• History
  • Behind the label (2003)
  • Terroir Le Chiusure (2010)
  • Valtènesi (2013)
A hundred years ago three-quarters of the land of Portese was covered with vines.
The wines of Valtènesi were then “highly sought-after in Brescia and out of the province” and they played a decisive role in the local economy.
The vines, together with the olive trees, shaped the Garda landscape.

Today it is no longer so.
Agriculture – and in particular vine-growing – are marginal.
The landowners around the biggest and most beautiful lake in Italy have another objective – land for building. Maximum increase in value with the minimum effort.

Our work goes against this trend. We want to see the vineyards flourish in Valtènesi once more.
Our objective is to continually improve the quality of our products, and the ensuing results.
By improving the wine we give the vineyard a future as a way of using the landed property and, ultimately, protecting the environment and the landscape.

And so we are happy to announce that next spring we will be planting a new vineyard.
We will plant it to satisfy the growing demand and also so that we can have more Groppello grapes in the new Valtènesi doc wines.

But to proceed in order, for those who are curious about a brief history of Le Chiusure, we propose the story of our first steps in Behind the label (2003), the search for identity in Terroir Le Chiusure (2010) and the choice of the name which historically represents our territory in Valtènesi (2013).

We decided to build this website to better understand where we stand today and, at the same time, to share our story with the people we have come to know through the years.
Not everybody is interested in what lies behind a good bottle of wine or a pleasant holiday, but we want to reach those who know that a special taste or atmosphere is better understood if you have a look behind the label.

THE PAST
A few details about the past, only those necessary.
Born in Brescia, I graduated in Agricultural Sciences at the University of Florence, but felt unhappy with theory and lectures that never took us out of the classroom and into the fields. I submitted my dissertation on the production of sparkling wines in the Franciacorta area to a publisher who accepted me as a regular contributor.
Some time later, I had a chance to do some quality tests for wine production on my family's land, which we now farm, and the wine consultant's verdict was positive to the point that in our first year we came first in a wine-tasting session devoted to Garda bresciano. At the same time, I found that working in the vineyard explained to me why I had thought of studying agriculture in the first place: working in the field was much more satisfying.
In 1989, the year of our first harvest, I moved to Portese where my wife Paola reached me a year later. After some time, besides the wine and oil production we opened a small country restaurant and two comfortable farmhouse holidays apartments. For a few years our simple but distinguished cuisine, carefully matched to our wines, proved an excellent marketing tool for our name. In 2001 we decided to transform the restaurant into a third apartment, thus ending an activity that was very satisfying but too labour-intensive to manage on our own as we had planned.

WHERE WE ARE NOW
Today we have three hectares of vineyards and two of olive groves, producing around 15,000 bottles of wine and 1,000 of olive oil each year. To close the circle, the three apartments can host around twelve guests.
The small size of our farm and the high value of the land in our area mean we are always striving to improve our products, adding value to everyday work and personal satisfaction, which makes us appreciate what we do far more than profit alone.

The following are some of our views on matters that might interest friends, guests and customers.

IDENTITY
We aspire to make products, and mainly wines, which have a clear personality and do not cater for the average customer's taste. The small size of our business allows us to be free from changing tastes, which are often tied to passing trends. We think of the flavoursome wines that our land can produce, wines that are persistent and recognizable across vintages, wines that do not bend to fashion but want to become classics in their field.

TYPICALITY
We are keen to emphasize the ties between product and place.
What the French call bon lieu à vignes - the proper place for a vineyard - must reflect on the product all its character. The land constitutes the basis of typicality, a concept that is generally linked to a given area but also more specifically to the individual producer. It is the farmer's responsibility to express the full value of his land by choosing the right grapes and appropriate winemaking techniques.
For those seeking the typicality and tradition of our hills, we offer two d.o.c. (denomination of controlled origin) Garda classico wines (Groppello and Chiaretto) and olive oil.
Our other products also embody a connection with the place which is clearly certified in the label as i.g.t. (indication of geographical typicality) Benaco Bresciano, but the use of various grapes and winemaking techniques is free from traditions which at times would restrict our winemaking targets.

