Terra Argillosa, organic estate in the Offida DOCG region in the south of the Le Marche, a region on the Adriatic coast of Italy. It produces white wines under the Offida Pecorino DOCG and red wines under the Offida Rosso DOC. See Offida DOCG.

Background | The estate’s original name was Paolini & Stanford. In 2006  Raffaele Paolini and Dwight Stanford (from Kansas) had met at the University of Slow Food in Bra, where both gained a Masters in Food Science. In 2007 they bought the house here which they restored and turned into an organic Bed and Breakfast. There was 6ha of farmland (alfalfa) which was organic. The new owners planted the vineyard. In 2010 they released their first wines. In 2018 Raffaele bought Dwight’s share of the business (In 2019 Dwight was living in Colorado and working as a surgeon). In 2019 Raffaele was working with his wife and two employees. ‘I want to keep it family,’ he told me. Raffaele is proud of his family’s sharecropping (‘mezzadria’) roots. His maternal grandmother Ida was a physically strong countrywoman and knew the names of all the local plants. Raffaele says he sees ‘farming in a wider context, as part of a socio-economic strutre based on respect fof the environment.’

Owner | Raffaele Paolini.

Vineyards | The estate has a good view of the ‘Sleeping Man’ mountain to the NW. | 2019 6ha. Pecorino and Montepulciano, plus international varieties (Cabernet, Syrah, Merlot) and Incrocio Bruni 54. All on spurred cordon (‘cordone speronato’). Low vines. 5000-5,5000 vines per ha. Cabernet Franc works well, better than Cabernet Sauvignon, so Cabernet Franc is being grafted onto to Cabernet Sauvignon.

Viticulture | From 2018 the vineyards have become easier to manage thanks to guidance from Simonit & Sirch. The Pecorino vines were switched from cordon (spur pruned) to guyot (cane pruned). Now have a better idea of how the vines are growing by understanding how and where the sap is moving in each vine. In 2019 the vineyards had not been ploughed for 8 years. Now every second row is worked and has composted cow manure added. An inter-vine weeder is used under vine for weeds. Sows legumes like beans (‘favino’) as a cover crop for nitrogen. 

Biodiversity | Added a veg garden. Heritage chickens. Geese in the vineyards. Having a stronger connection with neighbours is a key goal. Raffaele told me ‘my maternal grandfather lived in the mountains, in Montefalcone. People would barter, exchanging firewood for food. When my grandfather caught a  fox he would be given eggs by those who had chickens owners who were happy the  fox had been dealt with. When my neighbour mows the weeds around some of my olive trees I give him eggs in return. (My note: We are moving back to a cashless economy but online, rather than locally and face to face. The cashless economy–think global, act local–has many economic, social and environmental advantages.

Organic certification | 2010 Full organic certification from the first vintage.

White wines

B54 | IGT Marche Bianco. 100% Incrocio Bruni 54 which is a Verdicchio x Sauvignon Blanc crossing (see here). I In 2019 I was told that as Incrocio Bruni was giving good results, more of it was being top-grafted on to existing Merlot vines. Fermented wild in steel, no skin contact. 2m on gross lees. Racked. Left on fine lees. Bottled. 30-40ppm total sulfites. 15.5% alcohol. Nice and salty. Tartrates fell out and were pink – due to vine stress. 1,000 bottles. | 2019 2,000 bottles planned.

Offida Pecorino DOCG, Aurai | 2016 100% Pecorino. 13.5% alc. 1,500 bottles. Wild ferment in 100% stainless steel. On lees until March with stirring. Bottled. 30-40ppm sulfites. | 2018 Wild fermented on skins in wood for 4 days, pressed, fermenting must then into steel to finish. 3,300 bottles.

Red wines

CF | Marche Rosso. 100% Cabernet Franc. 12m in new and old oak (350l).

Confusion | Marche Rosso. Bordeaux-style blend. Both Cabernets, Merlot and Petit Verdot. | 2012 40% CS, 30% Merlot, 15% CF, 15 Petit Verdot.  14.5%.  12m on barrel and tonneaux, mix of new and old. Blended. Nice concentration and clarity, dark bright berries, well made and focused crowdpleaser which is not over the top in terms of oak use or extraction (Visit, June 2019).

CS | Marche Rosso. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. 12m in new and old oak (350l).

Fatja | Marche Rosso. Merlot and Cab Sauvignon. Only made in the best years. ‘Fatia’ is a local term for fatigue, eg. working in the field. | 2011 Debut. | 2015 15%. 50% Cab Sauvignon, 50% Merlot. 24m in barrels and tonneaux, mix of new and old. 3,000 bottles.

Offida Rosso DOC, Bacco Fino | 100% Montepulciano. 24m in 2,500l botti (French oak, Italian cooper). It did rain here. 5,000 bottles. A bit gritty, with quite spikey blackberry fruit with a salty tang (Visit, June 2019).

PV | Marche Rosso. 100% Petit Verdot. 12m in new and old oak.

Syrah | Marche Rosso. Fermented in stainless steel. Aged in French oak barrels.

Thalia | Marche Rosso. Blend of Montepulciano and international varieties.

Bibliography

Visit to the estate Tuesday 11 June 2019.