Russo & Longo
Fresh wind in old land. Near Crotone, in the hinterland, in the little-known region of Strongoli, we are looking for the Russo & Longo winery. Even today, people here affectionately call the land Petelia, the old Roman name Strongolis. Probably because they are proud of the many famous people who played a role here in ancient times: Hannibal was there, Pythagoras too, and the Romans anyway. Archaeological findings prove that vineyards and wine have been important for this land for thousands of years.
And significant they still are today, our path leads us in gentle hill country full of ancient traces and magnificent vineyards. But if you think that Russo & Longo is a nostalgic and slightly dusty estate, you are wrong. Visible from afar, a stately building sits enthroned on the hill, elegant and modern in the style of a villa. It is the representative seat of the winery, spacious and elegant, slightly opulent, but always stylish. The production buildings are sterile, simple and equipped with the latest technology, the large and new cellar is impressive, airy and spacious, with wall-engaging images and perfectly staged barriques. The whole property seems to be a single staging, a perfect stage set for the grand entrance of the main actors: i vini.
The welcome is warm and uncomplicated, the two brothers Salvatore and Alfonso Russo are waiting for us. They are the young ones, the new, fourth generation and ready to take over the management. At the end of the 19th century, the farm was born from a family estate that had always cultivated vines, olives, livestock and cereals. It was Felice Russo who emigrated to America in 1910 and lived there for more than 20 years. With success and his savings, he returned, bought more land, enlarged the cultivation areas and introduced modern working methods for the time. The courageous, the forward-looking has remained, seems to be in the DNA. The spirit of modernization that Felice Russo brought back with him is still evident today; Salvatore and Alfonso skilfully work with the mechanisms of the digital world, playing with the tricks of a functioning marketing. They are no longer classic winegrowers, but rather managers and networkers. Which does not mean that they are not also completely dedicated to wine and the land that gives them so much good.
"Whether Hannibal, Pythagoras or the Romans. They all enjoyed Calabrian wine in ancient times."
And then the old gentleman and father, engineer Giuseppe Russo, joins the group. A grey eminence. For years, he and his brother-in-law Longo have been at the helm, and now, after his death, it's the youngsters' turn. It is exciting to observe how they respectfully hold back, leave room for their father and listen spellbound when he gives his opinion. He accompanies us on the tour of the farm, visibly proud of what has grown there, be it the farms, the sons or the land. One senses the discipline and the high demands of the patriarch, and one suspects that he insists on these qualities with his successors. The wines testify to this, to the demands and the discipline. And one also senses a calculated thriftiness when it comes to the use of resources or the allocation of the workers in the vineyard, his word still carries weight. His father Salvatore, he says with a smile, taught him how to budget: "Se devi spendere 10, devi avere almeno 12 !" If you have to spend 10, you have to have at least 12!
53 hectares of land comprise the farm, 35 of which are planted with olive trees that provide a wonderful oil. In addition, 18 hectares of own vineyards and from another 45 are supplied under the strict control of the company. The magnificent hilly land is terraced and slopes sweetly towards the sea. What looks lovely is strategically planned: The individual plots have been carefully analyzed and planted accordingly, hardly anything seems to be left to chance. Depending on the soil analysis, native vines such as Gaglioppo, Magliocco, Greco Nero, Malvasia Bianca, Greco Bianco or Sangiovese grow here, and in more recent times varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc and Traminer have been added. The vinification is the responsibility of oenologists, for the high quality standards are gladly consulted experts and consultants from science and research. Production totals 100,000 bottles. Popular, famous and highly recommended is the Jachello, a quaffable, bouquet-rich red made from Gaglioppo grapes with a flattering Sangiovese-Greco blend. Dare I say, it was the perfect companion for cozy evenings filled with stories, of Romans and Greeks and other heroes of Petelia.