This is a classic Italian story marked by domestic immigration and the endless search for the dream of the whole life. Massimo Palmieri roots are in Puglia, but his family moved to Milano where, after several years, together with his French wife Pascale decided to leave the city. Milano is not for sure the right place to grow up kids and live in harmony with nature and when the couple had the chance, they moved to the Marche region, in the Ancona province, fully renovating a self sustainable farm-house and developing from scratches a wine estate. All the activities are strictly carried under organic certification and practices. Does it sound like the beginning of a nice story?
An old farmhouse with a barn and stables surrounded all around by a blue and green landscape. This is what Tenuta San Marcello is all about, perfectly placed between the beautiful hills of the Marche and at short distance from Senigallias’s soft sands and shores.
Quoting Massimo: “With my wife and our two children, we left Milan where we had been living for over 10 years to move to the Marche region. I wasn’t a winemaker but just a professional expert of Tourism. The approach to this new life was very gradual, initially I relied on a nearby winery to help me to make the right choices, then I asked an agronomist and an oenologist to join me in the agronomic and winery activities and during the first years I made a big effort to affirm my principles that are dear to the environmental sustainability”.
Massimo has dedicated all his last 11 years to wine experimenting: nothing when compared to who makes wines for generations and is maybe at the 30th harvest of his life. He is totally aware of that: “My passion for wine is an heritage coming from the emotional bond to the wines of my Apulian grandfather. He was a pure and raw farmer making wines for himself, for the family and the few guys worthy of his friendship”. Wines produced with ancient and minimal techniques in a cellar designed on two levels in order to exploit gravity better. Wines made from grapes that received in the vineyard 2-3 treatments of copper and some sulfur powder at most. The rest used to take place naturally in the cellar, without interventions of any kind, just some racking and then the wine was consumed at the table in pitchers.
After the grandfather experience, in the family none of the children wanted to continue and all the next generation removed farming and wine making as a possible option to develop a personal path and carrier. Massimo at the time was so young and never would have thought of producing wine in his life. “Somehow my beloved grandfather had left me a message in my subconscious and as the years went by, he continued to push me to change my life and to persuade my family to follow me in this crazy project”.
“Every year that passed, I felt more and more inadequate to the role of winemaker and that desire to find my grandfather's wine with those wild scents marked with a rough edge went further and further until, at the 2015 edition of the wine fair “La Sorgente del Vino” in Piacenza, I tasted a Sicilian wine fermented with the whole cluster”. Massimo’s memory went back in a blink of the eye, suddenly sawing his childhood again and remembering the harvest’s atmosphere with the hands dyed with must and the Grandpa’s wrinkles of peasant wisdom. Driven by the desire to rediscover the simplicity and the roots of those ancient techniques, he felt the need to take a trip to an enigmatic country like Georgia where even today growers use millenary winemaking practices avoiding to rely onto sometimes too much invading technology tools.
“At the moment, if we want to provide a global picture of our main wine-growing practices, we can say that we have totally abandoned interventionism both in the cellar and in the vineyard. We have simplified a lot and we would like to simplify more thinking about those places where still today wine is made in amphora with the sole aid of a bucket, a sponge and a brush, while all the chemicals used are only the metabisulphite to disinfect the tools and not added to the wine.
Holy Moon, help me as we cultivate the visible and the invisible!”
The vineyard is adjacent to the winery and is composed of 2.2 hectares of the local red Lacrima and 1.5 hectares of Verdicchio (the only two varietals cultivated). It is placed on a hilly slope that goes from 190 to 250 mts above sea level. The soil is clayey-calcareous and the orientation is westward and northwest. The training system is the alternate double Guyot. San Marcello estate mainly uses active microorganisms (humus extracts, lactic ferments, vinegar, garlic, chili pepper, lemon, sugar cane molasses, etc.) to repopulate the soil and strengthen the defenses of the vineyard. In the presence of possible pathogenic attacks, small quantities of copper and sulfur are also used.
Massimo categorically rejects the use of synthetic products, herbicides and pesticides, as they affect the biodiversity of the territory which is essential to allow the insects to deposit yeasts of different strains on the skins, thus allowing a fermentation that gives the true aromas of the territory.
For the soil’s fertilization Massimo relies on the green manure by planting within the vines rows legumes, peas, and favino mix. The pruned shoots and whatever else remain on the ground and are shredded periodically in order to create a felted organic sub-layer, able to slow down the evaporation of water from the ground and ensure nourishment to the micro-world present in the vineyard.
