THE PIZZINI STORY
By John Salvi
The story of Pizzini is a microcosm of the story and culture of Italy
with its ups and its downs, its grand moments of history and its times
of distress and misfortune. It is always invigorating to read (and to
write) the story of a new and important company that has risen rapidly
to fame and importance through dynamic and skilful management and far-sighted
business intelligence. However it is infinitely more absorbing to read
about a company rooted in a history that goes back for one thousand years
and which today still operates out of centuries old buildings, which have
seen momentous occasions and great events in Italian history. Such a company
We cannot pretend that Pizzini was a Roman Emperor; indeed he was not
even an Italian!
We can look back almost as far as we wish for the origins of wine in Franciacorta.
Some say that the Etruscans brought it with them in the 5th century BC.
Prehistoric seeds have been found in the peat bog here. What we know for
sure is that it was already well established during the Gallic–Celtic
period and therefore of course before the Romans arrived. These Romans
thought very highly of it indeed. RETIC WINE was praised by Varro, Pliny,
Virgil and Suetonius (the Retic Pre-alps included Franciacorta). Intense
grape growing flourished during this and the following “late–ancient”
Maps from the Imperial Monasteries of San Salvatore/Santa Giulia (pre1000AD)
and the Cluniac monasteries (1100s) show a focus on “Pecie Terre Vineate”–
plots planted with vines, “Vinum” – wine and even “Vinum Nostranum” –
our wine. “Uvis Sclavis” and “Uvis Folatis” – pressed grapes and “Vindemian”
Here we can already trace the roots of Pizzini, as long ago as the 8th
Century, when the Imperial Nunnery of the above San Salvatore/Santa Giulia
di Brescia became the tithe–holders of the piece of land named “Curte
Temoninas” – today Timoline. At this period in history it happened frequently
that Royalty donated land cultivated under the Romans and subsequently
abandoned, to monasteries that deforested it, cleared it, tilled it and
again rendered it fruitful. This was the case with “Curte Temoninas” on
3rd March 766. Adelchi, Prince of Lombardy, made his sister, who was the
Abbess of San Salvatore/Santa Giulia, a gift of “Curte Temoninas”, in
a dilapidated condition.
An amazing 10th Century document, “Il Politico di Santa Giulia”, which
registered each and every feudal property, shows that “Temoninas” had
60 pio (an ancient measure) of arable land and 12–15 pio of vines giving
60 amphora of wine (1560 litres). Nothing could be more precise or more
unambiguous! A church was built soon afterwards whose existence is documented
in 1132, dedicated, hardly surprisingly, to Santa Giulia. This ancient
church is part of the Pizzini establishment today. Franca Curta began
to fill up with forts, abbeys, chapels and hamlets.
From 1100 onwards the Cluny Monasteries showed strong hegemonic influences
and great autonomy in the face of the power of their local communes. The
Cluny monastic order, being of French origin, this is possibly the explanation
for “Franca Curta” (Franciacorta), mentioned for the first time in print
in 1277 and which some historians take to mean “little France”.
A wonderful little church, which shows every period of history, step by
step, from Roman times, San Pietro in Lamosa Provaglio d’Iseo, can be
visited without an appointment and a local historian will recount all
the above history and much more in the most fascinating and entertaining
Later, in the early Centuries of the Second Millennium, came expansion
of the vineyards by Monastic and Ecclesiastic bodies, who made contracts
with the peasants working their land, whereby their rent and their tithes
(bondage–ties) were reduced, provided that they planted it with vines.
Nobility and authorities then did the same. Hill slopes were terraced
for vines by clearing and using all the stones. The vines were planted
in orderly rows (ad filonas), or supported by trees, or with branches
tied to festoons or pergolas.
At the end of the 16th and the beginning of the 17th Centuries the noble
family of Lana de’ Terzi, from Brescia, who may well have been here since
the 11th century, and who possessed villas all over Franciacorta, started
to build an austere, solid and imposing edifice backing onto the Santa
Giulia church. Today this is the north wing of the present Pizzini company
headquarters. Other members of the same family built other villas, also
around Franciacorta. Father Francesco Lana de’ Terzi (1631 – 1687) was
a scientist. He wrote about flying ships and was a sort of precursor to
Jules Verne. He also studied how to teach the blind.
This was a time when trade was suffering in Italy, noble families were
undergoing economic setbacks and many were investing in land and turning
to agriculture. An author of the time said, “Franciacorta is salubrious
and productive and always filled with nobility”. Here on the ancient “Curte
Temoninas” Count Lana de’ Terzi farmed “100 Pios of land”. In 1661 Rossi
wrote, “Their greatest income was provided by their vines. The estate
was reorganised to provide all the requirements for a pleasant and gracious
lifestyle without having to draw upon the market – a splendid house, wine,
oil, grain and livestock”.
The Lana de’ Terzi family eventually faded and died out and the noble
family of Santi, from Brescia, replaced them. This is of prime and fundamental
importance to our story because it was eventually Floride Santi who married
Barone Giulio Pizzini in the early years of the 19th Century and brought
to him the property of “Curte Temoninas” as part of her dowry.
The noble Pizzini family were landowners and silk merchants from Rovereto
and Prague under the Austro–Hungarian Empire. In 1652 they had received
the “Nobility of the Holy Roman Empire” from the Emperor Frederic Third.
