Pievalta, the first wine estate in Le Marche region of Italy to go Biodynamic. All its wines are also 100% vegan (visit 2019).

Owner | Barone Pizzini.

Background | Pievalta was founded in 2002 when Barone Pizzini, a producer of Franciacorta wines from the neighbouring Lombardy region bought land in the Castelli di Jesi DOC region with the aim of making high quality white wine. They regarded Verdicchio as Italy’s best grape for dry whites. First they bought what is now the winery or Pievalta vineyard in Monteschiavo (see below). Then they bought the Monte Follonica vineyard in San Paolo di Jesi on the right bank.

Staff | Manager, viticulturist winemaker: Alessandro Fenino. He trained originally to make traditional method sparkling wines for Barone Pizzini in Franciacorta. He is married to Silvia Loschi. The couple met when she came to work at Pievalta (as brand ambassador).

Vineyards | 2019 26.5 hectares of estate-owned vineyards with two principal growing sites located at either end and on opposite sides of the Esino River Valley. On the left bank is the larger Pievalta vineyard on marl and on the right-bank is the smaller San Paolo di Jesi vineyard on tufa.

Vineyards (4)

1) Pievalta vineyard in Monteschiavo, Maiolati Spontini (left bank) | The first vineyard that Barone Pizzini bought is in Monteschiavo (left bank of the Esino River), a frazione of the township of Maiolati Spontini, on the left bank of the Esino River, in Ancona province. There are 24ha of vineyards here. Vines were originally planted in the 1970s but have been updated with higher density planting, and modern trellising. The vineyard and company name refer to the nearby Pieve Alta, or ‘high parish church’ (the church building belongs to the township). Both the Pieve and the Pievalta vineyard are around 4 miles (6 to 7km) away from the company’s winery.

Here the soils are predominantly marly clay (calcareous clay over marl) and clay limestone. They are ‘harder to work than San Paolo di Jesi, with hydric stress a risk,’ Alessandro Fenino told me in 2019. ‘The marl soils of compact clay are hard to work. You must find the right time to work it most efficiently. It was very hard to work when we bought it. We softened it up by using Biodynamic sprays and intense cover cropping, devising our own mixes.’ They sowed broad beans (‘favino’) which grew well. Also mustard, cereals, rapeseed (Brassica), Tansy phacelia (an annual) and perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne). The vineyards are north-east facing, and are closer to the Adriatic compared to Pievalta’s other vineyards on the Esino’s right bank in San Paolo near Cupramontana. The wines sourced on this left bank of the river are known for their fresh fruity character.

Viticulture | Double guyot cane pruning. Manual tasks include bunch thinning, de-shooting, and disbudding. Mine-sourced sulfur, rather than liquid sulfur is used for oidium (powdery mildew). Copper-based sprays are applied (max 3kg per hectare per year, half of legal maximum allowed in organic farming). The vines are dry farmed.  Alessandro Fenino told me (4th October 2016): ‘We can get wet springs so there is a risk of peronospera (downy mildew) until the end of June. Picking can be late which risks bunch rot. But with the lower yields and thicker skins that organic and BD growing potentially provides, you get better balance. There is market demand for bio wines. As for climate change hotter weather helps re vine health if it is dry. But if humidity is high then there is more risk of rot.’

Cover crops | In 2019 every other row was sown with a cover crop of crimson clover (Trifolium incarnatum) which can be rolled to form a mulch, and the other row was native sward. The Fosso del Lupo (‘wolf ditch’) plot here comprises 5.72 ha of lower lying vines bordering the ditch or stream of that name. ‘The plot is hard to work, produces low yields and low quality,’ Alessandro told me in June 2019. So it will be ripped out and its planting rights transferred to the San Paolo di Jesi vineyard (described below).

2) San Paolo di Jesi vineyard, Monte Follonica contrada (right bank) | The second vineyard that Barone Pizzini bought was planted in 1992. It is on the on the right bank of the Esino, 6.2 miles (10km) from the Esino river, in the hamlet or ‘contrada’ of Monte Follonica which is in the township of San Paolo di Jesi (35km south-west of Ancona). San Paolo di Jesi is bordered by Cupramontana and Staffolo. The summit contains a Lombard observation tower, and is linked to the existence of Castrum Follonice in the Middle Ages.

Overall, this high-elevation, steep-sloped vineyard is well aerated. It overlooks Monte Follonica at an elevation of 400 metres (1,312 feet). The vineyard is higher and easier to work compared to the Pievalta (winery) vineyard. It drains better, and has deeper soils. These comprise marine sediments of Alpine origin transported by sea currents on the Adriatic ridge from 4 to 5 million years ago: calcareous siliceous (granitic) sandstone (compacted), interlaced with more or less clayey (clay tuff) and / or silty marl, deriving from the formation of blue clay, sub-appeninic deposits from the Pliocene epoch.

