Emilia-Romagna, IT

There’s a crunch to the air that you breathe at the highest point of the Pandolfa vineyards, some 300m above the gorgeous 17th century es-tate now owned by Marco Cirese and his wife Alice. It’s easy to spot the Adriatic through the hilly terrain of Predappio which no doubt plays its part in the coolness of that breeze and the unique character of the wines from up here. 

I’m talking with Francesco Bordini, the famous local agronomist who’s now playing a major role within the vineyards and winery at Pandolfa, “the soil here is a mixture of 3 types; limestone, the region’s common yellow clay and fossil. The variety and designation were chosen to best suit the soil type when we pulled out the other vines and replanted these”. He’s talking about the 100 or so hectares of vineyard which were taken out to re-establish the native forest that to me seems as though it’s been there for decades, but in reality that project is still fairly recent, “our idea was to introduce the typical ecosystem of Forli back into the estate, and have less vines in total which benefit more from these natural circumstances. It’s better than anything that we could do by chemicals or machines, and gives the Sangiovese terroir driven fragrance and texture”. The estate is now almost completely organic, with many of the vineyards becoming certified in the coming years but all of them farmed as such already. “Unfortunately you can’t just take a vineyard and make it organic in one or two vintages, it takes patience but there are already a lot of things we can do to help the vines without introducing chemicals. We use barley as a mid-row crop, it pulls most of the nitrogen out of the soil for us, and now we have almost no pest problems thanks to the forests” 

The winery is a packed with stainless tanks, with some barrels tucked away in a dark corner. Most are large Slavonian ‘Botti’ but there are a few barriques, Marco tells me “those are very seasoned, we put the Pandolfa and Pandolfa Riserva in them mostly. The other ones – the new ones – well, we make some wine for another guy, a friend of ours… He likes wood”. Thankfully here at Pandolfa they’ve worked hard to allow the fruit to do the talking, and we are all the better off for it