new release. From 75yo vines, on white calcareous soil. Such vibrant, violet space dust (?!) and crunchy red berry fruit – wild raspberry, red currant and cherry, hints of wild herbs and peppery spice. Extremely pure, with so much energy, lift, and finesse. Single vineyard, great concentration, silky tannins. This wine has a lovely lightness of touch, with piercing purity. A truly remarkable expression of place and grape. Extraordinary! Tiny production of 2k bottles.