Recently, we were thrilled to welcome Giovanna Tiezzi and Stefano Borsa to our shop. Giovanna and Stefano are the dedicated growers behind Pacina wine and they stopped by our Cambridge shop on a rare visit to the United States to taste out their ’07 Chianti Colli Senesi and speak to folks about what distinguishes them from other viticoltori in their region.
Where is Pacina?
Located about twenty-five minutes east of Siena in the Chianti district of Colli Senesi, Pacina is an old convent, dating to circa 900AD. The land where the convent is located is rich in wine history insofar as Pāca was the Etruscan god of the grape harvest, the equivalent of the Roman god, Bacchus, or the Greek god, Dionysius. For centuries, wine has been made in this region.
Flash forward to 2011: Pacina serves as a home to Giovanna Tiezzi and Stefano Borsa, along with their children, Maria and Carlo. Giovanna took over the estate that was bought by her great-grandparents. Today, she and Stefano cultivate a wide range of produce – from cereals, to fruit, to vegetables, to extra virgin olive oil. Giovanna and Stefano are, however, probably best known for their wine. As with everything they produce, it is organic.
Where is the Chianti region?
The Chianti region in Italy encompasses a large part of Tuscany and includes the major cities of Florence and Siena – think too of the leaning tower of Pisa, of Michelangelo’s David and Brunelleschi’s dome. The whole Chianti region has been awarded Denominazione di origine controllata (DOCG) status and is divided into eight districts. The district known as “Chianti Classico” is considered by many to be the true heart of Chianti country. Pacina is situated just 100 meters southeast of the Chianti Classico border, within the Colli Senesi district.
What distinguishes different Chiantis*?
In addition to the varying terroir of the Chianti regions, aging is a distinguishing factor. In order to receive the “Riserva” designation, wines must be aged for a minimum of two years. Whether or not the wines are blended is also something to consider. Top Chiantis (like Pacina) are usually made with almost 100% Sangiovese, a grape with a medium to high level of acidity. Some producers, however, will blend up to 20% of the wine, using local grapes such as Cannaiolo, Malvasia Nera, Ciliegiolo, and international varietals such as Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Chiantis may be designated by the name of the district they are from or, if the grapes are a blend from different districts, simply as “Chianti.” Good Chiantis age well and are considered to be ideal food wines – dry but with fruity flavor profiles. Often they benefit from being aged five to eight years but good vintages can go for more than 10 years in the cellar.
What distinguishes Pacina Chianti?
If you are familiar with our wine philosophy, you will know how important natural, traditional farming is to us. In general, we have found that those winemakers who have a closer relationship to the land translate their terroir most authentically. Giovanna and Stefano are pioneers in their growing community, not only with respect to organic farming but also their commitment to tradition in both the vineyard and wine cellar. They strive to find an ecological balance on their estate, priding themselves on the biodiversity of their land – the abundance of various fruit and vegetables as well as the native grasses and herbs that populate their vineyards. They believe that the healthier the ecosystem, the better their wine will be and the more expressive of Pacina’s true terroir. They have never introduced chemicals, pesticides, or herbicides to the property and don’t ever intend to do so. Their vines intuitively plunge deep into the soils, extracting the minerals and nutrients that are present.
Pacina’s Chianti Colli Senesi is very much an example of how Chianti used to taste before the introduction of technology in the wine cellar. They choose to ferment using the ambient yeasts that naturally inhabit the skins of their fruit and refuse temperature control during fermentation, trusting the natural process to get the job done. Vintage to vintage variation is thus inevitable and welcomed, allowing their wine to show the true imprint of the region’s climate and soil. In addition, Giovanna and Stefano conduct lengthy and patient macerations that exceed many of those conducted by other growers. As a result, their Chianti drinks much like a Brunello and can age for much longer than most wines from their peers – even beyond 25 years for a good vintage!
Pacina’s wine will be available for sale in early August, 2011 and we are currently taking pre-orders from customers that would like to reserve some of the limited supply in advance.
*Please note that it is very difficult to generalize about a growing region and, in this section, we merely attempt a brief orientation that should be considered a starting point for further research. At the shop, our knowledge of a region begins through the lens of the producer, especially through visiting, and then expands through tasting and travel.
Gemma Iannoni is the wine buyer and a cheesemonger at Formaggio Kitchen Cambridge.