The project of Simone Ambrosini is a microcosm for a greater notion — the big step of a young person to decide to work with the land. In an era when many agricultural regions have been struggling due to younger generations moving to cities, it is endlessly inspiring to see people who come from outside traditional winemaking families take steps to create their own path within farming and winemaking.
LITTLEWINE spoke with Simone via Zoom for this article
When speaking to Simone, he is upfront about his own struggles as a teenager regarding figuring out a career. It is so rare that any teenager knows what they want to, so how does one decide to become a winemaker? He explains,
“When I was 19 years old, after high school, I didn’t know what to study. My friends went to university, but I was very confused back then. I had a bit of a crisis — my ex-girlfriend had left me, high school was over… there were many big changes happening, and I was changing myself — becoming a man.”
Unsure what to do, he decided to travel to give himself some space to contemplate. He says,
“I decided to go far away. I went to Australia at first, but when I arrived, my English wasn’t very good, so I did whatever job I could find. I found a role working at a farm, and for many months I was a fruit picker — from capsicum to tomatoes. I also worked as a dairy farmer in New Zealand. Little by little, I found myself quite comfortable in this world. It was simple work — I was just a bucket boy who carried the fruit — but I started to feel more myself. I’m a dreamer, and working in the fields helped me to connect with my roots and to give balance to my character.”
“Bit by bit, I started to feel very passionate about this work. After a year, I wanted to make a bigger choice and to start a serious path — I wanted to study because I knew it was a good idea to have an education, and that it might help to gain respect from employers. I had thought about studying film — to make movies — or studying ampelograpy… but in the end I chose winemaking.”
He returned to Italy in 2011 and began to study winemaking and viticulture. He also started to work in wineries — from large, industrial six-million bottle facilities to much smaller artisan domaines. It was the latter — smaller wineries — that resonated with him the most, and through these he was also introduced to organics and biodynamics.
“I also began to understand what wasn’t my way of working. Then, I discovered natural wine by working with small wineries, and of course by drinking wine. The first experience was with a bottle by Angiolino Maule.”
At one stage, he found himself in between jobs. He remembers,
“I asked myself… what can I do to find a job? Or… what if I create my own job? After that, I began thinking… okay… but if I create my own job, I have to have my own winery. How can I do that if I don’t have anything? But I started to grow the idea in my mind, and I began asking some friends — and even random people – if they had some vines that I could cultivate...”
After persevering, Simone found a vineyard! At first, he worked with half a hectare, which was soon followed by another parcel of 2.5 hectares.
“They were abandoned — old vines, not in good shape — but I fell in love with that place and said… Okay! I want to make a serious project, so I took on the vineyard, and the adventure began.”
“The vines were full of brambles; they were covering everything. Someone really ought to study the DNA of brambles, they’re indestructible!” He laughs. “So… little by little I removed them to try to create my own garden here. It took me three years, and now I can see the advantage of all the work I’ve done. It’s very satisfying! I take my work in the vineyards seriously and invest a lot of manual work.”
It is a constantly evolving learning process:
“Before Indomiti Vini, when I was working for another winery, I would ask questions every day. The guy I worked for was very prepared and full of knowledge; so wise. He spoke about old traditions and methods of working, mixed with new knowledge — like the pruning methods of Simonit & Sirch. That’s where I learnt most of the things I know now.”
He remains humble:
“When I started, I learnt by my mistakes. When possible, I like to surround myself with different people — wine producers and consultants — out of curiosity, always trying to figure out if there are other ways.”
In terms of his personal methods, he explains that he is neither biodynamic nor organic — organics lies at the basis of his work, but he goes one step further:
“For example, we work with willow to tie down the vines while we prune. I am stricter than organics and try to follow old traditions. Using vegetation — like willow for pruning — that’s an example of these old traditions. I go along the rivers to clear abandoned areas to find the willow, so we intervene more actively in the terroir. I don’t use any plastic at all."
“In the summer, I don’t trim or cut the shoots — instead, I roll them. It takes six times the amount of time you’d spend if you trimmed them, and you need to be really careful because of mildew risks, but I feel that it helps the vines to be more balanced. Then, the berries are smaller and richer. Plus, I don’t have a trimming machine! I could call someone to borrow theirs, but I’d rather not — I prefer manual work. I’m also trying to rebuild the old vines from the bottom, as they’re suffering from old cuts. This takes time, but it’s important so that the vine doesn’t suffer.”