PRODUCTION AREA
Unfortunately winemakers in our district have not yet shaped a common policy and many farms, often the larger ones, do not emphasize quality. Thus those who, like ourselves, tend to improve production are often penalized by certain decisions or their absence.
A recent wine catalogue points out that our products have nothing in common with the wider-sold labels in our production district, thus stressing the quality of our wines. On the one hand we are pleased of this recognition, but it also shows how much work remains to be done to remove the negative bias against the area, which is partly justified.

CONSUMER CONFIDENCE
Another related issue is consumer confidence. This is even more important in the light of what we have just said, in an age of easy slogans and buzzwords. One of the favourite slogans among wine producers is: "our wine is made following old tradition combined with modern technology". Really? We refuse to use these words due to their inherent lack of meaning. We prefer to earn credibility by working hard and writing down what we think.
Scripta manent: for this reason, this website also becomes a promise to readers. The descriptions of our products and processes strive to be precise, detailed and transparent.

ORGANIC
We believe it is important to express our position on "organic" farming and on the quality of our products from this point of view.
When we started this enterprise, one of the first moves was to certify our products as organic. Towards the end of the conversion period (three years) we had a very difficult season due to climate reasons. We lost a substantial part of our production and, what is worst, quality was badly affected. We reconsidered our position and were among the first few companies in the Brescia area to accept EEC regulations 2078/92 (than 1257/99) which, for the protection of consumer health, obliges farms to comply with a number of production standards (e.g. ruling out chemicals for weed management, strictly limiting the amount and frequency of anti-parasite products, and restricting fertilization according to a plan drawn up by a certified consultant). We had no difficulty in accepting these constraints, simply because we had already adopted them by free choice.
We have now been farming according to these rules for nine years and do not certify our products as organic (as we could do most years) simply because we do not accept the idea that exceptionally harsh conditions should cause a loss of quality in the final product. Yet this does not mean that, with more experience, we shall not apply for official certification in the future.

OUR COSTUMERS
Approximately half of our production is sold directly to private customers, most of whom visit our farm. The other half is sold to restaurants (mainly on Lake Garda and in northern Italy) or exported to specialized wine shops in Germany and Holland. A small proportion is sold for company Christmas gifts.

AFTER FIFTEEN YEARS
After fifteen years in business we can say that our labour has been gratified. We have had mentions in the specialized press and won prizes in wine tastings. We feel that overall we have a sound business and good prospects for the future.
However there is also an apparently minor aspect of our work that deserves mention. Through our business we have met quite a few people and the relationships we have built have broadened our outlook. A network of human contacts, born over a glass of wine or through an enjoyable holiday, which reach further than place and age and generate ever new surprising situations.
It is a small world and often those with similar tastes and sensibilities recognize each other in the same places and thoughts. Internet can be useful for this purpose as much as it is for business.

Seven years have gone by since we created our website  when we invited you  to take a look into the brand name Le Chiusure to discover the thoughts which lie behind our work.
We  have been busy and a new and more solid identity seems to have gradually taken shape, which today we have decided to call “Terroir Le Chiusure”.

TERROIR
There is constant debate over the meaning of this term between those who want to limit it to the interaction between the vine and the environmental factors (climate, soils) which characterize a determined territory, and, on the other hand, those who include human intervention as an expression of local traditions and cultures with their personal interpretative experience of the latter which are then transferred onto and influence the final result, that is the wine.
In France, where this concept was formed, they lean towards this broader meaning which is also the one we prefer.
In fact wine itself does not exist in nature, it is a product of human culture.
From this statement stems the conviction that the character of a wine, as well as being evidently the result of a determined gene (vine, clone) and environment (climate, soil), is deeply influenced both by the shared knowledge and traditions of the territory of production and by the inclinations, the conscience and the individual history of those who produce it.

TERROIR LE CHIUSURE. IDENTITY OF A WINE
Terroir  Le Chiusure
is therefore the attempt to recognize and make our peculiarity known, whether that comes from the earth of our fields or from a more abstract and apparently distantly related thought; and thus to define an identity, working so that it surfaces and is perceived in our bottles of wine.

