Founded in 1998, A Mano is owned and run by Mark Shannon and Elvezia ('Elvie') Sbalchiero, and is located in the Puglia region which makes up the heel of Italy's boot. A Mano means 'by hand', and this is a fitting name for a property at which the wines are made with painstaking craftsmanship and passion.
Mark - a Californian - had been working as a 'flying winemaker' when he met Elvie, a wine marketer from the Friuli region in north-east Italy, in 1997. Mark went to Davis University - the very place where it was discovered that California's zinfandel grape has the same DNA as Puglia's primitivo - and so it is fitting that he ended up making wine in this part of Italy.
Mark and Elvie had only intended to visit Puglia as a holiday in 1998, but when they landed, they fell head-over-heels in love with the vineyards, and the light and colour of the region. Mark had been making wine since the early 1980s, and his experience clearly paid off, because the first vintage of A Mano won a gold medal at the IWC (International Wine Challenge) in London.
The vines, which are between 70 and 100 years old, are within Puglia's 'golden triangle' of vineyards, and are planted on deep red alluvial soils that impart structure and complex character to the resultant wines. Mark and Elvie only grow native Italian grape varieties such as primitivo, greco and fiano, and cultivate all the vines by hand.
The winery is packed with the latest technology but Mark still tries to produce wines in a classic Puglian style. The aim is to respect the terroir of the region they hold so dear, and only to preserve the character the vineyard gives the grapes, and so Mark always ferments at cool temperatures to retain the grapes' natural fruitiness. Mark and Elvie drink their wine almost every day, and like to create wines at prices that will make them accessible to most people.
We buy A Mano's fiano-greco blend, which usually contains around 75% fiano, and around 15% of which are dried prior to fermentation in order to concentrate their aromatic character.