Winemaker Interview: Maddalena Pasqua di Bisceglie, Musella
Think of a fine Italian biodynamic winery and the name Tenuta Musella often comes to mind. A stone’s throw from the city of Verona, this beautiful self-contained estate lies in the hills of San Martino Buon Albergo alongside forests, waterways, ancient country houses, all within a fenced-in natural park. As for their winemaker, it’s Maddalena Pasqua di Bisceglie, who travelled all over the world to experience different wine cultures and expand her winemaking knowledge working with other winemakers in different cellars, eventually taking over the reins from her father, Emilio Pasqua di Bisceglie, who acquired the vineyards in 1990.
We spoke to Maddalena about her favourite grape varietals, her biodynamic practices, and experimentation with new winemaking techniques!
Can you tell us more about the estate and terroir where Musella is in?
Musella is located in the Eastern part of the countryside Verona, on gentle calcareous hills with red clay. Musella is also a natural oasis, where forests, animals, the creek, the little lakes and general landscape are protected, so in Musella we can enjoy very rich biodiversity, simply perfect for our biodynamic agriculture. Musella is in the south part of the Valpolicella area, so the weather is always a bit warmer and this gives us very good maturation possibility.
Which grape varieties do you enjoy working with most?
For sure the local varieties! Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella and Oseleta are the magic team of Valpolicella area. Very old genetics, all of them very different. They guarantee a lot of complexity and compensation between one and the other grape to get to a very balanced and pleasant product.
Amarone and all other wines are characterized by the typical taste of cherry (Covina), surrounded by spices and herbal tendency (Corvinone), giving a lot of freshness, a smooth almond taste (Rondinella) and tannins (Oseleta) to create together a magical combination: a soft and gentle taste.
Funny story: all the grapes variety of Valpolicella refer to a bird. Corvina is “crow”, Corvinone is “big crow”, Rondinella is “swallow” and Oseleta means “little bird” in the local dialect. It is difficult for me to have a preference, I love all of them for different reasons, but maybe I’m now exploring more of the Corvinone. I’m very fascinated by the spices it’s able to express – actually our Rosè is the only one having 100% blend of Corvinone and it shows a lot of elegance. The right word to describe our variety is joy and elegance!
What makes the difference between a good Amarone and a great one?
The care. The care in every process of production. Of course, the care of the soil and the vines during all over the years – let’s say decades because we normally wait for some years before to collect the grape for the Amarone production. Then, the best care in the grape choice: the grape has to be healthy, mature, but never too much, quite open (not compact).
The grape also has to be dried in a proper way, slowly in a dry place and in the right conditions, in a case where there is a good air circulation for three months. Then, reselection of just the perfect grapes, we take the stamps and we wait for the natural fermentation. After 40 to 45 days the wine is ready to be separated by the skins. We use good barrels to let the wine rest and mature for years and years.
What makes Musella’s wine so special?
Thanks for considering Musella special. It is surely special for me because I’m getting to the point that wines are not simply wines anymore. They are ambassadors of the terroir: pure juice representing what we have around, ourselves and the season. The pureness of the wines is the goal I was looking for, in order to better interpret the “taste” of Musella’s terroir.
What are some of the biodynamic viticultural practices that you employ at Musella?
We live our lives trying to be connected with everything around here. Apart from our observation and studies, we follow the instructions of Alex Podolinsky, Ehrenfried Pfeiffer, and Rudolf Steiner. In Autumn and Spring, we do the BD 500 preparation (cow manure in the horns for 6 months under the proper soil and position), which we prepare together with a group of colleagues from different parts in Italy. During the Summer we nebulize three to four times at least of the 501 (pure Cristal/silica dust) to guarantee better light to the vines.
Now, we plant a mixed green manor, a selection of flowers and vegetables, according to the different vineyard characteristics.
We are introducing some animals to complete the circle, sheeps are taking care of the grass during the autumn/winter, donkeys are keeping the forests around the vineyards clean for better air circulation. We also follow moon cycles especially in vilification, and we are introducing omeopatia to fight against the mildew and oidiopsis with the horsetail preparation (and it is working!). We are also studying how to reduce tractor activity and choosing lighter tools. We play music at 432 hz in the vineyard, according to the season (e.g. Mozart, Bach, Pink Floyd, John Coltrane and a selection of sounds for the winter).
What’s 2020 been like for the winery so far?
I prefer not to comment on this … scaramancy!
What are your future plans for the brand?
To be very focused, more and more, on the soil and the pureness.
Have you been experimenting with anything new winemaking techniques?
We have been working with marble tanks for awhile. It’s a local marble tank (Marmo Rosso di Verona) where we are ageing some wines with great satisfaction. Now, I’m experimenting with the shape of the tank to physically help with movement and ageing of the wine, like eggs and triangle. It’s a lot of fun!
What are you drinking in the kitchen at the moment?
A glass of Fibio, the Pinot Bianco of Musella, waiting for the right temperature of my new Ancestrale Bubbles, Emily.