This gave the family the right to the name THURBERG. Then, in 1749, the
last remaining member of the immensely wealthy Piomarta family donated
all his money and possessions to Pizzini–Thurberg in return for having
his name added to theirs for eternity. In 1759, Emperor Franz the First
elevated Pizzini–Thurberg to “Baron”. He was now “Baron of the Holy Roman
Empire, Pizzini Piomarta Thurberg”– a noble title indeed! Franciacorta
was under this Austro–Hungarian Empire (Lombardy and Venice), having emerged
from centuries of Venetian rule and a brief spell of French domination.
It is certain that Baron Pizzini settled in Italy, Brescia, Franciacorta
and Timoline principally because of his marriage with Floride Santi. However
it was also due to his great skill in science, medicine, business, law
and public administration that the Austro–Hungarian Empire was happy to
have him there as their representative. Also it is possible that silk
had something to do with it. The family were silk merchants and Franciacorta
The author Gabriel Rosa had his priorities straight when he wrote, “Those
damned mulberry tree owners making silk should reduce their numbers as
they put the vines into the shade and break up the balance of meadow,
woodland and cultivated land”.
The Baron and his wife built a new villa at the corner of the old 16th
Century Lana villa. Now there were two villas and a church and, in order
to complete the quadrangle, Pizzini rebuilt an old series of solid buildings
on the fourth side, which included a large winery.
When, in 1870, the Baron officially founded the company of “Barone Pizzini”
it was merely the juridical consolidation of an already imposing and flourishing
family wine business. On the door of his office it read “1870. L’Amministrazione
Agricola Pizzini”. It is said that the main reason for founding the company
was that he wanted to see his name on the labels of his wine and wanted
everybody else to see it too.
His son, Edouardo, created the famous “horse rampant” of Ferrari. He was
an accomplished horseman and commander of the Cavalry School of Pinerolo,
where the famous avaiator and his great friend Baracca was an instructor.
A wit of the time said “Pizzini is the Ferrari of wine”!
For almost 130 years the Pizzini family ran their company and managed
their vineyards and became Italians and members of the Italian aristocracy.
Naturally there were good periods and bad periods. When they first arrived
“Bordo Magher” or “Bordeaux Magro” was at its peak. This was a sort of
copy of a Bordeaux wine, which was sold by the Francicorta nobles and
which was made from pure Cabernet Franc or Carmenere, which Italy originally
mistook for Cabernet. This was good! Later came the successive plagues
of oidium, perenospera and phylloxera, in the latter half of the 19th
Century. This was bad! Replanting on American rootstocks after each scourge
produced far too much wine and far too cheap prices. Bad again! The fascist
period later was also a bad one, not for political reasons, which do not
concern us here, but because they demanded corn to feed the troops and
vineyards had to be uprooted to supply it. Yet another bad period was
after the Second World War when many farmers left to become factory workers.
Overall there seems to have been more bad than good and one has to admire
the courage and tenacity of Pizzini and his fellow Franciacorta winegrowers.
THE LAST PIZZINI
No history would be complete without a brief tribute to the last Baron.
He still enjoyed both relative wealth and fame. It is said that he never
worked. In spite of this he was one of the first in Franciacorta to make
Sparkling Wine. The very first was produced in 1961 and the Baron’s company
started producing it in 1971. Again this Baron wanted to see his name
on the label of a “Champagne!”. He got it and top quality into the bargain.
He spent the latter years of his life mainly in Switzerland, since he
had taken to wife, in a second marriage, a lady who enjoyed Swiss nationality.
He is reputed to have been something of a “character” as well as an accomplished
lady–killer and many an entertaining, albeit somewhat ribald, story is
told about his passion for the fair sex. His great passions in life, not
necessarily in this order, were wine, women, old cars and golf. His brother
was a lawyer who kept him out of trouble! He built the first swimming
pool in the area and was inordinately proud of it but it did not seem
to him that enough people were enjoying its amenities. It was not convivial
enough! He conceived the brilliant idea of sending his Major–Domo to wait
outside the local church on Sundays and to invite young ladies to come
and bathe as they emerged from Mass! Senior Citizens, who worked for the
company in the Baron’s day, recall that there was one sure and certain
way of getting whatever they wanted when he was in residence. The trick
was to approach him together with a young and pretty girl. After the formalities
of greeting were accomplished, the request was duly made and the answer
inevitably came “Yes, yes of course, of course, do, do, but tell me who
is the delightful young lady with you?” In 1991 the Baron sold the company
and in 1993 he died in Switzerland. He left one son, who died before he
did, and one daughter, who was not interested in the business but who
lives in Geneva and still has a very beautiful villa just a few short
THE LATE PIZZINI ERA
The whole Pizzini period covered almost 200 years of history, during which
time wine making in Franciacorta rose and fell, but as we have seen the
Barons Pizzini always made wine and from 1870 had an official registered
wine company. The late Pizzini era covers the post war period.
We may have said that the last Baron never worked, but all the Barons
were intelligent and took a very active interest in their company. They
were nearly always in the forefront of developments and advances in viticulture
and vinification. After the Second World War there were few full–time
producers left in Franciacorta and those that remained continued to make
their wine by tried and trusted, traditional methods. After being a wine-producing
region for so many centuries the post-war identity of Franciacorta began
to fade as the industrial poles of Brescia and Milan turned it into a
commuter town. A number of citizens carried on making wine as a part time
occupation, whilst pursuing their careers in other fields. The extent
of this abandonment of the land can be seen by looking at the “registry
of producers” of the time. 6 declared white wine and 7 red wine in 1967.
