Carmignano, despite its 13,000 inhabitants, has remained a rural town to the west of Florence, surrounded by the charming Tuscan hills that have always charmed travellers. In the morning, you are awakened here not only by the inevitable roar of motorbikes, but also by the clucking of the neighbour's chickens or the mooing of a cow that wants to be milked. A tractor rumbles past the house towards the vines.
Directly below us, Carmignano's vines nestle on the gently sloping hillside like a large, flat shell, interrupted here and there by a hedge or a group of trees. There are 120 hectares in total. This makes Carmignano one of the smallest DOCG regions in Italy. The wine from Carmignano already enjoyed the highest reputation in the Middle Ages. Francesco di Marco Datini (1335-1410), the famous merchant from nearby Prato, and his friend Ser Lapo Mazzei were fond of the "sparkling Carmignano"; they considered it far too good to be mixed with water. Even later, the red wine from Carmignano was considered one of the best, most expensive wines of Florence. Today, Carmignano - a victim of its small size - is somewhat forgotten. And thus an insider tip! About 15 serious producers share the area, one of them is Mauro Vannucci, actively supported by his daughter Silvia, a doctor of law. The Gambero Rosso 2009, the bible among the Italian wine guides, calls Mauro Vannucci "one of the most serious and reliable producers of the Carmignano zone". Yet, Vannucci was not born to be a vintner. He first made his career with his knitwear factory. Meanwhile, viticulture, in the beginning above all a hobbyhorse, has long become an important second pillar.
"The result is very full-bodied, supple, modern vinified wines with an international flair, charming flatterers with enticing blackberry flavors that few can resist."
Mauro Vannucci, Founder Piaggia
"We bought the wine estate at the beginning of the seventies", the owner remembers, who is chauffeuring us over gravel roads to his vineyards. At first, there were only 2.5 hectares, today there are 17 in total, which he has cultivated by two permanent employees, advised by an agronomist and an oenologist. He produces 60,000 bottles per year. At the moment, one of his workers is driving a small tractor up and down the rows of vines and pruning the wildly growing foliage. "And then the vendemmia verde will follow soon", Mauro Vannucci explains, "to limit the yield. After all, we want strong, concentrated wines ..."
For a short time our host loses the thread. Our pretty young photographer distracts him visibly. He almost forgot his vines because of all the joking around! But we mercilessly call him back to reality, to the vineyard where one of his three wines, Carmignano Il Sasso, grows. "You don't have to wonder for long where this wine got its name," Mauro reflects, pointing to all the boulders around - "sasso" means stone, after all. He proudly throws himself into the chest and shows us the differences between his vines and those of his neighbors: "You can probably find better wines in Tuscany than mine, but certainly not a better maintained vineyard." As if in confirmation, two brown hares dart past us and Mauro's hunting dog. Rocco, the spaniel, doesn't seem to be quite on the ball either, sniffing around with such interest that he doesn't even notice the hares.
In the ultra-modern cellar of Azienda Piaggia, we gather around an elegant glass table and taste the wines. The regulations of the DOCG Carmignano are strict and prescribe in detail the proportions of the various varieties: at least 70% Sangiovese, a maximum of 20% Canaiolo nero, 10-20% Cabernet Sauvignon and/or Cabernet franc. In addition, there is a maximum of 10% of white varieties and another 10% of other red varieties. "Oh well," Mauro - asked about the regulations - waves them off angrily, "what do we care about Canaiolo nero! We'll interpret the disciplinary freely ..." And replace the unloved Canaiolo nero with Merlot. The result is very full-bodied, supple, modern vinified wines with international flair, charming flatterers with enticing blackberry aromas that few can resist. The normal Carmignano and the Riserva are composed in the same proportion - more than two thirds Sangiovese, complemented by Cabernet and Merlot - but while the Il Sasso is aged for one year in French barriques, the Riserva is allowed to develop twice as long in wood.
"A stunner!", Reto Vergani and his youngest son Luca, who was the first to enter his father's business, say. The third wine of the house is the Poggio de'Colli, a pure Cabernet franc, which is only available in a small edition and which is so concentrated and compact that you almost have to chew it. "They will snatch this wine out of our hands ...", Reto says to his son and toasts Mauro. "Of course, you have to eat something right with such wines!", Mauro Vannucci emphasizes. And what he understands by something right he demonstrates to us in the evening when he puts such huge, juicy bistec fiorentine on the charcoal grill for us that we barely manage to eat half of it, despite our healthy appetites. Indeed, only a hearty sip of Il Sasso helps!
Text: Eva Zwahlen | Image: Piaggia | Source: Vergani Magazine 2