A year ago March, Mark and I dropped in on Raw Wine London. When I told him about attending a session on Gravner wines he happily joined me. This is where we briefly met Mateja Gravner and tasted wines that marked our memory.
The entire movement, raw and natural wines, is rather obscure and includes orange wine, an extended skin maceration style. We’d sampled this wine type previously and found a few notable but many off-putting and rough.
At Mateja’s session, I took notes and pictures but most of all I sat in disbelief savoring every sip of each unbelievable wine. Yes, it is that good.
I’m highlighting this Oslavian woman for the Italian Food, Wine, and Travel group March topic: Women in the Italian Wine Industry. I’ll use her first name here, Mateja, as the name Gravner tends to be associated with her father, Josko.
To learn more about this topic and how to join #ItalianFWT, head to Chinese Food and Wine Pairing where our host Pinny has the scoop on her blog!
A Historical Introduction
About 300 years of farming history surround the Gravner property situated in Oslavia (Gorizia province) in the Fruili Venezia Giulia region of northeastern Italy. This is where the Collio appellation (home of Gravner wines) is found straddling Italy and Slovenia. The winery encompasses thirty-two hectares of which 18 are under vine. Mateja’s grandfather purchased the house and property where the family now lives. She was born there.
Mateja joined her father a handful of years ago to help explain and share her father’s wine with the world. She is now the face representing Gravner in the market place.
All About Balance
Mateja oozes enthusiasm and conviction for the entire process from vineyard to bottle. They farm using no chemicals, nothing artificial, and nothing added accept a smidgeon of sulfur.
Once a conventional operation they switched to minimal intervention, began utilizing various biodynamic principles, and exchanged stainless steel tanks for qvevri (amphora). These qvevri are buried under the ground in their cellar.
“Vintages haven’t been made for us, we have to be able to work with them, to let the grapes from each year express themselves. This is the best way to work with the environment. It’s all about balance.” Mateja Gravner
That balance carries forward. When Mateja talks, she has a certain aura about her, a natural calmness. Sitting through her tastings is like attending a Hatha yoga class. When finished, you feel relaxed yet energized. And in the case of tasting Gravner wine you have one happy palate!
There’s a lot written about Josko Gravner but not much about Mateja… I sent a few questions to learn more.
At the bottom here, in additional to links for other posts from the #ItalianFWT group, I include links to articles discussing Gravner wines in detail- so much is written and worth reading to learn more about their history and skin-contact wines.
The following are Mateja’s answers and information on a few wines tasted during her session at Raw Wine London 2019.
LG: I read a lot about your father, but there isn’t much about you. What excites you? What is something most people would not know about you?
MG: I love traveling and meeting people, I enjoy discovering new restaurants and dishes, but once I’m not working, I enjoy the silence of the mountains and hiking.
LG: When did you know you wanted to make wine?
MG: Actually I have never wanted to become a winemaker, I don’t produce wine and I never introduce myself as a winemaker. No clue where this legend comes from! What I want to do is to communicate wine in the right way, talk about what’s behind a region, a vineyard, a wine.
LG: How do you introduce yourself?
MJ: Hi, I’m Mateja from Gravner winery. I follow all the communications, marketing and sales.
LG: What’s your current focus?
MG: We try to produce the best wine that our land allows us to make. To do so, a deep knowledge of the region is needed, along with a deep knowledge of the soil and the respect for it. This can even mean not planting what the market requires (and that maybe sells at higher prices).
LG: If your father said, “Let’s plant and focus on another grape”, what grape would you choose and why?
MG: We have focused on Ribolla and Pignolo because these are the varieties typical of this region. Planting other varieties would mean we renege on everything we have learned so far.
LG: It seems there’s not a problem with Gravner wines selling. What is your biggest challenge representing Gravner wines in the market place?
MG: Having only one product to offer is actually not easy and sometimes can limit selling opportunities. At the same time producing only one thing means taking the responsibility to make it at its best. I try to explain why we have decided to produce only one variety and the great richness that the different vintages, very different from each other, can provide us with when we follow nature and don’t force it.
LG: I listened to podcasts, and read several articles where you are mentioned. Your passion for Gravner wines and the environment comes across strongly. What is the one thing, or few things, you feel are most important to share with people about your method of farming?
MG: I think people understand we are ’true’ is not just a marketing message but is what we are and how we live, is our real, everyday life. You can’t present such a life 😉
LG: For you as a woman, have you experienced any difficulties being in a male dominant environment? Have you dealt with any gender-related challenges?
MG: I always try to evaluate what is done, without considering if it is done by a man or a woman and I hope this happens also when I am the one doing things. If us, women, don’t start adopting and behaving like this, we won’t go anywhere.
LG: Who is your biggest inspiration?
MG: I try to get inspiration from the people I meet everyday. Everybody has something, sometimes it is a small thing, and I try to learn from this. Biggest- people that never give up.
LG: What is your favorite one or two wine regions? Your favorite wine to drink?
MG: I am a curious person and I travel a lot, but every time I come back to Osalvia and to a glass of Ribolla!
LG: If you were not doing what you do for Gravner wines, what would you be doing?
MG: No clue! Maybe hospitality.