By 1986 this was 205 for white wine and 100 for red! The Baron was one
of those who steadfastly remained and was the very first to make “fine
red wines in 1970, which were more elegant than powerful”. He firmly placed
the Hapsburg eagle on the labels and called them “Rosso Riserva Brolo
Zani” and “Brolo del Parco”!
The DOC system was developing rapidly. A few brave souls started to try
to make sparkling wine in Franciacorta with a view to obtaining a DOC
appellation. The very first tentative production was in 1961 and was called
“Pinot di Franciacorta”. Indeed Franciacorta was awarded DOC in 1967.
When asked in the year 2000 what had prompted them to try making Sparkling
wine at all in such an unlikely place, an elderly grower ingenuously replied,
“it was due to our ignorance. We were unaware that we could not, or rather
should not, produce this type of wine under these conditions”. Pizzini
was among the pioneers. In 1995 Franciacorta obtained the sought–after
and much prized DOCG, the first bottled “Methode Champenoise” (they are
not allowed to put that one the label) Sparkling Wine in Italy to be given
that honour. For the original DOC, in 1967, only 50 Hectares and 2500
quintals of grapes were declared. In 1971 Barone Pizzini went into fine
Sparkling Wine in a major way and rapidly became one of the largest and
most reputed producers – a position which has been reinforced over the
years and very much still holds today. By the time the 1997 DOCG was granted
225 companies had registered production of Sparkling Franciacorta with
1204 Hectares and 103,000 quintals (67,000 Hectolitres). It is this wine
for which Franciacorta is most famous throughout the world today.
We have always been led to believe that it was Dom Perignon who invented
or discovered Sparkling Wine in the region of Champagne. Could it be possible
that it was in fact Franciacorta? In 1570 a Brescian physician, Gerolamo
Conforti, wrote a book describing the “sparkling” character of Franciacorta
wines. He used the word “mordacissimo” or “highly biting” – the sensation
given by carbon–dioxide on the tongue and the “bubble effect”. The book,
“Libellus de vini mordaci” predates Dom Perignon’s creation by at least
100 years. Should we rethink our history? It might even have been the
Pizzini forerunner – Count Lana de’ Terzi!
The Baron, having no male heir to take over his company, decided to put
it up for rent in the late 1980s. As we have seen he was living principally
in Switzerland,the company was in disarray and its buildings were starting
to crumble. To the rescue came a group of young men “entrepreneurs with
different skills, clear ideas, high-minded ideals, lots of dreams, wills
of iron and no money”. They were not attracted by the idea of rental but
wanted to buy. They started negotiations with the Baron in 1989 and on
11th December 1991 they finalised the deal. They acquired the Company
of “Barone Pizzini” together with all the vineyards, the land, the cellars
and most of the buildings.
None of them were born yesterday and they knew what they wanted and where
they wanted to go. They all had a love of the land. They believed in a
modern company respecting traditions, ecology and terroir. They all had
faith in the correctness of biological agriculture for the future. One
of their leaders was Giovanni Pagnoni, who made the above statements.
Giovanni had nursed this dream patiently since 1979 and finally his dream
had come true. He was later elected President by his friends and co–investors
and threw himself into the reconstruction and reorganisation with all
his heart, soul and incredible energy.
Industrialists with unlimited capital had backed some of the great Cantine
of Franciacorta. Pizzini’s rebirth, on the other hand, was due principally
to the moral and mental force of these young men, whose ideals were matched
only by their professionalism. They created a company, which was not just
a shareholding, but was a company in which they invested without anxiety
and from which they took no dividends, but ploughed back 100% of dividends
and of profit (when it finally arrived!). They attributed shares to each
and every member of the staff. As they increased the capital they sold
further shares to employees at preferential prices. “People are what matters”.
They employed young men and women, whose first job it was, and acted as
a school or a training college. “Most colleges are purely technical,”
says Giovanni Pagnoni, “and this is bad for wine as wine is essentially
practical”. They encouraged competition among employees, with financial
bonuses for success. As they saw it the knowledge and experience, chained
together, of the men and women who worked for Pizzini, together with their
enthusiasm and hard work, formed the backbone and the prime patrimony
of the company and its hopes for the future. They adhered strictly to
their philosophy quoted below and did not try to grow alone, but by joining
with others in each of their ventures and by creating efficient and pragmatic
systems and operating chains. They constructed and consolidated a smoothly
functioning wine company with new organisational skills and methods. Between
1992 – 1996 they reorganised production, rebuilt the business, introduced
innovative agrarian principles and oenological practices, acquired modern
equipment, restructured the old cellars and tranferred all the wine to
them (these were the historic 16th century buildings).
Today, after 14 years, they have made the name of Pizzini known and respected
again throughout the world. The company has numerous ambitions, makes
fine products and enjoys a fine reputation and a healthy and prosperous
trade. Giovanni, known to his friends as “Nanni” has now been President
for over 10 years.
Pizzini today has great projects. They are described in detail below under
the four different regions and are momentous undertakings. By 2008 they
hope to have built a company with a value of ???????? and an equity of
?????. Today they sell 400,000 bottles per year and hope to achieve 500,000
by 2006. They intend to pursue their present political philosophy, which
is to “live and make the community live”. They intend to remain resolutely
“biological” in all that they do.
