“My father bought the charming Poggio di Cicignano estate in the ‘80s exactly where there was once an Etruscan settlement whose population was living here well before the ancient Romans invasion. I was just a kid when he purchased it and the two only crops planted were vines and olive trees”.
Michele Sacchetti is now a forty-something guy who had a specific mission to accomplish: going back to the old viticultural values and techniques. “Here in Montemurlo, near Prato, I have spent my childhood and my teenager years admiring old school farmers and respecting the magic atmosphere permeated by natural rituals. This has been my rural school and mentorship that taught me what you can’t learn in the classic everyday schools”.Montemurlo is roughly located about 25 kilometres (16 miles) northwest of Floence and about 8 kilometres (5 mi) northwest of Prato. Sitting on a hill overlooking the Cathedral of Florence, the Pisan mountain range with the Tuscan-Emilian Appenines behind, Poggio di Cicignano’s oldest vines have been planted in the 60s and Michele, since the very beginning started to take care of the vineyards, dreaming one day of being able to make awesome and outstanding wines. It was more like a real challenge which initially took form of a passion kept alive in his free time with his long time partner Laura who knew how to support him in this journey.
It’s impossible to imagine this estate without having embraced the philosophy of a natural and humble vines’ management. It’s really impossible as Michele wanted right away to avoid any chemicals in the vineyard. This is an heritage from the past and at the same time a testament to the future generations by respecting the scenic beauty of this property which is filled of personal and family memories.
The fun brand name “Vanempo” chosen by Michele and Laura it’s a local slang expression deriving from the fusion of two words: “Avanza and Tempo” (“Remaining time” or “spare time”). At the very beginning it was just a nice hobby to manage when the personal schedule allowed it, than it became more than a passion. Wine is a time consuming activity, and therefore the couple then decided to produce limited quantities of olive oil for personal use and to sell the rest of the crop to the neighbors.
Vanempo today elaborates high quality wines, inspired by the principles and the rigid techniques of biodynamics, made in the vineyard and not in the “cellar” because everything starts with the careful work on the land and the vines. The official biodynamic certification by Agribio will be granted with the 2020 harvest. Certified organic in 2015, Vanempo produces excellent low yield fruit giving way to rich and fine wines, perfectly representing the local terroir. The vineyard are hilly, decently steep and sit from 250 to 300 meters above the sea level. Green manure techniques are applied in order to create the right biodiversity in the vineyard and improve the soil’s fertility by planting cover crops (especially regarding legumes, i.e. can fix their own nitrogen from the atmosphere).
Michele and Laura’s wines are not altered in the cellar: nothing is added and nothing is taken away and the vintages’ characteristics are the only real question mark nicely fitting in the production’s equation. Vanempo wines are a story teller of what is happening in this lush corner of Tuscany and this adventure is even more significant because it was carried out in the Prato’s territory which, due to historical reasons, has always been linked above all to the production of olive oil, with an excellent exception of the Carmignano wines (taking its name from a local small village near Prato). Only 8 hectares are farmed hosting local varieties such as Trebbiano Toscano, San Colmbano, Malvasia (among the white ones) and Sangiovese, Foglia Tonda, Canaiolo and Malvasia Nera (reds). The production is limited (around 15,000 bottles yearly) and extremely accurate.
International varieties have been planted here since 1700 and adapted perfectly to the local terroir conditions. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and even Syrah and Petit Verdot have been introduced by the Medici family which was linked to the French crown. Basically these grapes are considered an historical heritage, but Montemurlo is about 6 miles outside the Carmignano DOCG limits and, beside this, Michele and Laura have never been fascinated by the classic Carmignano wines which generally include both the Tuscan varieties and the traditional Bordeuax ones. On top of that, the couple really doesn’t care much for the classic appellations!
The estate attends the most important national and international natural wine fairs. Michele and Laura aren’t part of the main trend of producing fancy wines made with some of the flaws sometimes emphasized as authenticity by die-hard natural growers. “We don’t like volatile acidity, we don’t like brett and we don’t like sloppy wines made just with the goal to catch some like on the social media. We like the terroir to speak for itself. We could have labeled our wines as Chanti but we have preferred to give up the DOCG as we don’t have any confidence in its moral integrity”. More specifically the Montemurlo village is officially part of the Chianti Montalbano area, one of the seven subzones of the main Chianti DOCG, partially overlapped by the Carmignano DOCG.