~ Italian Food, Wine and Travel talk about Women in Italian Wine! ~
Join us on March 7th at 11am ET, 17:00 in Italy for a chat about these women, their projects, wineries and wines. Use the hashtag #ItalianFWT. Feel free to comment and/ or ask questions, or just follow the chat. In the meantime, here are links to read about other women in Italian wine.
Cam at Culinary Adventures with Camilla pairs Crab and Cambozola-Stuffed Arancini + Poggio al Tesoro Solosole Vermentino 2018 #ItalianFWT
Number two from Cam: Ribollita + Donatella Cinelli Colombini Rosso di Montalcino 2016 #ItalianFWT
Linda at My Full Wine Glass tells Punset wines: the story of one woman’s perseverance #ItalianFWT
Marcia at Joy of Wine shows Tiberio: Passion For the Land & its Native Grapes #ItalianFWT
Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm pairs Italian Roasted Chicken with a Gianni Brunelli Rosso di Montalcino #ItalianFWT
David at Cooking Chat pairs Ground Turkey Bolognese with Wine from Anna Maria #ItalianFWT
Susannah at Avvinare shows Spotlight on Vernaccia di San Gimignano and the Consortium’s New President – Irina Guicciardini Strozzi #ItalianFWT
Jennifer at Vino Travels presents Italian Women in the Wine Industry Featuring Maso Martis #ItalianFWT
Jeff at Food Wine Click! presents Italian Women in Wine – Cantina Marilina #ItalianFWT
Deanna from Asian Test Kitchen says Don’t Judge a Wine by its Label unless it’s Mustilli #ItalianFWT
Terri at Our Good Life presents Women in Wine: Meet Kelly from Twin Meadows Winery #ItalianFWT
Gwen at Wine Predator introduces Vigna Petrussa and Verovino: Women to Watch in Wine #ItalianFWT
Nicole at Somm’s Table shares Passion and Authenticity in Abruzzo: A Conversation with Cristiana Tiberio of Az. Agr. Tiberio #ItalianFWT
Nicole at Somm’s Table shares Cooking to the Wine: Tiberio Pecorino & Saffron Chickpea Stew with Seafood #ItalianFWT
Pinny at Chinese Food and Wine Pairings says Cheers to Donatella Cinelli Colombini Rosso di Montalcino Produced from Women Flagship – Casato Prime Donne #ItalianFWT
Lynn at Savor the Harvest introduces Women In Italian Wine: Meet Mateja Gravner #ItalianFWT
Articles and podcasts about Gravner wines:
- I recommend the Gravner website to anyone wanting to learn more about these wines. It contains a lot of information.
- Wilson on Wine
- Italian Wine Podcast
- Wine Spectator
- Ian D’Agata article for Rosenthal Wine Merchant
Such great insight here Lynn! Like you, we haven’t a lot of “wow” experiences with Natural wines but knowing our similar tastes, I’ll certainly look for these. Mateja’s authenticity and passion really comes through, we need more like her!
I think you two would like these wines Allison. We were awed by all especially the ’99, still fresh, and soft, supple. Would like to know your thoughts once you taste them.
Gravner may be focused on particular grapes, but they do it well. Seems like Mateja is a calming soul.
No kidding they do it well. Hands down, the best skin contact wines we’ve had to date.
I’m glad you clarified and used her first name to not confuse her with her father. I know these wines are in my market, but super expensive. There is a lot of hype about these wines, but I have not yet had the pleasure of trying them! Thanks for making notes so I could “taste” them through your eyes!
I’ve been able to find a few Gravner as low as 50€, which I think is very reasonable. Add on shipping to the US and I can imagine they’re harder to reach… but not as high as some cult cabs! Thanks for your comment Joy.
Mateja seems like such a genuine, down-to-earth person whose passion is to make genuine, down-to-earth wine. Love the photo of the balanced vineyards and happy dog. Living the good life!
She definitely is Linda, you nailed it!
I went straight to wine.com to see if I could get a bottle of Gravner. Unfortunately no, but even if it were available the prices would have prohibited it for me. I will just have to enjoy them vicariously through you.
I was lucky to attend this tasting Wendy, they are definitely higher priced. Perhaps one day!
Very cool. I love the Gravner wines and don’t get to drink them often enough. It’s really wonderful to hear Mateja’s perspective and get to know her better through your post.
Also, it’s so funny — I sometimes forget how obscure the natural wine movement still is because it’s very prevalent where I live.
Where I’m living natural wines are more under the radar unless your a wine geek. But then it depends on what type of wine geek. Just in the last year or so a few wine shops have been carrying them but selection is minimal… you are lucky!
Great choice for this topic! Have heard a lot about Gravner wines so good to learn about Mateja’s role and perspective.
Thanks for your comment David, definitely join in a tasting led by Mateja if you have the chance!
I’m a big fan of skin-fermented / orange wines, but I haven’t had the opportunity to Gravner’s yet. Looking forward to it!
Mark and I think they’re worth the search and money, super interesting wines. He doesn’t like many skin fermented due to bad experiences but said he’d happily drink Gravner any day. I like different tastes so like more of them. When you find one (not if 😉 would love to hear your thoughts Jeff. Perhaps Raw Wine will come to Minneapolis and Mateja too!
A completely new process and wine profile to me. I cannot wait to see if I can find them through my American contacts. Thanks for the information.
They are worth the search and expense Terri! Their importer is Rosental Wine Merchant. I’ll add their link to my article.