Terroir  Le Chiusure aims also at being a kind of self-certification and a guarantee for those who buy products with the brand name Le Chiusure.

OUR VINEYARD.  AGE AND VARIETY
The grapes used to produce our wines – the only ones for which we can give an absolute guarantee of quality, soundness and origins – are exclusively those harvested on our land.

We have just over three hectares of vines, all in the area of San Felice del Benaco in the countryside of Portese, where today we have 15.451 vines.

Our vineyard contains the following varieties:

variety n° vines % of the vineyard
Groppello 4.904 32
Barbera       3.434  22
Rebo     2.922 19
Sangiovese  1.944 12
Merlot    1.472  10
Marzemino   775 5
total 15.451 100


Groppello

Barbera

Today , in 2010, the age of the vines is as follows:
18 years old 26%, 13 years old 22 %, 10 years old 11 %, 7 years old 23 %, 4 years old 18 %.

In the past twenty years, we have never even bought one single bunch of grapes from other vineyards, and so we mean to go on. Should we ever make any choices which differ from the above, we promise to declare so in our salesroom and on this site.


Sangiovese

Marzemino


ANTI-HAIL NETS
In our area summer storms and hailstorms are quite frequent and these can damage the grapes in the vineyard, pushing the vine grower to take measures by purchasing a substitute product.
Our response to this risk has been quite different.
Today our vineyard is 100% protected by anti-hail nets – using a vertical “apron” system which does not create shade, suited to grapes for quality wines - to save the only grapes on which our project of quality, soundness and identity can be based.
On many occasions the anti-hail nets have protected us from small or large-scale damage to the quality, enabling us over the years to bring perfectly whole grapes to the cellar; even in August 2002, when an extremely violent hailstorm produced damage in our area to 80-90% of the quantity, we only lost 5% of our product; and we made wine, as in all the other years, from our grapes.

Why do we consider it so important to work only with our grapes?
Because they are the only ones on which we can base a project of quality, soundness and identity of the product.

QUALITY OF THE RAW MATERIALS
Our prime requisite for our grapes is quality: at the time of harvesting we want them to have reached that point of ripeness which makes them suitable to produce great wines.
Many factors contribute to this end but here we wish to underline the most relevant: two basic choices (elevated density of planting and grass-growing in the vineyards) and a choice which is made each year in the vineyard (the thinning of the bunches of grapes).

Density of planting
Our vineyards have all been planted to a density of between 5000 (first plantings in 1991 - 1992) and 6500 plants per hectare (last plantings in 2000, 2003 and 2006). This enables us to produce a little on each plant and it is well-known that this is the first rule of quality.

Grass coverage
Grass growing is an agronomic choice made about fifteen years ago which has proved to be a success concerning the characteristics of our soils and our climate. We allow the grass to grow spontaneously in the vineyard, tending it so as to guarantee balanced development and to ensure that it grows constantly throughout the whole season.
Especially in rainy years grassy soils guarantee healthier grapes which ripen sooner, as a result of better balanced plants: they are less vigorous, they produce less, the bunches of grapes are less compact, with increased thickness and content of polyphenols in the skins.
Grass growing also improves the structure of the soil (favouring the expansion of the roots), the life in the soil (a greater quantity of organic substances means more micro organisms, more earth-life means a better natural balance) and also the bio-diversity outside the soil (the presence of useful insects and mites).

Selection of the grapes
Finally the  thinning of the grapes (some call it a “green harvest”), is decisive for the quality of the raw material/grapes: every year when the grapes change colour, some time between the end of July and the beginning of August, we walk along the rows of vines, patiently observing each plant and we select the bunches which will stay on the plant to ripen perfectly, freed of those in excess. This is a choice which forgoes quantity in favour of the quality of the grapes which remain on the vine, which in certain very fertile years becomes decisive,  to say the least.


Rebo

Merlot

WHOLESOMENESS OF THE GRAPES
The second requisite, that of wholesomeness, is closely linked to the first, that of quality.
If the grapes remain sound around the time of the harvest, even in difficult years, the vine grower does not have to resort to early harvests and can wait for the moment of perfect ripeness.
Generally vineyards based on the choice of low productivity per plant produce grapes with tougher skins which are disease-resistant, grapes which will on average be more wholesome in the most problematic period which is that of the last weeks of ripening.

