Not often does the entire spotlight here belong to a single producer. But then, not often does a single producer warrant the page space like Pacina, the multi-generational Tuscan estate with a history that dates all the way back to the tenth century. Now in the hands of Giovanna, her husband Stefano and their two kids, Carlo and Maria, the former monastery cum working farmstead is a paean to biodiversity, with 11 of the 65 hectares planted to vines. Olive groves are also a focal point for oil production, as are pulses and grains, and there’s wildlife and vegetation aplenty in amongst the fields and natural woodlands. 

Environmental stewardship has long been at the crux of the operation, with organic – and occasional biodynamic – practices in place since the early 1980s. Work in the ancient cellar is just as hands-off; there’s no temperature control to speak of, and only old barrels or concrete are used for maturation. If you can believe it, Giovanna’s mother bottled the estate’s first sulphur-free wine in 1987, and while most do not rely on any additions, very minuscule (10-20ppm) amounts are sometimes added at bottling. 

These are just about as “natural” as natural wine gets, yet what’ll strike you sip after sip, glass after glass, and bottle after bottle is just how structured and assertive they are. Rooted in tradition, but also unafraid to chart a course so different from their neighbours in the Chianti Classico zone. You’ll sense it straight way in the 2020 Donesco – a straight sangiovese from the winery’s youngest vineyards, at roughly 15 years old. It’s got the signature dried herbs/dried cherries/grunty tannin thing going on, but there’s freshness and chewiness, too, with jolts of cranberries, black plums and salumi-like sweetness throughout.
In a first for the family, ciliegiolo – a grape typically reserved for blending – got given single-variety status in 2020. Following a three-week maceration, the wine spent two weeks in a combo of cement and stainless steel, and emerged as racy as ever, velveteen in texture and steeped in black-fruit flavour, with a healthy lick of spice and a thwack of acidity. Another zag, the 2021 La Cerretina Bianco, sees a 50/50 blend of trebbiano and malvasia di Chianti given the skin-contact treatment for 10 days, which is something of a rarity around these parts. Scents of hay, dried wildflowers and bergamot tea give way to some serious chomp and density on the palate, all lifted by citrusy, saline tang. Cerebral, some might say.
The 2020 rosato is a total cracker, made from sangiovese that’s been bled off, aged in old oak and re-fermented on white grape skins. This is that deep, guttural, savoury style of rosé driven by a thrust of rose petals, salted cranberries, plums and baking spices, albeit with an umami twang and some muskiness woven through. Also somewhat experimental, and something of a rarity, is the 2019 Villa Pacina – a sangiovese from up to 40-year-old vines made only in select vintages and aged entirely in cement tank for two years. Like it dense, tense and tannic but without the often cloying influence of oak? You got it.
Finalmente, should you be pining for something more “quintessentially Tuscan”, then the 2016 Toscana Rosso is the one. As per regional custom, it’s 95% sangiovese with the remainder split between ciliegiolo and canaiolo, all aged in a combo of Slavonian casks, old barrels and cement. There’s dark-fruited freshness, sure, but really this is all about the core of earthier, gamier flavour and a see-saw of puckery acid and firm tannin. A future classic.
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