A northern Italy legacy with 3 generations of Veneto expertise
Mirko Sella is a bona fide expert of northern Italy, specifically world-famous Valpolicella, where he’s the third generation to make wine from his family’s vineyards.
When Angels voted to bring on more Italian wines and fund a Ripasso (a Valpolicella specialty) — all roads led to Mirko! With 20 harvests in Valpolicella under his belt, he’s ready to share his wines on the world stage, thanks to you!
Mirko’s wines are regional classics made with sun-dried grapes hand-harvested from his family’s vineyards: a powerful, concentrated Valpolicella Amarone, and it’s bold ally, a fruity Valpolicella Ripasso.
Mirko Sella's Story
Mirko Sella grew up working in his family’s vineyard in Mezzane di Sotto (nested in Valpolicella, Veneto, Italy), which was planted by his grandfather in 1959. Well, if we’re being candid, working is a bit of a euphemism.
"My grandfather would bring me back from the field when I was very young because I was more dangerous than helpful"
But his curiosity never kept him away for long – he would sneak back to help whenever he saw the opportunity, usually small jobs, learning quickly that “what’s good to eat is good to make wine.” It’s a simple rule that’s often grasped faster by children than by winemakers! His family sold the grapes grown to cooperative wineries, which is common in the region, so the foreshadowing of his career began and ended with that one quip. Mirko never considered that he’d end up working with the family vineyard, let alone establish their winery or create and grow their brand San Cassiano. He wanted to be a lawyer.
It’s All About the Mistakes
When he went to university to study law, Mirko had dreams of leaving their small town and becoming part of the future. He’d watched the region of Veneto mature as he did –small villages rapidly transforming from sleepy agricultural land into centers of industry. It seemed like leaving the wine world behind was a step in the right direction...one that he took with determination and regretted almost immediately.
Being the humble man he is, when asked why he stepped away from law, he says “I realized I was not so clever.” Really, he missed being among the vines and craved the life of a winemaker.
"I love living [in Mezzane di Sotto], a quiet place to work in open air. Every day there is something different to do."
He quickly reapplied himself to wine – this time taking it seriously. He enrolled at the University of Verona to study Enology. He only took a few classes before realizing that experience was the best teacher, and that he would miss an opportunity to hone his skills and learn the particularities of their vineyards every year he was away. He moved back to the family vineyard in 2002, and he and his father Gino started making their own wines that year, keeping a portion of the fruit that would have been sold to cooperatives. While they were well-versed in growing grapes, the first two vintages of winemaking were a humbling experience. They were not deterred, and instead named their brand for a monastery that showed great perseverance and brought on a consultant winemaker.
"It's all about the mistakes! If I made the wine perfect the first time, it would be no fun and there would be no learning. Over 20 years later, I am more than confident in my abilities and would put my name on the label."
The Real Future
Mirko paid close attention to winemaking, learning everything he could about the intricacies of fermentation from their consultant and neighbors. The Valpolicella region has a traditional winemaking technique – called appassimento – that is used to dry out grapes for Ripasso and Amarone production, concentrating the sugars and flavors. While letting himself be the student, Mirko gained a deep appreciation for this painstaking process, which he says gives the wines “a strange balance between power and elegance,” and began to see the importance of preserving the tradition of the region. While he had previously been enamored by the industrialization and modernization of Veneto, he was now afraid that the region’s traditions would be lost in a sea of “progress.” He became more invested in improving the quality of their wines so he could use them to spread the word about their unique region.
To Mirko, stepping into the future looks an awful lot like traveling into the past. He’s reevaluated their farming and winemaking techniques, trading some modern “improvements” for more traditional methods – all in the name of wine!
How Naked Helps
Mirko first heard of Naked Wines through his longtime friend, and now fellow Naked winemaker, Stefano di Blasi. When he introduced himself, his timing could not have been better. We had recently polled Angels and asked if they’d like to see a Ripasso, and received a resounding yes! Paired with another poll that made it known Angels wanted wines from Italy, the signs couldn’t have been clearer when we tasted Mirko’s wines and heard his passion for his craft.
He knows that Naked Wines gives him the unique opportunity to introduce Angels to the traditional versions of Ripasso and Amarone, and by talking directly with his Angels he can share his love for the Valpolicella region the only way he knows how – humbly.
"I can't say my wines are better than other producers, I can say I always try to do my best and I put my face on my production. There is always something to learn and to improve."