Paolo Pizziol takes us through an exciting tour, full of peace and quietness, in the old cellars of Vini Villa, in the heart of Madonna della Rosa hill in Franciacorta
by Francesco Michienzi
That of Vini Villa is a typical Italian story where a simple and clear idea guides an entrepreneur to success. Alessandro Bianchi’s idea is that of producing excellent wine thanks to a particular care for the environment and to a maniacal attention to the product’s healthiness and quality.
It all started in an old village from 1500, Monticelli Brusati in Franciacorta. Paolo Pizziol, husband of Alessandro Bianchi’s daughter Roberta, takes us around and tells us: «The one we see here is the master’s house, where a noble family, who established their countryside residence here, used to live and where you can still find the old original cellars from 1500. In 1960 my father in law, an industrial entrepreneur from the mechanical sector, took over the propriety that the nobles had abandoned in an a very run-down condition».
The farm now develops over an area of a hundred hectares, of which originally only the hilly area was cultivated with vineyards while the rest was left to cereals and forage.
«At the moment we have recovered all the village turning it into an agritourism destination with 21 apartments spread out over all these farmsteads. Instead, in the insulated and refrigerated warehouse we keep the product ripening after production». There are eight Villa’s sparkling labels, plus an additional selection produced only in specific years. To these, we have to add two still white wine labels of Chardonnay variety and four red ones.
In the 60ies sparkling making techniques were first tried out. Berlucchi was the first one to test himself in such adventure. Given the successful results, during the 70ies, other enterprises started to make sparkling wines. In 1978 Villa produced his first sparkling wine bottle (spumante). Nevertheless, red wine, which represent an historical tradition for the region, kept being produced.
Pizziol continues: «It was originally made with five different grapes: Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Barbera and Nebbiolo. These are all grapes that already existed in Franciacorta. It’s been a while now since Barbera and Nebbiolo grapes become optional while it remained mandatory to use Cabernet and Merlot ones. We produce a stock that is made with only three grapes, while our Sella keeps the traditional five diverse varieties».
Villa’s cellars only make use of grapes from their own vineyards. Paolo tells us proudly: «We only use our grapes, a choice originally made by my father in law and now defended by me and my wife by only working on our own products. We never buy grapes or wines from elsewhere. This is why our growth has been at slow pace and linked to the set-up of new vineyards that would allow the production to slowly increase».
Villa’s production is of roughly 250 000 Franciacorta bottles and 50 000 still wines a year. Export represents 15% of their sales. The Italian market today covers almost all production as Franciacorta is a land of only 3000 hectares, made of small villages where roughly 18 millions of bottles are produced on a yearly basis.
We ask Paolo Pizziol whether the choice of limiting their growth not buying other wines brings them to always push the quality of their products up: «Definitely, we are not interested in growing at exponential levels, we believe the quantity of our production to be suited to a good management of the enterprise and to the possibility of working to further improve the quality of our products. With the University of Florence, we are working on autochthonous yeasts in order to select some typical of vineyards. We have already identified two families which allow us to enhance certain characteristics of the product and to obtain a typical quality which is obviously our own feature. Moreover, it’s been four years we are doing biological farming and, starting from this year, all our work will be certified. We choose for 100% biological products both in the vineyards and in the cellars».
In the cellars there are roughly 1 000 000 bottles which are stocked for at least four years. Paolo Pizziol is also a boat lover: «I started many years ago with a tender, then, slowly, dimensions started to grow. Having a boat is for me a way of enjoying the lake and relaxing. In summer I also spend a couple of weeks at the seaside with my family. In recent years I fell in love with Croatia, which I consider a beautiful spot for sailing. It gives me a real break and some tranquillity».