The wine estate of the Italian Riviera not to be missed

Sipping a chilled Vermentino while overlooking the Ligurian Sea or the Golfo dei Poeti as the sun slips below a richly colored horizon is one of the best ways to enjoy the Italian Riviera. This fresh, lemony white, the region’s flagship wine, is produced all over Liguria, both in vineyards clinging to sea-facing cliffs or amidst terraced grounds in the mountainous countryside. Along the southernmost parts of the Riviera, the microclimate is particularly favorable for the production of this wine – the sea water moderates the temperatures and the Apuan Alps, in neighboring Tuscany, protect the region from the cold winds which blow on other parts of Italy.

You will find Canteen Lunae, producer of premium Vermentinos, as well as many other labels, in this part of Liguria, in a small town with a long name, Colombiera-Molicciara, located close to Sarzana (reachable by train from La Spezia) and the coast . If you want to know more about the wines of the Riviera, a visit to Cantine Lunae is a must, not only because the wines regularly accumulate awards and high marks, but also because the cellar is particularly friendly to visitors, with an 18th century farmhouse, renovated in impeccable Italian country style. It is home to a well-curated wine museum, tasting room, liquor lab, and shop offering a host of culinary items, including Lunae wines, olive oil, jams, pastas, and spices. other specialties of the region.

The success of Cantine Lunae is one of Italy’s most notable modern business stories. In one generation, the Bosoni family, owners of the winery, have gone from small farmers to large wine producers with a flourishing international business, thanks to the exceptional determination of Paolo Bosoni, who wine spectator formerly called the “Maestro of Vermentino”.

“My grandparents were simple farmers and they didn’t have enormous economic means,” explains Diego Bosoni, who manages the day-to-day operations of the winery. He tells how his father, Paolo, got his start selling wine, olive oil and other produce from the small family farm door-to-door. Even when circumstances force him to work in a factory, wine is never far from Paolo’s mind. “He helped my grandfather in the vineyards after work,” says Bosoni.

The winery built by Bosoni today produces 500,000 bottles a year, developed on 65 hectares of land in the Colli di Luni region, known since Roman times for the suitability of its soil for growing vines. When asked if they are the largest producer of Vermentino in the country, Bosoni answers modestly. “We are probably the biggest producer of Vermentino in Liguria, but Liguria is a small region and therefore, considering national production, we can define ourselves as a medium-sized family business. However, size and quantity were never much of a concern to us; what really interested us was the quality. And the industry has rewarded them handsomely for it – the winery’s star wine, Etichetta Nera Vermentino, received the coveted Tre Bicchieri award, the top ranking from influential culinary editor Gambero Rosso, for the 13th time this year, and frequently returns to the best Italian wine lists (such as the one wine spectator curators for OperaWine), says Bosoni.

While Cantine Lunae’s white Vermentinos are the company’s best-known offerings, it also produces a red Vermentino, one of their indigenous wines. Vermentino Nero grapes were planted in the vineyards about 20 years ago; they are also used for Mearosa rosé. Additional reds include Albarola, another wine from native vines, and Niccolò V and Niccolò V Riserva, made with Sangiovese, Merlot and Pollera Nera grapes, the latter native to the region. (These Niccolò V wines were named in honor of the pope who hailed from nearby Sarzana and established the Vatican Library.) Cantine Lunae also makes sparkling wines, such as the limited edition No. 1. B Spumante Brut and No.1.R Spumante Rosé Brut (this sparkling is available in the United States). A signature sparkling wine, Cuvée Lunae Brut Metodo Classico Millesimato, was recently (2021) introduced; it comes from a single vintage with Albarola and Vermentino grapes.

Bosoni knew that his life’s work, like that of his father, would always center on wine, although for a time after his studies at the University of Pisa he played in a band. “I grew up in the cellar and next to the cellar,” Bosoni explains. “When i was born [my father] decided to quit his job, beginning the journey that brought our winery to where it is today. So I lived every step of his journey. Bosoni confesses to having a “great passion for music and art, but I could not have followed another path because the winery is an integral part of my life and that of my family, like a brother. If I had chosen another career, something in me would have died.

Although Paolo remains the “beating heart” of the business and is “always present, supervising the work in the vineyard and in the cellar,” says Bosoni, his own commitment to Cantine Lunae parallels that of his father. He is on site every day and intervenes at each stage of production, from harvesting to aging in the bottle. “I’m only away from the cellar for wine tastings and work engagements, or a few days off,” he says, adding as an aside that those days away are rare.

Maintaining continuity, ensuring that the winery founded by his remarkable father retains its original values ​​- “the learnings that previous generations left me”, is a key priority, he says. “But that doesn’t mean standing still.” In the years to come, Bosoni wants the company to progress with the same identity and the same rigor in the production of quality wines, as well as a constant concern for eco-sustainability. For about five years, Cantine Lunae has been working on a total transformation towards organic wine production, explains Bosoni, using manual harvesting, natural fertilizers and no herbicides.

One of the ways Cantine Lunae acknowledges the values ​​of the past is with its well-curated wine museum (Museo della Cultura Materiale del Vino) located within the winery complex and dedicated to the history of local viticulture. Our knowledgeable guide Angela Lombardi took us through the five themed rooms, each devoted to a distinct component of terroir wine production and harvesting through to the final result in the winery. There are video installations and historical pieces from Paolo Bosoni’s collection of wine artifacts, built up over 30 years of personal research. These have been restored and cataloged by industry experts, says Bosoni.

Visitors to Cantine Lunae can take a guided tour of the museum and property and schedule a variety of tastings (including custom ones), some including snacks at an adjacent vineyard or picnics in the olive grove. (Reservations are required several days in advance.) Plus, you can watch artisanal liquors being made at the Essentiae lab. Cantine Lunae has an excellent chef, Matteo Dominichini, but for now lunches and dinners are reserved for special events. There’s also a bar, where the company says a glass of wine is always waiting.

About Michael Brafford

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