On the way these boys became men and indeed today some of them have passed
on. Nobility was now in moral values, in mental force, in integrity and
in quality – no longer in titles. Clarity, patience, effort, quality –
love, ambition, innovation, enterprise – high ideals indeed!
They find that Northern Italy is today highly industrialised and they
would like to bring agricultural values back to Franciacorta. They accept
that agricultural values have less monetary value than industrial values
but believe that the former, in the final analysis, are the true and eternal
PIZZINI’S LEADING LIGHTS
Undoubtedly Giovanni Pagnoni! He likes to keep his personal details, his
age and his whereabouts confidential, but we can reveal that he has two
children, Elena and Dario. He has one over–riding philosophy. “We do not
wish to conquer, we do not wish to rule, we do not wish to take over and
absorb, we look for partners in all that we do, we wish to work together,
unity gives us strength”. He describes the purchase of Pizzini as “a bubble
of air suspended in a precious glass of wine”. His philosophy is both
altruistic and philanthropic and is an outlook on life, which he does
not just preach, but practices day by day. The company of Barone Pizzini
has become a major part of his life and an undoubted passion. “Wine is
life,” he says.
Under his leadership the company has been totally transformed.
A friend describes Giovanni as “the nameless one”, part of the spirit
and lifeblood of Pizzini, jealously guarded by all. Sometimes obstinate,
sometimes bad tempered, sometimes a pain–in–the–neck, always affectionate,
always generous, always a friend – that is Nani”.
What a career he has had! For 25 years a consultant and advisor to small
and medium sized companies and today President of N&K, a business
consultant company. He has always run entrpreneurial companies side by
side with those of public services. At the end of the 1970s he was administrator
of a clothing company, then he made boats from Vetroresin, then he ran
an aluminium foundry! He is the founder of BEEWEEB, an internet technology
company in Rome. He both advises and administrates the local Cooperative
and serves on a number of local municipal bodies, specialising in tourism,
hospitality and sanitation. He has been , or still is, President of all
of them. He preaches chains of command and connecting networks. His recipe
is simple, “be strongly attached to your land and to your locality”. He
combines charm, kindness and perception and wears the whole lightly.
Silvano was born to a modest family in Erbusco, Brescia in 1967. His father’s
family had a small farm and produced wine, amongst other life–supporting
products. The farm was divided up between numerous members of the family,
leaving just enough for each one to build a house and have a vegetable
garden. Later the family moved but Silvano and his father stayed behind,
chiefly because the former had become engaged to a lovely local girl.
He attended hotel school and obtained his diploma in 1983. in 1984 he
worked in service at one of Italy’s finest restaurants, “Cassinetta di
Lugagnano”, followed by the “XVII Miglio”, another great restaurant. He
then did his military service in the Airforce. This completed he did a
“stage” in New York, at Restaurant San Domenico, as a “saucier”. Back
in Italy he returned to “XVII Miglio” in an executive capacity and in
1991 became President of CDA. In 1991 he also became one of the founders
of the new Barone Pizzini and joined the group full time. In 1993 he organised
the opening of Pizzini’s restaurant – Santa Giulia. One of his cousins
was to be a chef here later. As a trained hotelier he had always had a
great interest in wine and at Pizzini’s fine restaurant he was able to
do great things to the wine list. As chance would have it, the man in
charge of the wine production for the company met with a fatal car accident
a year or so later. Silvano was offered the job and jumped at the chance.
He attacked a steep learning curve with intense concentration. Once he
was sure of himself and felt that he had learned the essentials, he started
to implement changes.
Gradually Barone Pizzini went ecological and today is absolutely and determinedly
so. Silvano changed the methods of pruning the vines, of treatments in
the vineyards, of vinification and of maturing the bottled wines. The
quality improved accordingly. Today Silvano is self confident, efficient,
large and sociable. He is a sort of gentle giant who looks like an overgrown
schoolboy. He is a young man to be reckoned with! It is largely thanks
to him that the wines from Pizzini are of such undoubted excellence and
growing finer day by day. He is married to Emanuela Belotti, has one 3–year
old daughter, Dorina, and lives in Chiuduno.
THE FOUR PIZZINI PROJECTS
Pizzini has a GRAND PROJECT. Project METEORE (named after the old Greek
monasteries of Thessalonica, each separated by steep slopes but joined
together in study and research, each different but with the same principles).
Four separate vineyards in four separate regions of Italy – Barone Pizzini
in Franciacorta, I Poderi di Ghiaccioforte in Toscana, Tenuta del Barco
in Puglia and Pievalta in Marche. Four plans forming the one Master Project,
the GRAND PROJECT – METEORE. A five-year plan, it projects not only the
enlargement and improvement of all the vineyards and the planting of olive
groves in all four regions, but also the construction of a brand new winery
in each. Planning has been completed, architects plans have been drawn
up and building permits have been obtained. The nail and hammer is poised
Under the Presidency of Giovanni Pagnoni, most of the responsibility falls
upon the shoulders of the gentle giant, Silvano Brescianini, because he
is responsible for all the vineyards and their management and all the
wine making and the cellars. Those huge shoulders are capable, like Atlas,
of carrying the weight and that head, due to his height, is near enough
to heaven to hear the word! This is the future of Pizzini and the raison
d’être for the years to come. Their path is traced……
The Fattoria is beautifully situated almost on the shores of Lake Iseo,
on which is the largest Lake Island in Europe, Monte Isola, 24 miles square.
