A VISIT TO PaCINA X MMXviI
The hamlet of Pacina, just south of Siena, originated around 900AD as a monastery. The cellar and foundations from this time remain cold and dark beneath the main house.
Giovanna Tiezi and Stefano Borsa live among their vines throughout the year, growing not only grapes but olives, pulses and grains. Giovanna's family have lived and worked in Pacina for generations and the hamlet has always been a working farm. Stefano took the reigns of the the production in the early 1990s and has endeavoured to continue the spirit of biodiversity and harmony that is felt so intensely at Pacina.
They tend 15 hectares of farmland that run from their front door along the crest of the hill top, and which is surrounded by a woodland kept as a buffer between them and neighbouring agriculture. The vines are mainly Sangiovese, with smaller plots of Canaiolo, Cielegiolo, Trebbiano, Malvasia and Syrah. The terroir is sandstone, with veins of quartz and teeming with petrified sea life. Stefano works organically, and both he and Giovanna are dedicated to this approach in the vineyard and in the cellar.
Harvest had been completed a month or so before we arrived, and the 2016s were already going through malolactic fermentation when we tasted them. The upper level of the cellar is a small space filled with a variety of fermentation tanks, in which the wines remain until Stefano moves them into barrels deeper underground. We tasted through the wines in their various stages as Stefano spoke of the importance of patience and calm in the cellar. He opened a barrel of their Colli Senesi 2015 and the cellar was filled with the smell of reduction, but rather than seeing this as a problem, Stefano knows that with time this will right itself. He is the picture of the calm and experienced winemaker, and yet he is still brimming with energy and curiosity. This spirit is being continued by their children, Maria and Carlo, who have begun playing a larger part both in the vineyard and in the cellar.
We got to see the curiosity and creativity at work in a barn on the other side of the property. The upper floor is kept open to the air in the months after harvest, and it is here that they begin work on their passito. Only the finest grapes from their plots of Malvasia and Trebbiano are selected for this and Maria explained to us that they look for very particular bunches - they must be completely evenly ripe, and very spread out. The grapes are then placed on racks in the open air barn and left to dry for three months, before being pressed and fermented in very old small barrels. Every vintage is slightly different depending on the conditions, hence why they name the cuvée La Sopresa - The Suprise. In the drying room Stefano showed us experiments with a passito of their red Canaiolo grapes and a small barrel of cider that he admitted was just for fun.
Even though the grape harvest had finished before we visited there was still much happening on the farm. The olives were being picked and pressed, and we were very lucky to taste the olive oil straight from the press with most of the meals. It is with this in mind that we believe the family at Pacina have quite a different relationship to the land than many other winemakers. They seem to be farmers first and foremost, with winemaking being just one of the strings to their bow. Their connection to their land goes back generations and in seeing themselves as the guardians of this place their conversion to organics and sustainability came from wanting to show Pacina and its bounty in all its natural beauty.
Il Secondo 2014
Mostly Sangiovese with small quantities of Canaiolo, Cielegiolo and Trebbiano.
Toscana IGT 2012
Mostly Sangiovese with a small amount of Canaiolo and Cielegiolo.
Made in truly exceptional years. 100% Sangiovese with three years ageing in barrel.
La Sopresa 2010
Half Malvasia del Chianti and Trebbiano Toscano. Aged for five years in small chestnut barrels.
Olive Oil 500ml/5lt 2016
Bright and full bodied yet without a dominant green and vegetal flavour. A very special olive oil.