The Daily Telegraph talks about Poggerino
A collision of old and new, Poggerino is a Tuscan force to be reckoned with
Talking to Tuscan winemakers always makes me think of the opening of “Burnt Norton”, the first of TS Eliot’s Four Quartets – the bit about all time being “eternally present” . The past lives here like it does nowhere else I know. In Bolgheri I was relayed gossip about the ancestors of one local winemaking family as if it had happened yesterday and not been recorded 700 years ago. In Montalcino, I was reminded the town was the last outpost of the Republic of Siena against the Medici (it fell in 1559). Talking now to Piero Lanza, the owner of Poggerino in Chianti, there is a familiar sense of the old and new coexisting in his work. That seems only appropriate. Chianti Classico is one of the oldest demarcated appellations in the world; its geographical limitations were set out 301 years ago in a decree issued by Cosimo III. (It is now a subset of the much larger “Chianti” denomination, along with Chianti Rufina and Chianti Colli senesi, among others). But while its sense of place and, perhaps, some character that comes from the people who make it has remained intact, the wine itself has changed over the centuries.
The present Poggerino, where Lanza makes his very pure and precise Chianti Classico, is a fragment of what was once a vast estate. The land was bought by Lanza’s grandfather in the Forties and originally ran 1000 hectares. After his death, it was divided between his four children. “My uncle had the castle, with the vineyards”, says Lanza. “But my uncle and his two sisters sold their shares to Zonin [Italy’s largest privately held wine company]. My mother kept hers. She had 43 hectares, with three big houses, but no vineyards. When Chianti Classico was as cheap as mineral water, my parents decided to invest in the land and planted the first five hectares of vineyards”. For the first few years the grapes were either sold to other wine producers or vilified and sold as tank wine. The first new Poggerino wine to be sold under its own name was made in 1980, and when he was 19 years old Lanza asked his father if he could have a go. “I was tired of studying. My father, who had been director of a bank, was tired of working”. So, after just a few months of university, Lanza moved into Poggerino. He had no idea how to make wine. He was, however, in love with the idea – so he opened the door and looked around. Poggerino is situated on the edge of Radda in Chianti. Very close by is Montevertine, an estate that in the Eighties was making very good wine, though outside the Chianti Classico regulations (that’s another story). Lanza went to ask for help. The winemaker said he was too busy but put him in touch with a friend, with whom Lanza ended up working for 10 years before he realized he needed to go solo. Lanza’s philosophy here is simply to go back to the land. Most of his wines are 100 per cent Sangiovese. He also farms a small amount of Merlot and uses it in a Toscana Rosso called Primamateria. He works organically. “I think it’s important because the land is mine on a piece of paper but it will be someone else’s in the future”. I ask if it’s true that he knows the name of every single vine and he barely blinks. “Yeah, almost. Well, that’s my job. To work deep in the vineyards”. For a couple of decades in Chianti there was a fashion to rip all the traditional Slavonian casks and the concrete tanks out of wineries and put small French barrels and stainless steel in. Producers are now making back the other way, and Lanza has gone a step further and bought one of the concrete eggs made by Nomblot that are all the range in boutique wineries. This, too, is a new-old technique , in that the design is new but the idea is that the fermenting vessel leaves less of a mark on the wine. The label of the wine Lanza makes with it says it all in a single, elegant play. The picture is an egg, that most ancient of all symbols. The name is (N)Uovo. Nuovo means new. Uovo means egg. Unexpectedly, Lanza ended up buying an egg because of a research trip to Champagne. This makes me double take. Champagne? Yes; “if I don’t look at new ideas I get bored”. He tried the egg for rosé – no good. Than for his red – and liked it. “I would say it tastes more…it’s more….for the brain. There’s more of the taste of the wet galestro [schist] we have in the vineyard”. The purity of the Poggerino wines makes them very satisfying. If you want to try them, you can find them at Lea&Sandeman. Showing best at the moment is the Riserva Bugialla Poggerino 2013 (L28,95) – it’s a nice vintage. The year 2014 was very tricky in Chianti. It shows less in the wines from Poggerino than in most, however, so you could also look at Il Labirinto (L13,95). It’s a refreshing and early-drinking Sangiovese with a firm sense of place despite the name, and the fact that Lanza called it like that “because we had no idea where we were going with it”.
The Daily Telegraph – 11 March 2017