The inhabitants are reputed to be the most stubborn in Europe! It is also
right on the edge of a National fish and bird sanctuary, the peat bog
of Torbiere di Iseo (sometimes Torbiere di Sebino). Naturally both these
accidents of nature profoundly affect the local climatic conditions, as
to both warming and cooling, in the nearby vineyards and play an important
role in the quality of Pizzini’s wines. In fact various elements join
together here that are assembled nowhere else – soils from glacial erosion
of widely varying compositions giving the possibility of different viticultural
applications, a large body of water, a peat bog and alpine winds from
the north, all united to produce widely varying micro–climates, but all
still under the tremendous effect of the Alps just to the north.
Prehistoric artefacts and the first traces of human existence have been
found, as well as grape pips, dated by modern methods, from prehistoric
grapes. In 1616 was written, “The many sunny and attractive hills of Franciacurta
increase their appeal along the Riviera of Lake Iseo”.
The vineyards are scattered among those hills, nestling in lovely little
hollows and valleys. To visit them is to see an ordered mind at work.
Clarity, order and intent! Each and every parcel of vines has a large
signpost on which is clearly inscribed the name of the parcel, the number
of vines, the surface area and when planted. Pizzini – Boschette – 3750
vines – 1 Hectare – Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Pizzini – Roccolo – 12050
vines – Planted 1992 – 30% Pinot Noir, 70% Chardonnay (naturally this
latter supplies their finest Sparkling Franciacorta).
The soil in the higher vineyards is moraine deposit from ancient glaciers.
The climate is hot by day, with very fresh nights, giving excellent long
slow ripening. One of the parcels, Pian delle Vite, has been under vines
for hundreds of years and is a veritable sun–trap bowl in the surrounding
hills. The ancients clearly knew a good spot when they saw one and built
a tiny church right at the top to honour it. In this bowl there are 7
separate plots of vines covering a total of 4 Hectares, planted in 1999,
2000 and 2001. Today these produce Pizzini’s finest red wine – “San Carlo”,
Sebino Igt, 40–50% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Franc and 20–30% Cabernet Sauvignon.
In and around Franciacorta Pizzini owns a total of some 40 Hectares of
vines (35 at present in production) of which one-third produces Sparkling
Wine, one third Red Wine and one-third White Wine. Young Fausto Guerini,
a charming and passionate viticulturist, who has been with Pizzini for
6 years already, manages the whole. He is invaluable. Dottor Pier-Luigi
Donna is the consultant agronomist. They also use Paulo Caciorgna and,
since two years ago, they use the services of a brilliant consultant from
Champagne for their Sparkling Wine – Nicolas Secondé.
The 40 hectares are spread out over 4 communes – Adro, Corte Franca, Passirano
and Provaglio – but all are within a 10-kilometre radius of the Fattoria
in Corta Franca. The agronomist and Silvano feel that this spread gives
them a certain measure of insurance in case of hail, which is always a
possibility and worry so close to the Alps. Walls surround most of the
parcels. These parcels are called locally “brolo”, an old Venetian word
meaning, “enclosure”. Apparently, according to the ancients, the stone
walls give off heat at night and are useful in wet years with little sunshine!
This could be apocryphal!
Fausto has 2 men working with him and between them they tend the 35 Hectares.
The work is hard and the days are long but the men are both cheerful and
convivial. The totality is farmed organically, as in all the Pizzini vineyards
all over Italy, and no weed killer is used at all. Grass is allowed to
grow freely along and between the rows.
Pizzini has planted numerous grape varieties to make their wide range
of wines: Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Nero, Merlot, Cabernet
Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Nebbiolo and Barbera. Pruning varies according
to variety but is principally Single Guyot, Spur Cordon or Double Cordon.
Spacing between vines is considered best at 2metres X 0.8metres. The philosophy
is clear – less volume production, more intensely flavoured grapes and
therefore more intensely flavoured wine.
The higher slopes have soil, which is sand and pebbles, and, as we have
seen, moraine deposit. It is iron rich. The lower lying land is predominantly
clay. The oldest of the vines were replanted on the finest slopes immediately
after the 1991 acquisition.
These vineyards produce DOCG Franciacorta, Red and White, Terra di Franciacorta
DOC and IGT Sebino.
At present Pizzini is paying a great deal of attention to its Sparkling
Wine and sees an immense future for it. They have a full range but all
are made either from 100% Chardonnay or from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
They have already acquired a considerable reputation for these wines but
are not satisfied. They are convinced that they can do much better. To
this end they use a consultant from Champagne, Nicolas Secondé,
a young, serious and competent oenologist who has been explaining to them
the true philosophy of making fine sparkling wine. Together they are working
to transform the viticulture and the vinification to follow this philosophy.
A lot of work is being done on the grapes, on the Pressurage (which Nicolas
finds absolutely essential), on the Assemblage and on the Dégorgement
(1 gram of sugar can make a tremendous difference). Nicolas sees 2 vital
stages – the passage from vine to vat and the passage from vat to bottle.
The formal, and indeed costly, decision has to be taken to make PERSONALISED
quality wine and thus realise the full viticultural potential. The Pizzini
vineyards have this potential and Barone Pizzini has now taken the decision.
Results so far are highly encouraging.
After so much work over 13 years, more or less all that remains to be
done here is the GRAND PROJECT – the construction of a brand new, modern
and sizeable winery capable of assuring the future growth of Barone Pizzini.