During the vegetative phases, we do not practice any form of topping and the most wildest and indomitable branches are manually put back inside the vineyard deck.
The harvest is done manually with 15 Lt bins and takes place in three stages, in order to create different wine bases that will be used for final assembly following his personal taste.
According to the single vintage characteristic, the yield is between 30 and 50 quintals per hectare and production levels are between 18.000 and 20.000 bottles per year.
“In the cellar our tank fermentations start spontaneously with the presence of only indigenous yeasts. No external tricks! Our steel tanks maintain a geothermal temperature through an endogenous recycling system. Overall we rack the wine just enough times to reduce the impact of possible reductions and we use very low levels of sulphite. We do not add any additives and we like our wines to be unfiltered”.
The grapes arrive in the cellar within a few minutes, given the proximity from the vineyard. Initially, the grapes are not crushed but only de-stemmed: the whites make a short maceration on the skins, followed by a soft pressing, while the reds immediately start fermentation.
Beside our regular techniques, in the last two years San Marcello has developing several micro vinifications projects based on the use of qvevri, the underground Georgian amphorae, which, according to Massimo, is the highest expression of his wine making philosophy meant as the territory’s and vintage’s synthesis. Well … for sure grape varieties and the winemaker's mood have an impact too!
Verdicchio, the grape that was first to gain the international spotlight for the Marche, becoming famous through the 1970’s with its amphora or fish-shaped bottles. Like Chianti, it was originally thought of as a cheap and unsophisticated wine. Also like Chianti, Verdicchio has rebounded, with producers crafting beautiful, complex whites from this grape, some even showing the pretty evolving side.
Verdicchio has been cultivated in the Marche for over 600 years; documents dating back to the 14th century note its presence in the region. The name is derived from the Italian word verde, or green, a reference to the yellowish-green skins that give subtle green hues to the wine when young.
The wine itself is usually crisp and dry with high acidity. Often it will have notes of citrus, wild herbs and almonds, and is most often full of minerality. The grape also makes for a nice sparkling wine, and was in fact one of the first spumantes produced in the 18th century.
Lacrima, one of the most interesting grapes found in the Marche, is one of the many unique and native varietals. Outside of the village Morro d’Alba, in the center of the region, this ancient grape is rarely found. The production area of the Lacrima di Morro d’Alba DOC is miniscule, and it is only produced by a handful of estates (less than 20 making about 1,000 hectoliters of this wine each year).
The history of Lacrima goes back to ancient Rome, when it was first recorded to be in production. Its first mention in a work of literature was in the middle ages. As legend has it, Frederick Barbarossa (aka Frederick I, Holy Roman Emperor) came to appreciate the perfumed wine during his siege of Ancona in 1167. He had taken residence at the Castello di Morro d’Alba, and so naturally came to know Lacrima very well.
The word Lacrima translates to “teardrop”, referring to the thin skin of the grape that often “cries” drops of juice as it ripens on the vine. The wine it produces is bright ruby red with hues of violet, and gives intense aromas of roses and stone fruits.
Born from the renovation of the old house of Contrada Melano, Tenuta San Marcello is a harmonious mix of local tradition, simplicity and refinement with all amenities. The estate has 8 double rooms and 4 studios. Casale hosts inside the tasting room, the wine cellar and the living room with the fireplace. This cozy place is detail oriented and displays comfortable furnishings marked by elegant colors inspired by the shades of the hills and the sea. The goal is letting the guest to feel just like being at home. The estate is in a small medieval hamlet a few km from the sandy coast of Senigallia, the rocky coast of Monte Conero, Sirolo and Numana, from famous cultural and artistic Marche cities (Urbino, Loreto, Porto Recanati) and from the spectacular Frasassi Caves. Guests can enjoy typical Marche cookery courses, or try the extra virgin olive oil and obviously the estate wines. The whole structure is managed in order to reduce the environmental impact by using solar and geothermic energy.
In a nutshell
- Who: Tenuta San Marcello
- Where: Marche, San Marcello (AN)
- What: Verdicchio and Lacrima di Morro d'Alba
- Hectares: almost 4
- Quantity: 18.000 bottles yearly
- Plus: Authentic natural wine making with just a bit of sulfites added
tenuta san Marcello