Italian winemaker Piero Lanza prides himself on such things as having a deep understanding of Chianti Classico’s regional differences, on using organic practices to solve curly problems having to do with soil vitality – and having never worn a suit to work. Writer Jacqui Gibson catches up with the 50-year-old winemaker at his boutique vineyard, Fattoria Poggerino, to discuss life and work in the small Tuscan territory of Radda and the award-winning wines he produces.
As told to Jacqui Gibson
Q: Describe your family farm and how you came to Radda.
Our farm, Fattoria Poggerino, is a small organic winery in Radda, sitting at the heart of Tuscany’s Chianti Classico production zone. Poggo means ‘little hill’, and, so, yes, as you can see we live on a little hill. The farm is approximately 43 hectares of vineyards surrounded by a few old stone houses and a historic church that we rent out to guests over the summer months.
We mostly grow sangiovese grapes on the south-facing hills, as well as a little merlot on the western slopes. Before my family came to this farm, it was part of a much larger holding that belonged to an Italian Prince. By the 1970s, though, it had been divided among the descendant families. My family being one of them.
I didn’t come here until 1980s. At the time, my parents felt the farm was too much for them and wanted my sister, Benedetta, and me to take over. I was a city kid. I really didn’t know a thing about making wine, but I was keen to learn. And here we are. Today, I make the wine, while Benedetta runs the guest accommodation. She’s a wonderful host and cook. We have a handful of excellent staff. Together, we’re a pretty good team.
Q: You have approximately 12 hectares of vines in production. Describe your approach to winemaking?
Well, I take care of every step of the process from the wine production to the marketing – every winter I travel to market. I go to the United States, my best customers are there, and to elsewhere like South Africa and Australia. We run a small farm so that I can do it all without having to compromise on quality.
All our wines are produced from our own grapes. To an outsider, I probably look a bit fanatical. But, to me, this farm is my life. Every year my goal is to produce healthy grapes using organic, sometimes biodynamic, practices, focusing on getting the highest degree of concentration and ripeness possible from the grapes. That’s what I want my wine to be known for – wine that you can drink today and that ages well – but also wine with a distinctive, special character.Heading to Chianti Classico country this summer? Learn more about a wine tour in Radda with Piero Lanza of Fattoria Poggerino.Click To Tweet
Q: Describe Radda. What’s good about this region?
Radda is one of the four main villages within Tuscany’s original historic Chianti Classico boundary – so it’s here you’ll find some of the truest examples of Chianti Classico wine. Wine from here tends to be of a higher quality and made in smaller quantities than Chianti wine found anywhere else.
Radda, to me, is also a place that allows me to make unique wines. In a world that’s so globalised, people really want something unique. You can be a great winemaker, but without a great terroir it’s hard to make truly exceptional wine. It’s just one of those things. You either have it or you don’t. The wines we produce here in Radda have a richness and concentration of fruit, acidity and tannin that are all their own. I’m very proud of what we produce.
Q: You’ve been using organic practices at Poggerino for more than 15 years. Why?
To me, it’s about respecting the land we cultivate. It means doing what you can to stimulate and increase biodiversity, the soil richness and vitality, and to try an achieve a natural balance in the vineyard. It’s certainly not always the easiest choice of farming. But I’m not interested in chemicals.
At Poggerino, we don’t use any pesticides or herbicides. We avoid synthetic fungicides and use only mined sulphur and copper in small quantities. Instead of chemical fertilisers, we use composted, organic manure. Every year, we replenish the soil and control weeds by sowing the vineyard with a green manure mix. It’s about doing everything we can to produce grapes of the best possible quality and to make wine that best expresses the terroir.
Q: In 2014, your Chianti Classico Poggerino 2010 made it to Wine Spectator’s top 100 wines in the world, coming in at number 18.
Tell us what else you’re recommending this summer.
The Poggerino Rosato Aurora is the perfect wine for summer. It’s fresh, fruity with floral notes. You can drink it straight away or hold on to it and drink it over the next year or two. Again, it’s made from 100 percent Sangiovese, but 50 percent of the grapes are harvested in late August (a late green harvest), with the remaining 50 percent harvested in late September, early October as a saignée or same-day harvest.
But, look, I’d recommend coming out to the farm to stay or for lunch and a visit. We can talk about wine, or simply just sample some of Poggerino’s best wines. Then, I’ll leave you to listen to birdsong or take a swim in the pool. Poggerino is absolutely a great place for wine. But it’s also an ideal spot for total relaxation and a perfect escape from the city over a long, hot summer.Looking for a delicious #Italian summer wine? Why to put Poggerino's Rosato Aurora at the top of your list.Click To Tweet