Pácina is a small estate that you could easily miss if you didn't know it was there. Located a stone's throw outside the designated geography known as Chianti, the property was first built as a convent around 900AD.
Giovanna, the matriarch of the estate and her family now own the property that's been in her family for six generations.
This area of Chianti is known for its wine and olive oil making, and here they use only organic methods of production to ensure the highest quality possible.
This was the first town to bottle Chianti Classico with the DOCG designation, which means the producers conform to strict regulations in order to make their wine. Ironically however, because of a political dispute about what towns could be part of the DOCG region of Chianti and carry the Chianti Classico black rooster label on their product, Pácina was drawn outside that arbitrary line. So today, while their neighboring property is located in Chianti, Pácina must call itself Chianti Colli Senesi.
We walked down a country lane complete with cypress trees and vineyards to both sides on this clear sunny day, and couldn’t help but be drawn into nature. These wines are completely organic, with vines that are tended without the use of chemicals.
Giovanna explained their philosophy as we walked - to be as noninvasive as possible to ensure sustainability.
Giovanna's daughter Marie translated for her mother as they spoke (with their hands) about the organic and natural philosophy of how they tend the vines.
I was surprised to hear her eastern Zen philosophy. I've always followed this same tennant in my life but never thought of how it might relate to producing something, like wine. We've seen the same philosophy in other countries, many with harsher environments that repeatedly teach you that Mother Nature will always reign supreme, so you should listen and learn while you have the chance.
In Peru, Mother Nature goes by the name Pachamama, which I found oddly similar to Pácina. You can see that wisdom is long engrained in Giovanna, much longer than her years, as if she's been producing wine in this very spot for centuries.
After the grapes are harvested and pressed, the juice and skins are pumped into decades old cement tanks. Then later, the juice is pumped into barrels that are stored for aging in the dark, damp and musty wine cellar built during the Etruscan times.
What an experience to wander through such an ancient cellar. Giovanna and her family still enjoy wines from her great-grandparents collection that sit slowly leaking on a rack in the cellar. The labels are long faded so you're never quite sure of what you're going to get, she said, but many of them are still drinkable.
Bottling first began in 1969 and the ’89-90 vintage has just come on the market. Try this wine If you can find it. You’ll be very glad you did.
There are some people you meet in this world with whom you feel an instant connection. Giovanna was one of those people. Perhaps the language barrier amplified it to some degree - without a common language there's less to get in the way, and communication is made on a different - deeper - level.
Chianti wine is famous for a reason. It's the soil, the microclimate, that nourish the vines that produce such enchanting wines. But remember the "other Chiantis" when you look to buy. Pácina's Chianti Colli Senesi wines may be tended by Giovanna and her family, but the real winemaker is Mother Nature.
We had a beautiful day here, in a beautiful place with a beautiful philosophy. We were truly moved.
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Are you a wine lover or foodie interested in the natural philosophy behind winemaking? Meeting the local producers - of wine, cheese, wool, honey, handicrafts - and hearing their story is what slow travel is all about.