Pacina

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Certain wines feel timeless, elemental. They cut through the ephemera of technology, fashion, ideology, and marketing, and hit the taster right in the gut. Such experiences are precious, and increasingly rare, so it is with immense gratitude that we introduce our newest partner in Tuscany: Pācina. Giovanna and Stefano’s wines are neither tethered to rigid traditionalism nor adrift in nebulous experimentation; they feel like a natural fact—as if they could be no other way than how they are. Threading that wisp of a needle requires a near-subliminal rightness of engagement with one’s land, tradition, methodology, and vision, and Giovanna and Stefano pull it off seemingly effortlessly.

It also requires a great deal of practice, and indeed Giovanna and Stefano, today with the full-time help of their children Maria and Carlo, have been at it for quite some time. Giovanna’s great-grandfather purchased the property over a century ago, and she and Stefano have helmed operations for 30 years now, fully embracing and refining the rigorously holistic sustainability Giovanna’s mother Lucia and father Enzo—a founding member of the Legambiente (“League for the Environment”) association, Italy’s foremost environmentalist group—began implementing in the 1970s. Situated on the border of Castelnuovo Berardenga in the Chianto Classico zone and the Colli Senesi, the property traces its origins to the 10th century, when it was a monastery devoted to viticulture and agriculture, and the name itself nods to an even more ancient culture: the Etruscans, that mysterious civilization that bridged the Iron Age and the Roman era, covering a vast swath of central Italy at its apex of influence. Pācina was the Etruscan god of wine; the Romans who followed them altered the name and called him Bacchus.

Indeed, walking along the ridge which bisects their vineyards like a spinal column, it is easy to inhabit the ancients’ conception of Pācina as a holy place, so unmarked are these sensuously rolling hills by obvious signs of modern life. In true polycultural fashion, only 11 of the estate’s 65 hectares are planted to vines; the rest comprise olive trees, various crops such as chickpeas and spelt, uncultivated fields, and unadulterated woodlands. Vines are tended without any chemical interference, and Giovanna and Stefano use exclusively massal selection for new plantings, which are done vine by vine rather than in large swaths. There is, of course, plenty of Sangiovese; there is also Ciliegiolo, Canaiolo, Trebbiano, Malvasia di Chianti, and a touch of Syrah. Vegetation is allowed to freely flourish everywhere on the property.

Nothing that takes place in the labyrinthine subterranean cellar, itself a relic of the original monastery, is done by formula. Giovanna and Stefano allow their fermentations to proceed naturally and at their own pace, with no temperature stabilization; sulfur—the only potential addition to the wines—is administered as needed and often not at all; and bottling takes place according to the evolution of each individual wine rather than to the time-sensitive pressures of the marketplace. (If such an approach reminds you of our friend Nicoletta Bocca of San Fereolo, that is no accident, as Giovanna and Stefano helped Nicoletta find her footing during her earliest forays; and, in another uncanny RWM connection, it was Giovanna’s mother Lucia who designed the iconic label for Le Boncie’s “Le Trame”!) The barrels, placed irregularly in the cellar’s narrow and uneven passageways, are very old, as are the weathered but well-maintained cement tanks in which all fermentations take place.

Pācina’s wines pulse with lifeforce. The combination of textural seamlessness, elegance of fruit, depth of concentration, and soaring energy reminds one of Bordeaux’s Le Puy, actually—a similarly singular polycultural enterprise with a similarly uncompromising operational philosophy—but the wines themselves bellow their place of origin. With hair-raising immediacy do they evoke the robust qualities of Castelnuovo Berardenga at its finest, yet without the imposing architecture of more overtly classical sources of Chianti. Furthermore, and importantly, they are remarkably digestible and delicious, but profoundly rather than gulpably so. Tasting wines such as Pācina’s, one wonders why Tuscany ever caught the modern bug in the first place. It is no exaggeration to assert that Pācina embodies much of what is meaningful, beautiful, and eternal in the world of wine, and we are extremely fortunate to welcome them into our family of growers.

2014 “Pācina” Toscana Rosso: Comprising the bulk of their production, Giovanna and Stefano’s “Pācina” Rosso was first produced in 1987, and it has long eschewed the Chianti Colli Senesi designation to which it would hypothetically be entitled. Vines range from 10 to 40 years of age, and are planted in the classic porous “tufo di Siena” limestone of the zone, amounting to a final blend of 95% Sangiovese with 5% Ciliegiolo and Canaiolo. Alcoholic and malolactic fermentation take place in large cement tanks with no interference, and the wine spends three years in a combination of large Slavonian casks, old 500-liter barrels, and cement, with no fining or filtering before bottling and a maximum of 20 milligrams per liter of sulfur added during the aging. Dark, boisterous fruit combines seamlessly with a soaring acidity ever so slightly treble-boosted by immaculately tasteful volatility, and the tannins possess a scrumptious sizzle.

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