But when we talk about wholesomeness we are not only alluding to the integrity of the grape at the time of wine-making. We are also referring to its being the result of the agronomic management of the land and of the nutriments and protection from disease applied to the vineyards.
The health of the grapes thus becomes the most important guarantee that we as vine growers can give to those who consume the product of the fermentation of those grapes.

We have never used chemical herbicides.
That yellow band of chemically-burnt grass sometimes visible under the vines  has always made me think: never in our vineyards. The grass under the vines is simply cut, when necessary.

We only use fertilisers of animal and vegetable origin, to a degree which is sufficient to keep the fertility of our land unchanged over the years; live soil is in fact the  best place for the roots of our plants to grow.

Plants are protected from cryptogamic diseases using  natural products, mainly Copper and Sulphur,  which have protected European vineyards from Downy Mildew and Powdery Mildew for over a century. We do not use  products of chemical synthesis  which work by penetrating the plants; Copper and Sulphur are “cover” products, they act by depositing themselves on the leaves and on the grapes and their protection is valid for a few days until washed away by the rain.

We also protect the plants from harmful insects using plant extracts, such as Pyrethrum, which is only used after specific field tests to verify their effective necessity.

Years of experience, including years with climactic conditions most favourable for the development of diseases, have shown us that it is therefore possible to produce wholesome grapes of the highest quality without using any substances of chemical synthesis. 
We affirm this with conviction for the area we work in, the Valtènesi, on the morenic hills of Lake Garda. Talking with vine growers of other areas of production, we are ever more convinced that the climatic conditions on our hills are particularly favourable to  vine growing with an excellent compromise between rain and sun and consequently scarce  aggressiveness of diseases.
A bit of luck doesn’t do any harm.

IDENTITY AS VALUE
The third requisite, that of identity, is the most difficult to define and does not only refer to the raw materials but also to the final product and to the overall perception that our clients have of Le Chiusure. From here to the end we will discuss the theme of our identity.

Many aspects contribute to the definition of the identity of our wines.
First of all the geographical situation and the fact of being part of an area of production -the Valtènesi, the area of morenic hills between Desenzano and Salò- with a very long  history of vine-growing which in the last few years has been trying to re-establish itself, identifying and promoting the common characteristics which can be identified in its wines.

As far as the vines are concerned, the identity of  our wines is based principally on two kinds of grape: Groppello, a native grape grown exclusively on our hills, and Rebo, a vine originally from Trentino but which has probably found here its chosen environment, in fact it has spread widely in recent years. We were the very first to believe in this grape and we can now boast fifteen years of experience of making wine from it.

THE WORK IN THE CELLAR
The work in the cellar also contributes significantly to the identity.
For example, in our experience, a cuvée of  different grapes has always supplied, except for  rare exceptions, a better result than single grape wines. This is the simple reason why our wines come from assemblies, which are made gradually at the different stages of refining. And that is true even if the various grapes are harvested separately, as they reach perfect ripeness at different times.

Good wine can only be made with good grapes.
The main objective therefore of work in the cellar is to respect and maintain the wholeness of the characteristics of the fresh grapes. The more of the grapes’ substances pass into the wine, the richer, more complex and wholesome the wine.
All the work done in the field to obtain a healthy and wholesome product favours the possibility of drastically reducing the use of sulphites during pressing and in the various stages of preservation of the wine until it is bottled. We think that we will soon be able to quantify this reduction. 
Moreover, we prefer the wine to ferment through the action of the yeasts of the grapes without adding industrial yeast, except for particular rare cases of wines with a high level of alcohol to help complete fermentation.

GROPPELLO  AND CHIARETTO,  CAMPEI AND  MALBORGHETTO
After twenty years of work our relationship with our four wines is not much different from that which  one has with one’s friends, with travelling companions. Over the years I have got to know them, I have also made decisions which have slightly modified them over time with the aim of enhancing the outline of their identity.

