Meet Jack… Sommelier, Restauranteur, and winery co-founder.
Vigneti Tardis is an exciting new wine making project between Jack Lewens and Bruno di Conciliis (Viticoltori de Conciliis)
What was the spark that got you interested in wine?
I’ve been in restaurants since the mid-90s, so my whole adult life. Wine at a cultural level opened up to me in ’95 when I worked at the International Wine Challenge back when they held it in Chelsea Wharf. The revelation was there was this category we know as wine, that a lot of people care about, and this is an agricultural product with unlimited diversity. It was fascinating and a real discovery.I arrived at an advanced level when I got to the River Cafe in 2002, I then became their first head sommelier.
Wow that’s a pretty impressive start! What happened then?
I left in 2007 and went to Cilento (where I am now) and worked for the first time with Bruno at Viticoltori de Conciliis. We just clicked. I’ve been back every year since.
After working in Hong Kong and China for a couple of years, in 2010 I got back to London and was the buyer for Quo Vadis and Barrafina. In 2015, I opened my own restaurant, Ellory which I now co-own with Ed Thaw, but in a new location and now called Leroy in Shoreditch.
Ok so you’ve headed up the wine for some of London’s most famous restaurants, worked harvests with legendary producers and opened your own famous and successful restaurant… that’s not a bad CV already!
How did Vigneti Tardis come about?
In 2017 I managed to put together a proposal to Bruno to create Vigneti Tardis, backed by some of my mates in the restaurant biz. Ed (of course), Michael Sager [Sager & Wilde and Fare], Jackson Boxer [Brunswick House and St Leonard’s] and Stevie Parle [Rotorino, Craft London and Palatino].
Been a rocky old journey but we’re really hitting our stride now and I couldn’t be more grateful or proud.
What is the idea behind Vigneti Tardis?
To produce wines that are elegant and expressive. Native varieties, faithful and expressive of the fruit and sometimes with more creative methods like with the Martedì wine in particular which is macerated only for or days and then we ferment only the free-run juice. This means no pressed fruit and very low extraction, so the tannins are juicy rather than dry or astringent. The wine is very Aglianico but without the astringent tannins. No carbo or anything like that.
What philosophies do you follow surrounding farming?
Vineyards are Organic at the minimum; we buy a bit of organic fruit. The vineyards we farm are Organic in conversion and we use biodynamic treatments like 5003 and 5014 sprays. mustard seeds in winter for nitrogen fixing etc…. no green pruning or anything like that, we like to do as little as possible. We work rows with a tractor every other year to keep the soil as loose as possible.
And what about wine making?
Wine making is low intervention5. No addition [of sulphites] throughout the ferment and elevage6. We only control temperature for the whites if they get to about 20 degrees but its never normally a problem. Only a small sulphite addition at bottling. We use Inox7 and old unseasoned barrels8 in 225 & 500 litres.
What are the key grape varieties and why?
Aglianico, red. Fiano, white. Both varieties are amongst the oldest that are still in commercial production.
Where are your wines sold?
USA, Quebec, Ontario, Hong Kong, France, Sweden, Ireland, South Korea, Germany, UK.
What happens next for Vigneti Tardis?
We make our wine in Bruno’s family cantina. This has been wonderful, but its limited capacity means we need our own facility. We’ve identified an amazing building to convert and make our home, it will have a summer restaurant and some accommodation. There are 60 olive trees and a small terrace we can plant a couple of thousand vines of some ancient local varieties.
Also, we will be making our first white vermouth/aperitivo this year, made with our production of wine, brandy and local ingredients including Aleppo Pine resin (like the Greeks use), Rosemary, mandarin and lemon. Really excited about all of that.