Friday, July 13, 2012
Paolo di Marchi: The Philosopher-Peasant of Chianti Classico (Part 2)
Paolo started making his first 100% Sangiovese wines in 1977 and then produced his first Cepparello, a Super Tuscan, in 1980. By 1985, his Cepparello began to see success but that was also around the time that a terrible frost destroyed many of his olive trees. So, Paolo decided to keep the best olive trees but tear up the rest and replant that land with vineyards. It was also in 1985 that Paolo stopped making a Chianti Classico Riserva.
"Soil is the basement of the origin of wine" and Paolo prefers galestro soil for production of his Cepparello as he feels it is best for Sangiovese, a sentiment echoed by many in the Chianti Classico region. He has not yet created any single vineyard wines as he still feels, even after 36 vintages, that it is too early to decide what is worthy of such. He believes you can only create a single vineyard wine when you understand the perfect combination of soil, grape and climate. Terroir is important to him and he feels that "every vineyard has its fingerprints" though one must still fully understand the parameters of those vineyards.
In addition, Paolo believes that the soils turn his neighbors more into colleagues rather than competitors, as they should work together to protect the soil from erosion, to protect its integrity. They have a mutual interest in the protection of the soil so should unite their efforts. But, everyone is still free to compete later once the wines are in the bottle.
As wine makers must work with nature, Paolo stated that there is always the risk of a poor vintage. One of the ways to handle that risk is to properly handle your stock, which is the potential of your sales. That requires a long term view. He also noted that climate change has been significantly affecting his vineyards, and that milder winters are more destructive to vineyards than a hotter summer.
I recently discussed some of the changes coming to the Chianti Classico DOCG, such as the creation of a new qualitative pyramid. As I noted, there were a minority of members of the Consorzio del Vino Chianti Classico who opposed the new changes and Paolo was in that minority. Probably his main difference of opinion is that he believes the DOCG should direct its efforts more toward wines of origin rather than merely certification. He sees wines of origin, wines of terroir, as the future of Chianti Classico rather than simply elevating some wines above Chianti Classico in a qualitative pyramid.
We ended our visit with a tasting of the wines of Isole e Olena, including multiple vintages of the Chianti Classico and Cepparello. Paolo stated "I love Chianti wines" and "sometimes feel the forest in these wines." He believes that young Chianti Classico is a great table wine to accompany food and that it is vital that pairing is not lost. Paolo's Chianti Classico tends to be on the lighter side, in a more traditional style, and I find plenty of complexity within its depths. I have previously reviewed his Chianti Classico and won't repeat much of it here, though I will state they are excellent wines and should be on your radar.