A visit to Podere Il Palazzino on a beautiful autumn day

The history

Podere Il Palazzino, owned by Alessandro and Andrea Sderci, is located in Monti in Chianti, 20 km northeast of Siena, in the southern part of Chianti near Gaiole. The estate is part of a network of farms and of country residences built or restored in the eighteenth century during the land reform enacted by Leopold Hapsburg-Lorraine, Grand Duke of Tuscany. This land reform had the aim of improving the living conditions of farmers. The homestead of “Il Palazzino” also had a small cellar, which was rare, as the grapes were usually brought to the main farm to be vinified.

The Sderci family became owners of the estate in the mid nineteenth century. But wine started being produced and sold more recently, at the beginning of the 1970s, when Alessandro and Andrea took over the management. The first vineyards were planted then, replacing the earlier system of interspersing grapevines with olive trees and planting crops on the aisles between the rows of trees and vines. As the original cellar wasn’t large enough, a new underground cellar was built in 1996 under the garden of the homestead.

 

A pleasant and interesting chat with Alessandro Sderci

“ Il Palazzino is an estate with a traditional style, but with an organic approach to viticulture. Also the wines are traditional with an organic approach. This traditional style is reflected in the flag wine, Chianti Classico Grosso Sanese, which started being made as a “supertuscan”, but that was then produced as a Chianti Classico. Our work is to make Chianti Classico.

We are in a transition phase that will result in handing over the management of the estate to the new generation: my son Edoardo, who is 27 years old, now works at Il Palazzino full time. Edoardo works in the vineyards and Valentina, my daughter, works in the office together with Claudia, the daughter of my brother Andrea.

Type of viticulture: We have been practicing natural viticulture for many years. We carried out trials for organic viticulture in 2008 and we forwarded the request to start the conversion phase in 2011. We never used weed-killers, we till the soil instead and we do not use systemic products.

We changed our philosophy: we are now oriented towards preventing vine diseases and pests and this is obtained through canopy management, soil management and grape yield management. With a proper canopy management, a healthy environment for the grapes is created by airing the clusters and by giving them the chance to get used to the sun (in order to avoid the damages caused by the strong sun in August which are quite frequent in this area). Cover crops are grown on every other aisle between the rows of vines. Specific plants are sown, mainly barley, oat and Trifolium Squarrosum Savi. Grape yield is controlled in various ways. In case the grape yield is too high, the larger clusters are dropped. We now control the size of the clusters also without dropping fruit (we eliminate the “wings” of the clusters etc.). In some vineyards, as an experiment, we do not spray sulphur and copper any more (although it is allowed by the regulations for organic viticulture) and we use a special mixture of seaweed, bee propolis and other natural compounds that increase the defenses of the vines which then become resistant to parasites and to diseases. Our aim is to find alternative ways of vineyard management. The above mentioned experiments have given good results.

Vinification: the alcoholic fermentation takes place in stainless steel vats. We tried to lower the use of SO2 to a minimum quantity and we do not add anything else to the wine. Only wild yeast is responsible for the alcoholic fermentation, we only use some additives in order to favour natural fermentation.

Ageing: the ageing in wood depends on the type of soil of the vineyards. The vineyards from which Chianti Classico Grosso Sanese and Chianti Classico La Pieve are made is clayey and skeletal (rich in marl and limestone). The drainage is consequently good and the vines do not suffer from hydric stress. The vineyards have a south exposure and stand on a plateau where the temperature is even and this favours a perfect ripening of the grapes. The limestone makes the wines extremely elegant. In order to enhance the character of the wines we are carrying out ageing trials for La Pieve and for Grosso Sanese. A preliminary ageing phase in barrique is followed by ageing in large Allier oak casks (of a capacity of 13-25 hectolitres). Therefore, the use of barriques is reduced to the first phase.

The soil of the vineyards from which Chianti Classico Argenina is made is volcanic and tuffaceous yielding aromatic and floral wines. The wine matures in large oak casks, so that it is not influenced by the notes of the wood, for 18 months. The casks are of Allier oak and are of a capacity of 25 hectolitres.

Bottling: we do not clarify the wine, but we let it clarify itself naturally. We have eliminated all types of filtering.

Vineyard extension: we completed the program to replant 15 hectares of vineyards this year. All the vineyards dating back to the 1970s have been totally replanted. The only varietal is Sangiovese except for Canaiolo Nero that was planted in a vineyard of Casina Girasole. We used disease resistant clones.

Edoardo would like to start making a product line with his own brand (where Edoardo Sderci appears on the label). He would like to make a less “traditional” IGT/proprietary organic Sangiovese wine, a fresh wine, fermented and aged in large oak casks (the wines of Il Palazzino, instead, are traditional and they are aged for a long time). Our oenologist is Luciano Bandini and our agronomist is Ruggero Mazzilli (who specialises in organic/sustainable viticulture).

The 2013 vintage: this is an extremely complex vintage due to the weather and because of the hard work that was necessary in order to prevent vine diseases. The springtime was rainy and cool till July. An extremely careful vineyard management was necessary to ensure a high quality of the grapes. The budding phase of the vines was late. The weather during August and September was not too warm so that the vines did not suffer neither from hydric stress nor from excessive heat. The plants were able to continue the ripening process without interruptions. We started picking at the beginning of October taking some risks. We totally deleafed the vines so to air the clusters in order to prevent the forming of mould. This made it possible to start the harvest later and to pick beautiful, flawless and perfect clusters…We are extremely satisfied with this harvest that really put our capability of being good vignerons to the test. The grapes had extraordinary aromatics and structure, as they ripened over an ideal period of time, and the polyphenolic ripening was perfect. The wines are well structured, they are powerful and with wonderful aromatics. 2013 is a great vintage…“

 

The wines of Podere Il Palazzino

 

Chianti Classico Grosso Sanese

Vineyard extension: 2 hectares

Varietal: 100% Sangiovese

Average production/year: 10,000 bottles

 

Chianti Classico Argenina

Vineyard extension: 3 hectares

Varietals: Sangiovese with a very small percentage of indigenous red berry varietals

Average production/year: 25,000 bottles

 

Chianti Classico La Pieve

Vineyard extension: 3 hectares

Varietals: 95% Sangiovese, 5% other indigenous red berry varietals

Average production/year: 15,000 bottles

 

Toscana IGT Rosso del Palazzino

Vineyard extension: 2 hectares

Varietals: 95% Sangiovese, 5% other indigenous red berry varietals

Average production/year: 13,000 bottles

 

Toscana IGT Stagi

Vineyard extension: 0.8 hectares

Varietal: 100% Colorino

Average production/year: 800 bottles

 

Toscana IGT Bertinga

Vineyard extension: 0.65 hectares

Varietals: 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Petit Verdot, 20% Merlot

Average production/year: 3,500 bottles

 

Vin Santo del Chianti

Vineyard extension: 0.65 hectares

Varietal: Malvasia Bianca, Malvasia Nera, Trebbiano

Average production/year: 3,000 half-bottles