Driving along Tuscany's country roads, you might miss it if you didn't know it was there. The indie winery known as Pácina is like something out of a movie - a true hidden Chianti gem. Located a literal stones throw outside the designated geographic region known as Chianti. The property was first built as a convent around 900AD, and doing a Chianti wine tour of the estate is some of the most fun a food, wine - or history - lover can have. The wine they produce outside the Chianti designation is therefore known as Chianti Colli Senesi - or the other Chianti. But one taste of their elegant wines proves it's not always about the being popular name on the block.
A Chianti Wine Tour at Pácina
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.
Chianti vs. Chianti Colli Senesi
The town of Castelnuovo Berardenga 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.
As we walked, Giovanna explained their philosophy - be as noninvasive as possible to ensure sustainability. Simple. Natural.
Organic Winemaking at Pácina
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 - the soil. The unique microclimate of this region in Chianti nourishes the soil and vines that produce such enchanting wines. Unlike the unique Vernaccia grapes of San Gimignano that grow in the dry sea bed of the Crete Senesi lending a complementary mineral taste to their white wine, the soil in Chianti caresses the local Sangiovese grapes into soft, earthy red wine. The organic Chianti Colli Senesi wines at Pácina were elegant, smooth yet full of flavor. They were wines fit for special occasions but equally at home on your everyday table. The Pácina 2010 Toscana IGT would be delicious with any light pasta dish or other hearty traditional Italian foods.
So 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 such a lovely day here, in a beautiful place with an inspiring philosophy, and one that truly moved us.
Want to Visit?
Are you a wine lover or foodie interested in the natural philosophy of organic winemaking? Or maybe you love tasting some of Italy's most regional foods and wines?
Meeting the local producers - of wine, cheese, wool, honey, handicrafts - and hearing their story is what slow travel Tuscany is all about. Arianna and Alessio of Km Zero Tours can help organize an authentic local travel experience in Tuscany that's curated to what interests you. Contact them through their website or email Arianna@KmZeroTours.com.