With a presence in more than 80 countries and an output of about 20 million bottles a year, Piccini 1882 does not – at first glance – fit the quaint picture of a family winery. Yet it can trace its history through five generations, never leaving the stewardship of those born into it. ‘You sip a glass of Piccini, you join our family,’ says CEO Mario Piccini. ‘Each generation, over time, has left its trademark, passing on and sharing values, which we try to convey in each of our bottles.’
Founded 140 years ago by Angiolo Piccini on seven hectares of Chianti soil, it now encompasses five estates that stretch as far south as Sicily. Supported by his sisters Martina and Elisa, Mario represents the fourth generation at the helm, with his children Ginevra, Benedetta and Michelangelo also taking on roles to keep the family flame burning bright. ‘Sometimes, it is difficult to separate work from family, but we like it that way; we are always wearing the clothes of the Italian wine family.’
Tuscany remains both Piccini 1882’s spiritual home and its largest production area, with Fattoria di Valiano encompassing 75 hectares of organic certified vines across the hills of Chianti Classico – mainly Sangiovese, but also Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot – and the 12 hectare Villa Al Cortile producing iconic Brunello di Montalcino. But it has also been tempted westwards to Maremma, on the Tuscan coast, where Tenuta Moraia covers 60 hectares of vines.
Widely regarded as a bastion of tradition in Tuscany, Piccini 1882 has also been a beacon for a significant shift in style, the brand epitomising a region that has moved further and faster than almost any other the world over, to embrace new methods to deliver dependable wines. Gone is the ‘fiasco’ – a traditional straw-clad flask, its contents usually rivalling its appearance for rusticity – to be replaced by world-class, medal-winning wines that are fresher, more precise and refined.
‘In the last 20 years, Tuscan wine has undergone a remarkable change,’ says Piccini. ‘The result is fresh and drinkable wines that prefer immediacy and pleasantness. A perfect example of this new philosophy is our flagship Chianti Arancio, a fresh and dynamic interpretation of the most classic Tuscan wine.’
As Tuscan people with a strong sense of belonging, we have always had our land at heart
Supported by a renowned international viticultural consultant Riccardo Cotarella, Piccini 1882 has invested heavily in state-of-the-art technology for its wineries, too, while combining the latest techniques with a more holistic approach. This means a focus on biodiversity in the 200 hectares of vineyard that it owns, from the pioneering use of quartz panels emitting UVC rays to combat fungal diseases, to the use of simple ‘green manure’, or the release of natural predators to take on parasitic invaders.
‘Today, consumers are more aware of social and environmental issues. Our commitment is to offer a product that meets the market’s needs, while also giving back to Mother Nature what she has given us through our harvest,’ says Piccini. He claims that the commitment to sustainability also concerns socio-economic factors, with protecting the value of the supply chain core to the family’s mission.
Conscious of the threat posed by the climate crisis, the company has achieved ‘Equalitas’ sustainable winery certification, entailing a three-year process to improve its environmental footprint, and has also converted around a third of its vineyards to organic farming, eschewing fertilisers and herbicides in favour of more expensive, labour-intensive, natural methods. ‘As Tuscan people with a strong sense of belonging, we have always had our land at heart,’ says Piccini.
Piccini 1882’s footprint now extends beyond Tuscany, too. The volcanic soils of Italy’s south have also proved a great draw, with the company investing in Basilicata, where Regio Cantina boasts 15 hectares planted with Aglianico on the slopes of the extinct Vulture volcano; and across the Straits of Messina to Sicily, where Torre Mora has 13 hectares of the far-from-extinct Mount Etna, growing Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio to produce Etna Rosso, the latest must-have wine for collectors.
‘The Italian wine world is full of excellence, hidden in every corner. It is up to us to disseminate this excellence, always respecting the bond that binds each wine to its territory,’ says Piccini. ‘The vision for our company has always been clear: to be the most authentic and identifiable ambassador for Italian wines.’