Thanks to the partnership with oenologist Silvio Nuti, Vanempo is able to reproduce in the cellar the same philosophy used in the vineyard: wine making is driven by minimum interventionism. All this is made possible thanks to the close attention paid year round in vineyard’s management and the utmost care during the harvest time. Only “healthy” grapes are allowed in the cellar and production levels are overall pretty low.
Silvio Nuti has been in the last decade the key element in the success of Fattoria di Bacchereto (known as well as Terre a Mano) which is one of only 14 growers producing Carmignano wine in the DOCG Carmignano, the smallest appellation in Italy. Not only is it the smallest, but it is also one of the oldest appellations worldwide, having been first registered in 1716 by Cosimo III de Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany.
The couple started their journey a bit in an awkward way with a 2014 debut focused on two riserva styled wines (a white and a red) and the passito (air dried sweet wine). Aura is a special macerated white wine that can never be associated to a glou glou thirst quencher style due to the unctuous depth. Tramonto is a red displaying its usual firm structure and lush fruit. The Vanempo Passito is made in a oxidative style, yet still fresh to enjoy. All the three wines are made as field blends (the varieties are processed together from the very beginning, being co-harvested).
“It seemed almost that we forgot to produce some everyday wines, whereas our Aura, Tromonto and the Passito are all released only after three full years from the harvest. Actually we just wanted to follow our instincts, perfectly aware that without producing entry level wines our path would have been a bit more steep and complicated”.
Just more recently the couple has introduced two everyday wines: Maluna (white) is a tribute to the moon that every night appears on this part of the vineyard with its glowing beautiful celestial light. 2018 is the first ever released vintage.
The red Geolì originates from a single vineyard planted in 1987 by Michele and his father and throughout the years it’s easy to stare here swarms of butterflies that are tinged with many colors at sunset. 2017 it’s the first vintage ever produced.
Brange is a special macerated wine with great intensity marked by almost exotic perfumes. It’s made only with the Tuscan Trebbiano presenting a gorgeous orange color. Last but not least the Amarcò is another white wine made in a oxidative style.
“I’ve always believed in beautiful things, and beautiful things arise from a child’s dreams. All our wines ferment with indigenous yeast and in the cellar skip any additives of invasive practices like fining and filtering” Michele tells us with some contagious pride. Steep Hill currently imports three wines from Vanempo.
Aura 2016 Toscana Bianco IGT: Vanempo currently farms 8 hectares avoiding any chemicals and pesticides. Aura is a field blend made from SAN COLOMBANO (45%), TREBBIANO TOSCANO (35%) and MALVASIA (20%) sourced from an old south facing vineyard planted in 1967 on clay on chalky soils. Hand harvested grapes are carried to the cellar for the spontaneous fermentation (indigenous yeast only) which takes place in open concrete vats. Macerated 5 days with the skins allowing the wine to turn into a deep amber color. The wine ages for 13 months in used barriques and then 12 months in the bottle before being released to the market. Unfined and unfiltered. No invasive cellar practices. Decant this minimal wine 30 minutes before drinking. The nose recalls the scent of dried flowers, on the palate the wine is firmly bold with its apricot like flavors and creamy nuttiness.
Geolì 2017 Toscana Rosso IGT: A challenge taken almost ten years ago: bringing back to life the old forgotten family vineyards located in Montemurlo near Prato (Tuscany) and embracing the philosophy of a natural and respectful production. Geolì is a field blend made from SANGIOVESE (90%) and a dash of FOGLIA TONDA (10%) sourced from an old south facing vineyard planted in 1987 on stony tuff soils. Hand harvested grapes are carried to the cellar for the spontaneous fermentation (indigenous yeast only) which takes place in open fermenters. The wine ages for 3 months in used barriques and then 10 months in concrete vats plus 6 months in the bottle before being released to the market. Unfined and unfiltered. The nose recalls the scent of red fruits, on the palate the wine is fresh and flamboyant offering a great joyful drinkability.
Tramonto 2016 Toscana Rosso IGT: Tramonto is a field blend made from SANGIOVESE (75%), CANAIOLO (15%), MALVASIA NERA (10%) sourced from two small vineyards planted in 1967 and 1980, both on clay on chalky soils. Hand harvested grapes are carried to the cellar for the spontaneous fermentation (indigenous yeast only) which takes place in open concrete vats. The wine ages for 18 months in used tonneaux (500 liters) and then 12 months in the bottle before being released to the market. Unfined and unfiltered. No invasive cellar practices. Decant this minimal wine 30 minutes before drinking.
In a nutshell