Written by Francesco Saverio Russo
Original text is published here and translated by Gillian Shaw
There are people in the wine industry who have been game changers, made a difference or even shifted the dynamics of entire regions. And they have done it with resolve and individuality. When the generation to follow these people comes along, they have three broad solutions to choose from. The first and perhaps the least attractive, is to lead the family business slavishly following tradition. The second is risky and potentially dramatic where they undertake a complete change of tack, breaking with past approaches. And the third, most complex option requires the deep
consideration of what has been done before and what is still to be done, where identities can blend to form a greater, more renowned personality. All with the aim of creating something new founded on the solid work that’s gone before.
I’ve included this opener to convey the feeling I got when I met Giacomo, Michele Satta’s son, yesterday. I saw a young man who is proud, respectful and keenly aware of his father’s journey and that of the vineyard. At the same time, this is a man who is not afraid of bringing his own thoughts and aspirations to bear on how the vines and vineyard are developed. Awareness and determination, with the humility of someone who wants to explore the ‘new’ while fully aware of the facts and always keeping in mind his own situation. Judging by the wines I have tasted – more details later – this is already a well-recognised vineyard for its quality and pioneering spirit. It shows signs of being able to evolve and appears to be ever more contemporary without the need to imitate or make compromises, use tacky theatrics or pointless flights of fancy. Talking with his father and his winemaker, Attilio Pagli, they have tasted pretty much everything to gain a greater understanding and develop their palates. These details are fundamental to building confidence and a clearer, more open vision of what they want and can achieve. A breath of fresh air for Bolgheri – in their approach and the results in the glass.
If you know what you want and you experiment with reasoned technical approaches with the aim of putting it all into the vines and winery, the result has the appearance of a technique. If you follow pseudo-philosophies or methods, everything becomes random and it leaves too much to chance, requiring any errors of judgement be dealt with through skilful communications.
I could talk to you about fantastic blends but not tell you anything new or of particular interest, given the renown these wines have had for years. What I’d rather do is to focus on two examples of native grapes, which have been made as a single grape variety for the first time at Bolgheri and by Michele Satta. In the making of these native varieties, I believe, Giacomo has expressed his skills to convey the terroir:
Costa di Giulia 2020 Bolgheri Bianco: This Vermentino has ‘costa’ in its name and its DNA, expressing the grape variety with its full-Mediterranean aromas. It has just the correct ripeness of fruit, highly refined floral notes and herbal hints that linger – fortunately – until those distinctive, elevated thiolic aromas. The body is fresh but not thin, with a strong character extending through its acidic, mineral core to round off with a saline finish.
Cavaliere Toscana IGT 2018: I have no hesitation in defining this Sangiovese produced by Bolgheri as ‘classico’, or traditional, in its interpretation. And its sensory expression is so incredibly rare. Bright, with fresh fruit flavours and full-bodied with no hint of over ripening. The body is full yet tonic, slender and with the right balance of tannins. The tannins are dense yet refined – a sign of great character. As deep and full of flavour as you need to revive you. Excellent development potential.
I had never seen Bolgheri as the best place to produce Sangiovese but two things are for sure. First, there was a time when Bolgheri cultivated more Sangiovese than they do today. It currently covers about 2% of the total vineyard. Second, Calvaliere is a Sangiovese that can rival any of the greats from the most renowned areas and those classified as more ‘classico’ for their native wine production, the symbol of Tuscan and Italian wine making. It just goes to show that Sangiovese can give outstanding results when grown in this region. As long as it is planted in the right location and with suitable exposure, managed with the right agronomic approach and with sensitive treatment in the winery.
To sum up, I can only apologise for not having visited Bolgheri before. This was not due to any preconceptions, but rather down to other priorities – research and the indulgence of my curiosity. And if I really think about it, the young people in this area have always generated a great deal of enjoyment as well as products and ideas to think – and even write about – with enthusiasm and conviction.
I will certainly be following Giacomo’s journey and that of his family’s vineyard over the coming years. What I have been fortunate enough to taste both from the tank and barrel promise too much to be missed off my future plans!