Why your next Italy vacation should include the organic wineries of Chianti
In the cellars of the Il Palagio di Panzano winery, 32 km south of Florence, Monia Piccini energetically climbs the ladders and tops of wine vats, stirring and wiping the wine with verve. Mother, winemaker, tour guide and agriturismo operator, she has been busy in recent years with her husband Franco, helping to transform Panzano in Chianti into a small organic production plant in the heart of the Chianti countryside.
Pioneers of organic Chianti wine
It is the union of winegrowers of the village, according to Piccini, which opened the ball. âThe Panzano in Chianti Winegrowers Association was the pioneer and many others decided to follow our example. Out of 19 winegrowers in the local group, around 80% of us are organic. Now this project will extend to the entire Chianti region.
To be considered organic, the winegrowers do not use any pesticides, fertilizers or chemical herbicides on the grapes. Winemaking relies on spontaneous fermentation provided by natural yeasts and bacteria, rather than commercial additives, while sulfites are kept to a minimum.
A real pocket of organic wineâorganic wine– and olive oil producers exist around the small community. You will find them scattered among the mosaic of cultures along the Strada del Vino e dell’Olio Chianti Classico. The drop here is a far cry from the industrial plonk of the 1970s raffia bottle, which many of us used as wax-dipped candle holders. âEven your typical Chianti Classico today is very different from 40 years ago when it was just one tavola wine“, says Piccini.
Ironically, her father was more into mass production, so she is devoted to her grandfather’s greenways. “Of course my no no was organic because that’s the only way they knew about back then … when you use chemicals you destroy the soil and the ecosystem. Me and Franco both believe very strongly in the future of this region through a return to the sources, to a simplicity of flavors and life.
Gallo Nero goes green
In its tours in the form of cooking classes, the aim is to promote local organic products: wines, cheeses, olive oil, even organic cosmetics. She has also been busy defending the biodiversity of her region in delegations at European level, to ensure that the Black Rooster, the emblematic gallo nero DOCG symbol Chianti Classico â is getting greener.
Their efforts have apparently paid off. In August, California Wine industry advisor said Chianti Classico wines “are more sustainable and environmentally friendly than ever”. 40% of the 17,290 acres (7,200 hectares) of vineyards in the region are now certified organic, thanks to âsignificant investments in innovative environmental practicesâ.
More than a third of Chianti winemakers adopt environmentally friendly methods
The story refers to a recent study by the Consorzio di Vino, which represents all the winemakers of the Chianti appellation. It showed that 30% of all fields invest in forest management, 41% in soil management, 27% in water management, 35% in recycling, 24% in energy use sustainable and 21% in the production of compost.
Organic is the future, according to a new report, which forecasts the global organic wine market to grow by more than 10% per year by 2024, fueled by the lifestyles of Millennials.
Along the road to Il Palagio di Panzano is another organic wine estate and agriturismo, Renzo Marinai, founded by a pioneer of organic wines. âWe are also planting old varieties of noble wheat between the vines and the olives,â Dutch manager Jan (Janmario Hero Reina) tells me. Therefore the azienda produces organic pasta as well as wine and olive oil, on a small property of only 12 hectares (30 acres).
“A place where wine can be listened to music,” announces a sign above the cellar door. In the basement, the biodynamic wines sitting in their oak barrels are linked to Mozart – and apparently the magnet – based on the taste of the bold ruby ââred wine I take with me.
Pure green and ruby ââred Chianti Classico
Chianti Classico is known for its medium to full bodied style and is typically made entirely from Sangiovese grapes. Il Palagio describes his gout as follows: âThe color is a slightly red ruby ââred, the scent is persistent and harmonious, enriched with elegant notes of oak and red fruits. The structure is medium, with balanced acidity and hints of well polished tannins, tasty and long lasting at the end.
These two vineyards are located on the microclimatic heights of Panzano, where the best wines come from. As an article in Forbes reported in 2014: âChianti Classico has improved beyond recognition over the past two decades, but its exceptional virtue is as vivid as everyday wines. On top of that, some exceptional, more complex wines are increasingly taking center stage, he noted. Il Palagio does both. From its basic Chianti Classico drop (priced at around $ 13 a bottle), to Il Palagio Reserva, ($ 27) and top shelf La Bambola Gran Selezione ($ 49).
Vineyards of Tomorrow: the rising stars of organic
Piccini says the field is still relatively unknown. With the climatic realities as they are, its notoriety will not fail to multiply. As the impact of climate change on the terroir is increasingly worrying, the future should be bright for these small family vineyards, with a deeply personal touch and a commitment to sustainable methods.