We’re introducing our next winemaker in the north of Chianti Classico from a tiny winery isolated in the hills run by a brother and sister team. Their father fought his parents to buy the land and they are fighting climate change to continue his legacy.
Watch the Video
Watch our interview with Francesca & Fabio of Solatione winery. Password: “TUSCANY” (all caps).
Meet Francesca & Fabio of Solatione Winery
Renato knew what he wanted even if nobody else agreed with him. His father advised him to buy an apartment in Florence – “you can always make money from that!” he said. But Renato had other ideas. He bought a vineyard in the north of Chianti Classico with the perfect exposure for growing Sangiovese and the great experiment began.
“Sole” means sun in Italian so the name Solatione is a tribute to the sun that floods the hillsides and brings life to the vines and therefore the wines. Sunlight = sugar = ripe grapes = powerful, flavourful wine which they balance with refinement in French oak barrels (more on the barrel battle next week).
When you approach Solatione in the car the scenery changes and the lush green trees at lower elevations give way to pines. The soil is rocky, giving a complex minerality and structured body to their wines.
All good things come with time
Fabio & Francesca are not interested in getting their wines in front of guests as soon as possible. As Francesca explains, “Our wines need time. We don’t want to put them on the market before they are ready.” This means that their Chianti Classico actually ages longer than some Chianti Classico Riservas. They aren’t just following the rules to get the label. They’re making their own because at the end of the day what matters is making great wine that will be remembered.
What a Fiasco!
“Fiasco” means flask in Italian and has come to refer to the specific old Chianti bottles in their little baskets. How it came to mean “a total and complete failure” is a little bit of a mystery but here’s what they thing on etymonline.com.
According to the Online Etymology Dictionary
“According to an Italian dictionary, fare il fiasco used to mean “to play a game so that the one that loses will pay the fiasco,” in other words, he will buy the next bottle (of wine). If the dates are not objectionable, that plausibly connects the literal sense of the word with the notion of “a costly mistake.”
Fighting Frost with Fire
A frost at the wrong time can cause serious damage to a vine. Frosts and snows come and go during the winter but in the spring when the plant begins to bud, a sudden cold wave can cause frost burn that means the bud won’t flower and it can still remain damaged the following year!
In the last few years weather patterns in Italy are a growing concern for winegrowers. An early spring with warm February and March weather means the plants start blooming early. Then the winter comeback damages the buds and harms the plants.
At Solatione this wasn’t a problem since they were so high up that it didn’t get as cold for them on the top of the hill. But they saw the fires in the valley below where winemakers in the lower and damper valleys were lighting fires to try to keep away the cold.
Many winemakers lost at least 30% of their crop with one frost in early April this year while Solatione and other higher elevation wineries were saved from the worst of the cold.
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What do these strange weather patterns mean? The climate is changing and that means winemaking practices are changing. The prime vineyards a few decades ago are starting to suffer with new weather changes and the less valued vineyards are stepping into their prime.