It would seem to be the place and the moment to mention the development
of Sparkling wine since it was first made here in 1961 and granted DOCG
status in 1995. In 2004 no less than 4 million bottles were sold and soon
(2005) it is expected to touch 5 million.
The “Non Vintage” DOCG must have 18 months in bottle before being sold
and the “Vintage” 30 months. Pizzini’s cellars are full of quietly maturing
Scansano lies in the very south of Tuscany. It is an almost forgotten
area where, until very recently, life was extremely rural, very hard and
great poverty existed for many a long year. The region is still not rich
and there are too many poor for comfort, but “Agriturismo” and a number
of vineyard developments by great companies such as Antinori and Mazzei,
are helping to bring attention and a certain amount of prosperity to the
region, which is quite incredibly beautiful, wild and unspoilt. Pizzini
is playing its part. The hillside views of the peninsula of Argentario,
the Mediterranean and the Island of Giglio are breathtaking.
Barone Pizzini arrived here in a roundabout way. A lady who used to work
with Giovanni Pagnoni, during the days when he was running a cooperative
movement, accompanied him to Guatemala on a “hands across the ocean” mission.
She informed him that her sister, Bice, had just bought 10 ½ Hectares
of land in Scansano and intended to plant a vineyard there. He had been
looking for opportunities and he told her that he could be interested
in helping and perhaps forming a joint venture. He met with Bice, they
discussed, they agreed and they set up a joint company with the charming
name of “ Poderi di Ghiaccioforte” – ghiaccioforte means “strong ice”.
Ghiaccioforte was originally an Etruscan settlement of the 4th and 3rd
Centuries BC, which was only uncovered in 1970, duly excavated and then
filled in again. Today there is a museum in Scansano with all the many
wonderful artefacts that were dug up during the excavation.
Pizzini holds a majority shareholding of the joint venture but Bice and
her friend Rossano still own the vineyards. As detailed in the PHILOSOPHY
OF PIZZINI, this is the way that Pizzini and Pagnoni like to work – joint
ventures. A wonderfully bucolic character, Massimo, who formerly owned
the land and sold it to them, works the vineyard.
The land was bought and the vines were planted in 2001 as it was under
cereal during Massimo’s ownership. Pizzini also planted 7.5 Hectares a
mile away, in Pomontaccio, during 2004 and a further 6 Hectares are planned
for this year in Ghiaccioforte itself. All is organically farmed and this
is vitally important to Pizzini, who intend both to preserve lovingly
the Tuscan countryside and to abide by their unswerving intention to farm
The GRAND PROJECT is to build a winery to handle the production from at
least 30 Hectares. The architect’s plans have been drawn up and are as
magnificent as the winery will be beautiful, on top of a slope of one
of the vineyards, with 360° views over the surrounding countryside.
Until this is built and operational all the grapes from the three sites
are taken up to the Pizzini cellars in Franciacorta, in refrigerated transport,
to be fermented there. Olive groves are also planned, and eventually even
more vineyards, raising the total to 30 Hectares. The first oil from the
existing trees was made in 2004.
The vines comprise Sangiovese, Merlot and Alicante (Grenache). They are
planted 2.5metres by 0.80metres and pruned on the classical “Cordone Speronato”
system. The slopes are facing south–west and the beauty of the sites cannot
be sufficiently stressed. When all is completed this will be a major South
Tuscany Estate and Pizzini, together with their partner, intends ultimately
to build a guesthouse for customers and for visiting company members.
I fervently hope that I shall be invited to stay.
The region boasts much history. In 1615, Cosimo de Medici the Second acquired
the Commune of Scansano for 215 scudi. Thus the name of one of the wines.
The vines planted in 2001 produced a little ordinary wine in 2002, and
their first quality wine in 2003. Many Pizzini customers have been waiting
eagerly to make their judgement as to whether the quality is as fine as
is hoped for. Now that the 2003 has finally been released their hopes
have been confirmed. For my part, having tasted the wines in their infancy,
I am quite sure that they are. They go by the names of “215 Scudi P. di
Ghiaccioforte, Igt Toscana Rosso 2002 and “215 scudi P. di Ghiaccioforte,
Igt Maremma Toscana Rosso 2003. The former was 80% Sangiovese and 20%
Alicante whilst the latter was 90% Sangiovese.
TENUTA DEL BARCO – WINE FOR PASSION!
“Barco” here does not mean a boat or a ship as one might have thought,
but an enclosed square of land as we shall see.
One has the right to ask “how did a company like Pizzini from the north
come to discover vineyards so deep in the south of Italy”? The answer
is simple. They had a consultant oenologist who consulted for a number
of companies in the South of Italy – a famous consultant, Roberto Cipresso.
One day he happened to mention to them that he had just been in Puglia,
in the Salento region, and had seen the most wonderful property with perfect
soil, great exposure, breathtaking beauty and tremendous potential. As
he had been for Scansano, Giovanni was immediately interested and excited.
Pizzini, in the shape of Giovanni Pagnoni and Silvano Brescianini, came,
saw and were conquered. They tasted the wines made locally from the Negroamaro
grape and hesitated no longer. They entered into their usual partnership,
this time with Gregorio Perucci, and together they founded “Le Fabriche”.
Regrettably Gregorio pulled out just a few months later and left his part
to his sister Alessia, a particularly strong–minded and independent lady.
