29 May 2020
Twenty-five hectares in Bolgheri and nine outside the borders of the DOC. The sea, the hills and also the Moon. Clay and sand. A philosophy that is not afraid to use technology, calling itself ECO and at the same time ZEN.
This is Sapaio, and more.
All this is “harmonized” in the person of Massimo Piccin, who arrived from Vittorio Veneto in 1999 with the idea of “building” a winery in Bolgheri, a place doused in a «beautiful light», a description made by him who used to be a builder. We interviewed Massimo to know what Sapaio is about, why he has chosen to work with wine and how nature educates man. And vice versa.
Massimo Piccin, you were an engineer before being a winemaker, why did you choose wine?
My father had a construction company. I have worked with him for several years, but it did not feel like a place for me. I cannot say when and how, but I have always had a passion for wine ever since I was young. Then things have gone the way they did and eventually I had the opportunity to invest in this business. Wine had an ingenuous and, at the same time, genuine charm: it was a world that is the polar opposite of the market, a world promising a total immersion in nature, without the superfluous elements.
Has it been so?
Actually, wineries must also look at the market in order to keep standing. But the relationship you build with the surrounding environment completely changes.
Nature is a living being and, just like us, it has “ideas” about the world and its own way of doing things. Winegrowing belongs to it but it is also fruit of human genius: these two visions are often very different and it is necessary to find the right balance.
So, is winegrowing a “clash” between philosophies?
An encounter, I would say. Like agriculture and animal breeding, it also belongs to the sphere of relationships: a constant work involving mutual learning, including the application of certain techniques and the observance of respect for the other.
Is wine about technique?
Wine uses technology to support its relationship with nature. At Sapaio, we take pride on being “technological”, which means utilizing the best technologies to achieve the oenological results that we are after. But we never belittle the complexity of the relationship with the territory and the landscape, applying technology to create sustainable and harmonious “agronomic constructions”.
Harmonious agronomic constructions?
Yes, because we “build” a vineyard by choosing a specific location, a certain type of soil, and a precise kind of clone. We “build” wine by making distinct winemaking choices, selecting particular varieties of barrels and carefully thinking about aging. But our work is not founded on the belief that man can prevail over nature or that he can take advantage of it. Man must always be in tune with a shared project, just like how the members of an orchestra make music together. This is my idea of ZEN. It is not a battle between different forces, but a relationship built on a mutual contamination that enables “learning”, like I said earlier.
When did you decide to dedicate yourself to wine and why did you choose Bolgheri?
Let's say that I was open to everything and I didn't have a particular area in mind. Just like for the wine, Bolgheri has been a choice based on emotion: the first time I came to visit, I was struck by the landscape, a gentle and protected beauty, flooded by soft and comforting light, simply beautiful.
Why would you recommend Bolgheri to a wine tourist?
Today, Bolgheri has more than 50 wineries, a great number for a relatively small area. Many of them are artisans, boasting very high quality: a wine lover can really indulge himself and feel a familiar and warm welcome. But Bolgheri is also famous for its hills, the sea located nearby, for being a place suitable for a pleasant stroll and offering outstanding food, which combines Tuscan tradition and innovation, inland cuisine with the richness of the sea.
Bolgheri is the land of the sea and the hills, how does this affect wine?
The influence of the sea is one of the most important characteristics of the wines produced in Bolgheri, which stand out for their flavour, rather than for their minerality. Sapaio’s Bolgheri wines are blends that enhance the perfect balance between two distinct territories: on one hand there is the coast, with its loose and sandy soils; and on the other we have the hills, which rise up to three hundred meters and have more structured soil that gives the wines a more complex and solid body.
There is a third "territory" of Sapaio wines, and that is the Moon!
(Laughing) … that’s true! The moon was the star of our social media channels in 2019, for the fiftieth anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission. We wanted to commemorate it by producing “futuristic” visual content that brought our wines into space. After all, if it is true that wine allows us to visualize different worlds, we have tried to imagine it in “other worlds”, even ahead of time.
Do you consider yourselves “futuristic” in terms of hospitality at the winery?
Actually, we’re quite traditional. We like to welcome visitors in a warm and familiar environment. We are a small artisanal winery and we want visitors to feel part of what we do, of our way of being and working.