When you plunge yourself into a rural, rustic territory in the heart of Tuscany, with its most quaint hamlets, its rolling hills and impressive cypresses, and furthermore you are in the company of fantastic, welcoming people that show you experiences you’ll never forget, it is so easy to fall in love and want to stay.
This is what happened to us last October, when we visited Poggio Bonelli.
We arrived one sunny day and Carlo, the vineyard manager, with Lorenzo, sales and marketing manager, were waiting for us in a white all-terrain vehicle called Defender. It was clear from the looks of this machine that these people are into enjoying this hilly zone and taking agriculture as a serious thing.
Poggio Bonelli has a centuries-long history that continues today. Located right in the heart of the DOCG area of Chianti Classico, the local winemaking tradition here dates back to the 16th century. At that time, the property was targeted by the most influential families of Siena and the surrounding cities. Spennali, Piccolomini, Landucci, and Croci were noble families that over the centuries had the chance to contribute to its development and to experience the Sangiovese grape in a very special place, where gentle hills and fertile soil together with a dry and warm climate make wines that represent the strength and authentic elegance of Tuscany.
We are ready to take off for a journey that still now makes me think of a roller coaster ride through a place that is able to protect and preserve, keeping and enhancing its beauty, and meeting a number of people along the way that all embodied this beautiful energy.
Carlo speeds up with his Defender and like a most gracious host, wants us to see everything in one afternoon… except that Poggio Bonelli consists of more than 810 total hectares! I tell him I’m afraid we will have to come back to explore it all, lucky us!
Of the total estate, 88 hectares are vineyards, cultivated with Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot varieties, trained on a spurred cordon or guyot, that find a beautiful expression in the clay terrain of Pliocene origin that is rich in sandy minerals and has a mainly south-southwestern exposure. The other roughly 700 hectares are also in harmony with the estate’s overall philosophy.
Carlo and Lorenzo talk about how important it is to believe and act in accordance with a sustainable lifestyle. This is why vineyards here are part of a bigger ecosystem, where lakes, forests, hundreds of trees, olive groves, oakwood, and different species of birds and animals all live together.
Carlo tells us that they cultivate soft and durum wheat, but this year they would love to experiment with a few old grains that are difficult to find, like Senatore Cappelli. Other fields are planted with alfalfa or clover. They believe that the more this is encouraged, the more genuine is the relationship between man and nature.
Poggio Bonelli is like a big hug that embraces all the fields and vineyards including two villas that were originally separate historical properties – Poggio Bonelli and Chigi Saracini – that now belong to the Monte dei Paschi di Siena, a regional and very historic bank. Lorenzo proudly shares this story and tells us that the two estates were consolidated and integrated at the beginning of this century.
While we talk, we pass through beautiful rows of Sangiovese vines, a massive oak forest, then to the top of a hill and with a quick acceleration, we feel like we’ve jumped into a sea of colorful birds flying away into the sunset light. Not sure it can be more romantic.
As we know, a great wine is made first in the vineyards, but let’s explore the cellar to see if here too we are dazzled with brilliance! And it is so. It begins as we go down to the lower level in the main villa and we feel the history and the elegant ethos of the previous families. In the main barrel room, a marble sculpture that presents Virgo and Wine guards the actual wine and its aging.
We start with the fresh and inviting Cretum Rosé; then the modern interpretation of Chianti and Chianti Classico where fruits, thyme and leather enrich the wine; followed by the intense, complex, full bodied ‘Poggiassai’, with its Cabernet and two years in French tonneau; and to conclude, the ‘Tramonto d’Oca’, made with 100% Petit Verdot.
As we sip on these incredible wines, we can see the farmhouse with its ten agriturismo apartments, and start to plan our return to this peaceful and regenerating view of Chianti. Everyone should jump into what this off the beaten track has to offer, relax on the patio with a bruschetta with their intense extra-virgin olive oil and try a glass of every wine.
Today was an enchanting voyage into the most generous heart, not only of Tuscany, but of its people.