Equally unfortunately, Alessia wanted to remain small and Pizzini wanted
Le Fabriche to grow as rapidly as was commensurate with quality. A solution
had to be found. They had met with a gentleman by the name of Divella,
an industrialist and the second largest Pasta producer in the whole of
Italy, who owned important vineyards in Puglia. “Bring your vineyard with
you and join us” said Pizzini. “Yes,” replied Divella. Alessia went on
her way with her vineyards in 2003 and Pizzini and Divella went ahead
with their own joint venture and created a new company “Tenuta del Barco”
in March 2004.
Masseria (farm) Porvica is the home of the “Azienda Agrituristica Masseria
Porvica – the agriturismo/ hotel complex. There are 100 Hectares of pine
forest around the property and the vineyards and it runs right down to
the Ionian seafront, the Marina di Pulsano, across the famous wild sand–dunes
of the Salento Riviera. The sea is a greenish blue, crystal clear with
fine soft sandy beaches. It grows deep gradually, which is perfect for
children, families and bucket and spade holidays.
The old farmhouse, “Masseria Porvica”, mentioned above, dates from the
16th Century and has a rare and elegant Vaulted Tuff Ceiling. It is built
around a large courtyard and the ancient store–rooms and stables have
been elegantly transformed into charming bedrooms for the Agriturismo
guests. There are lots of horses for guests to ride, but today they are
housed elsewhere. The entire complex, apart from making very serious wine,
is a member of the “Charm and Relax” hotel group based in Parma. It boasts
an excellent restaurant serving fresh seafood and regional specialities,
6 bedrooms giving onto the courtyard and a number of cottages with sea
views. Nicola Donadio manages the vineyards and the Agriturismo complex.
Nicola’s mother, Maddalena Donadio–Elia, also lives on the farm. Her family
owned the estate for over 200 years. Her grandfather was a senator under
the king of Italy and her husband was a magistrate in Bologna. They had
two daughters. She lived with him in Bologna and had almost sold the estate
when Nicola arrived late on the scene, some 18 years after the daughters.
Today she lives in a charming portion of the agriturismo and tells wonderful
stories about the farm in her young and she chuckles “flighty” days. She
also tells of “la pieve che sorveglia e benedice i nostri gemogli” – “the
local church that watches over and blesses our progeny“. A wonderful old
There are 22 Hectares of vines at Tenuta del Barco. The very first Pizzini
wine was made from 100% Negroamaro in 2001 (still Le Fabriche). The Tenuta
del Barco wines are called “Pezza (meaning a plot of land similar to the
French Cru) delle Case, Tenuta del Barco, Igt Puglia” and “Masseria Porvica,
Tenuta del Barco, Igt Puglia”. They are made with Malvasia, Negroamaro,
Merlot and Sangiovese. Density of plantation is sparse because of the
fierce climate and systems of pruning with a great deal of shade–giving
foliage are encouraged – awning or espalier. The ladies who work in the
vineyards are rather frightening at first sight as they wear white cowls
that cover their heads and their faces, with slits for the eyes, nose
and mouth. They could be members of the Klu Klux Clan if they were not
so jolly, ribald, friendly and totally Southern Italian!
In 2002 (still Le Fabriche) Nicola took the grapes to the nearby cooperative
– the cooperative of Feudi di San Marzano – and brought back the wine,
or rather sent it up to Franciacorta. In 2003 the grapes of Tenuta de
Barco went straight to Franciacorta in refrigerated trucks. The 2003 is
an absolute winner and they made a special selection wine from 100% Sangiovese.
In 2004, they used the cooperative again as it has been entirely renovated
at great cost and now has the finest modern equipment and a first class
winemaker. Hopefully for 2005 they will have completed the GRAND PROJECT
– the brand new winery. Another of the Pizzini projects will have seen
the light of day.
One thing is certain. Whatever Pizzini does and wherever they do it they
have an eye for beauty.
In 2001, they were looking around for an autochthonous Italian grape with
which to work. This was a fixed idea with Giovanni and Silvano – to develop
a 100% Italian grape. The three great classics were of course Orvieto,
Soave and Verdicchio. Friends told them about a beautiful place in the
Marche, the home of Verdicchio, not far from Iesi and also not far from
the Adriatic Sea. They went to have a look at it in Spring 2001, and they
went again, and again….They found what they considered to be the ideal
location with fine soil, perfect exposition and once again great beauty.
In 2002 they bought 22 Hectares in one single vineyard. 95% of the vines
were Verdicchio and there were a few parcels of Malvasia. The vineyards
needed renovating and putting back into condition and therefore, in 2002,
they only made a very small quantity of wine from the best grapes and
sold all the rest. They also bought 5% of Sauvignon grapes to add a touch
of freshness and crisp acidity to the tiny production. They made the wine
in a rented cellar. Once it had finished fermenting they brought the new
wine up to Franciacorta and looked after it there until bottling in Spring
2003. They called the wine “Domine”. The result was a resounding success.
An American buyer who tasted it said “balzar fuori dalle scarpe – “knock
your socks off”.
After the 2002 vintage Pizzini started the serious work on the vineyards.
The previous owner had never made wine but had just grown and sold grapes.
He had therefore concentrated entirely on volume. Pizzini, through Silvano,
corrected the pruning, cutting the yield by over 50% and went over entirely
to organic cultivation. They rented a better place to make the wine and
this time they kept it there. The blend was the same as before. After
extensive tasting and testing the wine was bottled in May 2004 and was
a winner. For the 2004 vintage they made the wine with 100% Verdicchio
without the Sauvignon.