Groppello is our root  in the past, our link with these hills which overlook the lake from the west: the proof that we belong to the place, the starting point for everything we can say about the wine.
If Groppello is authentic, from its colour, a red “that you can see through”, to the immediacy of its direct flavour, all our work has been worthwhile.

Chiaretto is also made from Groppello and from a century of tradition. At the same time it is the wine which bring us in a European flavour search, in the world of the “pale rosé” of the South of France and, hopefully people will soon say, of Lake Garda:  rosé wines which get pinker and paler, with a fragrance of flowers and fruit, elegant and delicate to the taste and finally capable of acquiring  their own space among the images of those who love wine.

To understand Campei look at the label with its graphic design which is an enlargement of the stones of the wall surrounding our vineyard. 
The stones are the nobility of the  vineyards, the mineral origin from which the land derives and therefore the character of the wines which come from it. In my imagination Campei has its roots  among the stones of the earth of our hills and draws its fragrant taste and a robust body which is capable of ageing but remains gentle at the same time.

Finally Malborghetto, a wine intended to last and improve in the years, the high alcohol level and the concentration of the juice  have already enabled us to taste ten different vintages together. The presence  of grapes like Rebo and Merlot give this  wine its own character and the mark of the terroir lies just behind the strong presence of the vines. This is the least typical of our wines, it is our interpretation as lovers of classic great red wines.

LABELS,  IDENTITY IN THE SIGNS OF THE PAST 
The graphic research which has led to our present labels found its reference in the signs of the past, in the history of the names and the places.
This is also a distinctive sign of our identity, starting with our name Le Chiusure, the place name of the property.
Campei is also the place name of the countryside of Portese  where our vineyards are to be found, the name used by the old country folk; and Malborghetto, which is the name of the part of the village where our house is, perhaps alludes to some misdeed in the distant past.
The antique writing on the labels of the Groppello and of the Chiaretto and the land map which shows our house backing on to the ruins of the castle of Portese on the label of Malborghetto, derive from Napoleon’s passage through this region two hundred years ago.


 
VINEGROWERS, PROTECTORS OF THE  TERRITORY
When we started working here, we instinctively chose what seemed to us to be the two most significant elements of the Lake Garda landscape to design our logo: the olive trees and the dry stone walls. In both we felt the strong presence of nature and of man, the makers of the beauty which surrounded us, of that landscape which has often helped transform a day’s work in the fields into a pleasure for the eyes and for the spirit.
After twenty years we understand the reasons for that instinctive choice better.
The landscape of Lake Garda, the nature, our territory are suffering the attack of aggressive construction without precedent and risk being wiped out. 
The profession of the farmer is gradually transforming into a combination of production, protection of nature and management of the land. And, while we recognise the quality of the product as the prime objective of our work, the responsibility we wish to assume in these years is to make our voice heard in defence of the landscape and of nature, not only for aesthetic and cultural reasons but as a vital necessity for us and our descendants.  
From this point of view, producing qualitative excellence today means producing agricultural income which in turn produces protection of the land.

SUSTAINABLE FARM MANAGEMENT
Responsibility towards our area is part of a wider responsibility which we feel towards the planet in these years of global warming and environmental emergency.
The ways of working which we adopt guarantee continuity over time to the productive process on our lands; keeping the earth fertile, search for minimal impact on the natural balance and respect for the surrounding environment are part of a sustainable approach to the practice of  vine growing. 
An approach which is based on sound principles which can be scientifically demonstrated. 
For example, in the near future we may participate in a project to quantify the carbon footprint produced by our farm with the aim of gaining greater awareness so that we can try to reduce it.  
The development of eco-compatible practices in the  vineyard and in the cellar are  therefore motivated by this, but also aim at saving the land and the plants without whose wholesomeness one cannot speak about wine and its terroir.

And so we come full circle, we are back where we started, with the desire to make our wines known and to guarantee those who appreciate and those who meet them the first time, the “terroir Le Chiusure” and some aspects of its identity.

We believe that the value of the product lies not only in the product itself but also in the values of the identity which it represents, we trust that these words can serve to enrich the bouquet and the taste of our wines.