He adds that the vineyards are located on steep slopes, along terraces that also need maintaining. There is always something to do here. In terms of treatments, he says,
“I just use copper and sulphur, and sometimes I use sheep wool and fat — a local sheep farmer gives it to me as he doesn’t need it. It works for a few months to deter animals from coming in. I don’t have the equipment and time to make biodynamic preparations at the moment, but aside from that element I’m very close to this way of farming.”
Simone half-chuckles as he says he still doesn’t have a winery — ten years later.
“I rent a space in the winery of one of my colleagues. In four years, I have moved three times. It’s not always so easy, but I’m happy and I make it work, and I’m glad that I can do this job — it’s really what I wanted to do. Bit by bit I’m finding out how to be more stable.”
As well as his learning journey in the vines, there’s also been a journey in the cellar. He says,
“Before Indomiti Vini, I’d never created a cuvée with my instinct and my ideas, because I’d been making wine for others. So, I thought about what I usually drink, what kind of wine I’d like to drink, and what kind of style I usually prefer. By mixing those questions together, I came up with an answer. I realised I don’t like direct-press wines so much; rather I find wines that have a skin contact procedure more friendly. Those are the wines that speak to me.”
He thinks for a moment, before continuing,
“The hard part was to find a way to express my land. I still don’t know it well enough, as we don’t have a long tradition here —by that I mean there’s nobody here that has done the same wine process with the same grape varieties for over 50 years. We have a long history of viticulture, but not really of tradition. So, I was thinking, okay… the Berici Hills… what could it be? I tried to use my instinct at the beginning, and vintage by vintage I became more certain about my first idea — to make all my wines with skin contact — but to be delicate about it.”
This approach means he creates light skin contact wines for his whites and rosé (they are macerated for only around three days). For the reds, the period is somewhere between 10 days and two weeks.
“The varieties are very light; not so powerful. So, by working this way, you can feel more richness in the wines. I’ve always thought that it’s a pity to separate the skins from the juice after all this work — if I’m working very hard and precisely in the vines, and have these healthy grape skins, then I want to bring this to the wine. Three days is the right time for me – I can extract flavour without having the tannic taste, and also have a nice colour.”
He also emphasises that the skin maceration is important for one reason in particular: it helps him to achieve healthier fermentation.
“We talk a lot about days and time, but really we should be talking about how the skin contact works! If the fermentation hasn’t started yet after three days, or if it’s very hot, I try to reduce skin contact. If the temperature is low — if the grapes were cool — I can push a little bit more. For example this year  with the Ramingo cuvée I did seven days — the temperature was low and fermentation started on the third day.”
“We must also ask ourselves: what do you see when you harvest? That is fundamental. It’s so hard to find the right picking date — and that’s 60% of the job, or maybe more! If you harvest too early or late, there’s nothing you can do. Then… I don’t have a standard procedure, rather my procedure is not having one. It’s the only way if you’re working how I’m working, and if you’re aware of the climate changing. You need to make different choices year after year; whether for white wine or red wine. It’s not easy!”
For his reds, he destems, but has recently begun to incorporate some stem inclusion for his Tai Rosso (a local biotype of Garnacha/Grenache).
“I had seen the use of whole bunches in Burgundy and thought it would be a good combination — to follow the ‘Pinot Noir kind of path’ a little more. There are some similarities between Tai Rosso and Pinot — neither has a lot of colour, nor tannin, and they’re both delicate. And it worked well! So why change it if it’s working well?”
He smiles. We completely agree — this kind of winemaking is all about experimenting, following your gut, and subsequently finding answers. And then, well, it’s like the saying goes… if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!
As we nod, he adds,
“I try to create wine that gives pleasure. Something that is drinkable, light and smooth — and pleasant to taste. Sometimes, we come across wines that feel more like food — wines you somehow have to bite. I don’t want that; I want wine that you can drink! I want to drink my wines with food. Then, it should be a joyful moment. It can be meditative, and complex in terms of a second phase. Elegegance is also so importance to me; I love that.”
When you drink a bottle of Indomiti Vini, that’s exactly what you find in the wines — a delicate harmony — with an undeniable energy beneath the surface. Something ever-so-easy to drink, yet at the same time, there are layers to the simplicity. Just his work in the vineyards, these are gently handmade wines that express their place and their person, and we can only say, grazie, Simone.