Beauty raises its ugly head again! They found a manager – Alessandro Fenino
– who told them about another vineyard for sale. They had no intention
of buying at all, but when they saw it they could not resist. Lying high
up, with perfect exposure, “tufa” soil and fine unspoiled views, it was
an unlooked for dream come true. They bought it – 5 Hectares of 10-year-old
vines and 2 of exceptionally old ones. The 2003 harvest from this vineyard
became the “Reserva” – 100% Verdicchio, rich, ripe and fresh. The wine
was kept in French oak barrels and was bottled in March 2005.
The 22 original hectares are planted at the incredibly low density of
2000 vines per Hectare but the previous owner managed to squeeze no less
than 130 Quintals out of every 2000 vines. This density Silvano intends
shortly to increase greatly. The vines were also pruned on a quadruple
Guyot system, which Pizzini has already changed to the normal Double Guyot.
The newer 5–Hectares vineyard is planted with 4000 vines/Hectare. The
slopes are South/South–West. The 2002 and 2003 wine from the 22 Hectares
vineyard cannot be AOC because of the 5% Sauvignon, which they added,
so it is IGT Marche. From 2004, without the Sauvignon, it will be DOC
Verdicchio Superiore. The Riserva is called San Paolo.
Right at the top of the large vineyard there is a charming little church,
which features on the Pizzini label and which gave its name to the property
and the wine– pieve/church, alta/high. Thus the wine is “Dominè
Pievalta, IGT, Marche Bianco”. Belonging to a family from Rome, who seem
to have forgotten that they own it, Pizzini, together with the villagers,
holds a mass there once a year for it to remain consecrated. There is
also a magnificent ancient castle nearby belonging to the Count d’Accola.
Apart from the beauty right here on the spot, the seaside with the towns
of Ancona and Senigallia are close by. In the latter is a restaurant,
which is a good bet for a three star Michelin in 2005 – Madonnina del
Pescatore. A disciple of Ferran Adria of El Bulli he cooks fabulous fish,
which marry to ultimate perfection with Pizzini’s new Verdicchio Superior
Riserva San Paulo.
The headquarters, in the least possible military sense of the word, of
Azienda Agricola Barone Giulio Pizzini Piomarta s.r.l. is at Via Brescia
3/a – 25050 Corte Franca – Brescia. From here Giovanni Pagnoni, Silvano
Brescianini and the Pizzini staff, control the rapidly expanding and growing
network of Barone Pizzini. In this region wine has been made for thousands
of years, as we have seen, but much indeed has happened here in recent
times. Barone Pizzini was founded in 1870, Sparkling Wine was made in
1961, DOC was granted in 1967, Pizzini started making fine Red Wine in
1970 and Sparkling Wine in 1971, DOCG Franciacorta was granted in 1995
and Pizzini was taken over by the present owners in 1991 – just 13 years
ago! As we have seen under the Franciacorta Project, much has been done
here. Brand new and sumptuous offices, modernised cellars, fine wine shop,
fine restaurant, guest rooms and above all vineyards. The restaurant is
situated in the lovely 17th century building and boasts fine food with
local specialities such as “Rovato beef cooked with anchovies, garlic
and olive oil”, “bigoi col pestom” (a pasta dish with a ground pork sauce,
originating in the old Venetian Repubblica Serenissima), and above all
SCARDOLE, an atavistic lake–fish from the nearby lake, officially known
as SCARDINIUS ERYTHROPHTHALMUS. It is popular for weddings and receptions
(the restaurant, not necessarily the fish!) and of course boasts a fine
Pizzini wine list.
Just this year they have built two magnificent guest suites above the
restaurant. Comfortable, spacious, luxurious and with superb views, it
is a real pleasure and a treat to be a customer and a guest of Barone
Pizzini. The very first guest was no less than Monsignor Re, who many
expect to be in line for becoming the next Pope. The second guest was
the fortunate author of this tribute to Pizzini, who hopes to be in line
for a great bottle, or several, of 1995 “Bagnadore”, Franciacorta DOCG!
All that remains to be done here is the GRAND PROJECT – the magnificent
new winery, which is about to be built. What is so beautiful is that all
of this is in the old and historical buildings dating back to Temoninas,
Curta Franca, Lana de’ Terzi, Santi and of course Barone Pizzini. Wherever
possible the original structure, together with carvings, paintings and
adornments, have been lovingly preserved and restored. The impression
is that of working in a modern version of an ancient homestead, and the
views all around have not changed since eternity. “They lie on the brink
of the famous peat bog, the Torbiere di Sebino, and on their lawns, which
roll down to it, grow magnificent magnolias encouraged by the mitigating
influence of the nearby lake and the bog”.
Can anybody think of a better place, or a better way, to work in the wine
MERLANICO 2/3 merlot, 1/3 aglianico bought from Friends in campania.
Table wine, ripe smooth fruity
Thank god the days are gone whenold men compared alcoholic strengths
and boasted of 20° natural
Is it interesting to mention that 3 Milan Experts have identified 18
autochtonous varietals locally and are rescuing and propagating them.
Could Pizzini use these to promote its individual identity? Erbamat (albamatto),
Gropello (exported in wine skins in 1600s to germany. Also not so good
sangallina and Sebina – resistent to rot but lots of MALVIN (reed pigment
very harsh). Alo MANOLINA , high anthocyanin, too acid
Registerd producers 67 86
White 6 –205
Red 7 – 100
L’impresa was a “scialle” given by ladies to young men going off to uncertain