Valtènesi is the historic name of the hilly territory west of Lake Garda and, since 2011, it has also become the name of the denomination of controlled origin (doc) of the wines of the area.
In response to the need to be better identified by consumers and the market, the producers have chosen to promote their own wines using the name which has represented their territory for centuries.

TWO WINES
Valtènesi doc includes two types of wines  based on the Groppello grape which must be present in a percentage of between 50 and 100%.

1. Valtènesi (understood as red wine even if “red” is not written on the label)
2. Valtènesi chiaretto

Other grapes which can make up part of the composition of Valtènesi doc wines are those authorized in the province of Brescia and which are most common today on the Brescian shore of Lake Garda, essentially Sangiovese, Barbera, Marzemino and Rebo. International vines are limited to a total of 10%.

AREA OF PRODUCTION
The area of production comprises the territory of the villages of the historic Valtènesi (San Felice, Puegnago, Manerba, Polpenazze, Moniga, Soiano, Padenghe) extended to the circle of morenic hills behind with terrains with similar soil conditions.
To sum up: the hills between Salò and Desenzano.

Valtènesi doc regulations specify when wines can go on sale: not before 14th February for Valtènesi Chiaretto and not before 1st September for Valtènesi.
After all Valtènesi is a territorial wine based on Groppello, just as, for example Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino, Morellino di Scansano, are all territorial wines based on Sangiovese.

We producers have the task of making the wines of Valtènesi recognizable through the definition of a particular character, to be found above all in the composition of the soils and in the dominance of Groppello; and also in the proportions of other grapes (this use of blends of various grapes  has however been part of our tradition for a long time).
For this reason the denomination on the label of our wines is today undergoing changes which will conclude in the second half of 2013.

Garda classico Chiaretto doc has already become Valtènesi Chiaretto doc and will be sold from 14th February every year.
No substantial modification to the wine in the bottle but a convinced commitment so that the great improvement in the quality of this type of wine which has been made over the last years is recognized.
Although it is hard to change prejudice, it seems difficult not to realize that this wine  has changed profoundly, starting from the choice of the moment of harvest – earlier than grapes for red wines – and even more so in the cellar where it has on average shorter contact with the skins, with different blends of the various grapes than in the past and, most important of all, being protected from oxygen at all the stages from pressing to bottling.
This is probably Valtènesi’s winning card, a modern, delicate and fragrant rosé,  with improved quality and identity, a pale rosé in Provential style but with our saline and sapid characteristics.

With regard to red wines, we feel it is essential to clarify that the product name Valtènesi can refer to a variety of wines for each producer; it is in no way an addition but a substitution of the existing territorial wines.

For this reason, during 2013, as Garda classico Groppello doc and Campei Benaco bresciano igt of 2010 vintage are consumed, they will be substituted by Valtènesi doc 2011 and Valtènesi Campei doc 2011.
The former will have a slight decrease in the percentage of Groppello to about 70%, and the wine will remain substantially unchanged with regard to Garda classico Groppello of preceding vintages.

In Campei, on the other hand, Groppello will be increased up to 50% to come within the characteristics of Valtènesi doc. We are working on the other 50% to maintain the character of a wine – in terms of taste, complexity and the possibility of ageing – which has always been recognized as one of the  best reds of our area.

Our current idea is that Valtènesi will be available from one to one and a half years after harvest with the characteristics of an elegant, fresh, fruity wine, while Campei will continue to be sold a year later after moderate contact with wood.
What was called in rather old-fashioned terms, a  “riserva” or “superiore” wine with respect to its “base vintage”.

Finally Malborghetto Benaco bresciano igt will remain exactly the same in terms of content and name: a wine based on Rebo and Merlot, which is not exactly territorial and is definitely characterized by the grapes.

Without wanting to over-emphasize, we are convinced that the new Valtènesi doc represents a historic occasion for the producers of the Brescian shores of Lake Garda; an occasion that may also have a far wider value with important effects on the administration of the area, on touristic development and on the future of the landscape. A strong stimulus to work on the road towards quality and identity to enhance the wines and to see the rebirth of vine-growing as a form of profitable use - and therefore  of protection- of the precious coast of the biggest and most beautiful lake in Italy.