Building Bolgheri. Seven producers showcase the region’s diversity.
Wine Spectator – April, 2018
By Robert Camuto
Bolgheri is booming. Over the past 40 years, wine-loving dreamers, industrialist, globetrotting enologists and established Italian vintners looking to build on their portfolios have arrived in this emerging region in force, all wanting to leave their mark on a relatively new frontier in one of world’s oldest wine countries. Home to only a handful of wineries four decades ago, Bolgheri now counts more than 50 producers,
The hopefuls that have followed in the footsteps of the early pioneers were encouraged by the stunning results seen by landowning nobles such as Mario Incisa della Rocchetta and Pietro Antinori, who planted Bordeaux varieties in the sand and clay soils a few miles from the Tyrrhenian Sea and went on to make landmark bottlings.
The modern Bolgheri wine scene – like Bolgheri’s red, white and rosé wine themselves – is essentially a blend, with few hard rules and plenty of stylistic diversity. The newcomers have experimented with the area’s diverse terroirs and a broad mix of international and Italian grapes. Success had led to investment, which in turn has led to more experimentation and investment. And demand for the best wines continues to grow.
Owner Massimo Piccin
Winemaker Alessandro Nannelli
Consultant Carlo Ferrini
Annual production 7,500 cases
Vineyards 62 acres (includes 22 acres outside the appellation in neighboring Bibbona)
Grapes Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot
Massimo Piccin grew up near northeastern Italy’s Prosecco vineyards and the Adriatic Coast. At 30, he was unhappy working as an engineer in his family’s thriving construction company and convinced his father and a family friend to invest in wine.
“My goal was to make a wine. I didn’t care what wine,” says Piccin, now 50. “I found a place my first time in Bolgheri, and I said ‘I could live here.’”
In 1999, Piccin bought a farm and farmhouse on the central Bolgheri plain. He met Italian wine critic and journalist Luigi Veronelli (now deceased), who recommended highly regarded Tuscan wine consultant Carlo Ferrini for the project.
After studying the soils, Ferrini recommended planting a typical Bolgheri mix dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon for two red wines. From the first vintage in 2004, the estate has produced a chewy, concentrated and ageworthy red called Sapaio and a more approachable-when-young version called Volpolo.
From the start, Piccin and Ferrini shopped for additional land, and today have more than tripled the original estate vineyards to provide a more complex mix for their blends. They have replaced some Merlot with Petit Verdot, a key component of both estate wines.
In addition, Piccin bought and replanted 22 acres just north of the Bolgheri appellation, in neighboring Bibbona’s red clay soils. He has used the grapes for his flagship Sapaio, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, which he began labelling as Toscana IGT with the 2015 vintage.
“There is a big difference in our vineyards,” says Piccin, who has converted the estate to organics. “The Bibbona soils give more structure and the Bolgheri soils more elegance.”
Piccin and Ferrini and local winemaker Alessandro Nannelli worked out of a rented warehouse space for 10 years. In the 2015 vintage, they moved into a purchased warehouse in a small industrial park. They ferment on natural yeasts and blend grapes from 25 different parcels in the two wines.
“I don’t have a favourite varietal or vineyard, because things really change from vintage to vintage,” Piccin says. “I have thought about making a single-varietal wine, but in the end the best expression of our vineyards is the blend”