There are 5ha of vines. 3ha were planted in 1992 and 2ha were planted in 2009 (on Kober 5BB to give the vines a push, and on Paulsen). Two main plots: San Paolo Bosco: 2ha planted 2009, bordering a wood on one side, and San Paolo Vecchie Vigne on two sides. San Paolo Vecchie Vigne: 3ha planted in 1992. 6.5ha in two blocks of 3ha and 3.5ha. The soil is calcareous-clay-sand. Limestone pieces. Well drained. 350 metres (1,159 feet) roughly. Budwood was a mass selection from old vines.

Wine style | Alessandro Fenino told me on Saturday 03rd September 2016 at the Palazzo Honorati-Carotti in Jesi ‘the soil is tufa. This can give high potential yields. It is important to keep the vines under control. There is no hydric stress, here, so the wine is always structured. The site’s north-east facing aspect provides a mesoclimate perfect for slow ripening, thus giving an elegant style of wine and also the chance of a small amount of noble rot (Botrytis cinerea). Riserva often means richer or more powerful. In this case Riserva translates as elegance, giving the estate its most elegant wine.’ Compared to the Pievalta vineyard the wines from San Paolo di Jesi are deeper, more complex, and more austere. They are very sapid, rich in flavour and known for their texture rather than absolute power. This is where the San Paolo DOCG Classico wines comes from.

3) Montecarotto vineyard, contrada Busche | This 2ha vineyard in contrada Busche in Montecarotto was purchased in 2018. It had been planted in 2012. Unknown rootstock. The soil is mainly sandstone with some limestone marl infiltrations.

Biodynamic practices | Copper dynamiser. Bury their own horns (in 2012 around 20 horns for 500). The 501 is bought in. No compost. Easy to be biodynamic here as they have a decent climate and a motivated manager/partner in Fenino.

Biodynamic certification | 2004 Went organic. | 2005 Began Demeter Italia biodynamic conversion. | 2008 Full Demeter for the first time. | 2018 Left Demeter and joined the France-based SIVCBD.

Winery | 2009 First vintage in the new winery. This was formerly an olive oil processing facility (‘frantoio’). ‘It was hard to get spontaneous wild ferments initially,’ Alessandro told me in June 2019 at the winery. ‘This was because there were no residual yeasts left over from previous winemaking as there was none. From 2015 ferments have been 100% wild. Since 2009, the wines have been vegan certified,’ he told me. Grapes are 100% hand picked into boxes. Keeping them intact allows the juice to see no sulfites. Direct pressed. Can use hyper oxidation, and flotation. This allows working with the juice fermenting at 16 degrees C.  In 2010 one Garbellotto 10hl wooden vat was added. There are also 3 x 25hl cement tanks three 25hl French oak vats made by Gamba.

Sparkling wines

Perlugo Zero | Spumante Metodo Classico. Zero dosage. Base wines ferment in stainless steel. The prise de mousse takes place in Franciacorta (Lombardy). This means it cannot be labelled a Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi wine.

White wine

Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi DOC, Pievalta (‘Green label’) | Pievalta’s entry-level Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore is from the winery vineyard in Maiolati Spontini. From a mix of vineyards. A wine for everyday. Represents the DOC. The back label says it is from ‘argilla calcareo and argillo sabbioso. 200 to 350m.’ | 2005 Classico Superiore Deep and generous at ExCel, 12 May 2009. | 2008 Classico Riserva Very savoury, nice weight, fluid, savoury, slightly warm end maybe but has lovely texture and smoothness. Nice weight and clarity on Sunday 04th September 2016 at the Palazzo Honorati-Carotti in Jesi. | 2009 Classico Superiore 12.5% alc. | 2010 Classico Superiore 13.5% alc. Salty, hay, and licorice (typical of Verdicchio in San Paolo di Jesi). Still lots of life, very vibrant, creamy and focussed at the winery in 2019. | 2011 Classico Superiore Hot year. Tank sample. 12.5%. 80,000 bottles. Nice crisp lemon at Millésime Bio 2012. | 2015 Classico Superiore 13%. From both vineyards. 100% stainless steel. 30% wild. Very nice crisp mineral, good length at Collisioni Sunday 17th July 2016. Lovely ripe nose; lovely subtle acidity. Beautiful wine on Saturday 03rd September 2016 at the Palazzo Honorati-Carotti in Jesi. | 2017 Classico Superiore13%. Denser compared to 2018. Tangy and a little fluid but refreshing. | 2018 Classico Superiore Green label. 13.5% L80579. Both free run and press wine in this. 90K bottles. Lightly smokey, tangy salty fruit. SIVCBD (Biodyvin) certified. Salty, fluid, round at the winery in 2019.

Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi DOC, Dominè | Dominè recalls an old emporium (market) where people used to stop and drink a glass of Verdicchio. The alchemical symbol on the label signifies union (of stainless steel and large oak casks). One level above the Pievalta ‘green label’ bottling. 1965 vines. Clay-limestone. Marl. Usually ripens in the first week of September. The wine needs at least a year to start to open. Can be a bit closed early on. Best after 5 or 6 years. | 2005 Classico Superiore 12 months in stainless steel. | 2008 Classico Superiore 13.5% alc. | 2009 Classico Superiore No added sulfites. 13.5%. | 2010 Classico Superiore 13.5%. Aged in acacia wood. Smoky, nice herb and butter at Millésime Bio 2012. | 2010 Classico Superiore 13.5%. Punchy yellow fruit nose. Uplifting, good acid, creamy fruit without being milky. Nice weight in the mouth, soft but with backbone (2018 a bit fatter than usual). | 2011 Classico Superiore  A very hot vintage. | 2017 Domine, Chiesa del pozzo Only from vines on marl planted in 1965. 100% free run juice (‘mosto fiore’), so get that bright, tangy yellow fruit. 14,000 bottles. | 2018 Classico Superiore From 1965 vines on 100% marl. Ferments and ages in a mix of stainless steel and a new botte. 14%. Nice linear style of yellow fruit.

Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi DOCG Riserva, San Paolo | The flagship wine. From the San Paolo di Jesi vineyard in Monte Follonica on the right bank. On sandstone (arenaria). The back label to the 2016 described the terroir this: Terreno argillo-tufacea a 300 metri.’  Normally ripens 20 Sept. ‘Citrus fruit, like straw or hay, the clay tuff effect. A white which can age,’ Alessandro told me in 2019. | 2004 Cultured yeast. Aged in barrel. | 2005 Ambient yeast. | 2006 Labelled as a ‘Vino da Tavola’ as it was not estate bottled. | 2008 Classico Riserva 14% alc. Nice, flatter than the Pievalta at Millésime Bio 2012. | 2009 Classico Riserva 13.5%. | 2010 Now (2019) drinking very well. Very smooth yellow fruit, creamy and savoury, starting to show tertiary notes. More soft and intensity. Almost balsamic, very elegant. Has a hinterland without being heavy (tasted at the winery in 2019). | 2012 Very precise and clear and salty and refined and understated, lovely at Collisioni Sunday 17th July 2016. | 2013 Pievalta San Paolo Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Riserva DOCG Classico 14%. Lovely acidity. Beautiful weight. 24 months on lees in steel. 14%. Best one they have made. Very clean. Very salty on Saturday 03rd September 2016 at the Palazzo Honorati-Carotti in Jesi. | 2015 Riserva Classico. 12m in steel. 13.5%. Vegan. 1,660 cases. Lovely width to the acidity at Collisioni Marche 02nd Sept 2017. Tangy and ripe, yellow orange fruit, weighty. Salty fruit with some width in 2018 tasted during my ‘Biodynamic Pioneers’ masterclass, VINCE wine show in Budapest 05th April 2018. | 2016 13.5%. From the old vines, and part of the newer ones. Can age 20 years no problem. 21K bottles. L63248: Very good year. Lovely salty savoury fruit, good length and purity. A very nice effort at the winery in 2019. | 2017 14% bottles. | 2018 14%. Some hail just before harvest. Oxidised the must. Lost 30% of volume. Very salty, nice fruit, tasted at the winery from two Gamba wooden vats. Bright lemon fruit at the winery in 2018.

Red wines

Campo del Noce | From 1.5ha of Montepulciano planted in 2009. Alessandro Fenino told me in 2019 ‘this is not a typical area for Montepulciano. We are not looking for a deep, oaky heavy tannic wine. We want to go for drinkability. So we opt for 50% carbonic maceration 50% with stems. Very little delestage. 2 weeks on skins. MLF. Then first sulfur addition. 5% in oak old. Bottled from June or July 2018.’ | 2017 1.5ha of Montepulciano planted in 2009. 50% carbonic maceration with stems. For 2 weeks. Very little delestage. Goes through MLF. Gets its first SO2 addition. Part aged in old oak. Bottled from June or July 2018. 14K bottles. Crunchy, tasted at the winery in 2018.

Sweet white wines

Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi DOC Passito, Curina | Made from Verdicchio. Withered on the vine. Fermented in barrel and part in terracotta amphora, partly on skins. Aged 4m in barrel, 8 months in stainless steel.

Spirits

Grappa di Curina Verdicchio | 50cl. Aged in French oak.

Contact

Pievalta Soc. Agr rl,

Via Monteschiavo, 18

I-60030 Maiolati Spontini (AN = Ancona), Italy

Tel+39 0731 705119