by Lucia Bigozzi

Mario said that wine is red and sangiovese, or it is not wine. A story of life and work carved in the Pietraia stone, the hill overlooking Cortona ‘under the Tuscan sun’, as written in the book by Frances Mayes who chose the ancient village as her home and opened the doors of America to ‘my village on the hill, lying like an old man sleeping’ (Jose Feliciano sang).

For many years Mario’s ‘mantra’ was the basic rule for his three sons, then almost a challenge of discussions in the vineyard or over a glass of red wine. Mario was Sangiovese, but he also looked beyond. Innovator in the 70’s when it was hard to be and to carry through; when he created from nothing the Doc Bianco Vergine della Valdichiana, breaking rules and traditions for red wine. He was the first winemaker to bottle his wine. Mario was a volcano and a rock. Today Marius is Mario’s wine, genuine sangiovese, a taste full of aromas, with hints of undergrowth and ‘gentle’ tanning, a perfect harmony. The harmony of contrasts: tough and generous wine, angry and sweet, indomitable and soft.

Marius is the wine that speaks of him, a red label with his authentic signature: it is the sons’ tribute, the memory that is handed down, the life that is renewed in the wake of indelible tradition and culture; the baton handed over, the future passed on, the wisdom of experience. Drink it and you find yourself in the words of Mario: wine is red and sangiovese, or it is not wine. This is the bedrock of the Baldetti farm. From sangiovese to syrah and on to sparkling wine: apparently opposite extremes that tell how and how much tradition continues to merge with innovation. This is the vision of entrepreneurs who believe in the ties with the land and rigor in work, first in the vineyard and then in the cellar. The farm is the family.

When you watch Alfonso Baldetti while opening the cellar doors, he seems to be Virgil leading you into a world where codes of practice, craft and technology come together in a perfect mix. The Baldetti family also own another company of high precision machinery, called Consulente Enologica. This has operated for thirty years on the global market using cutting-edge machinery, specific for each stage of production: from the vineyard to the cellar. The Baldetti family is an institution around here. Alfonso is a producer but also a wine enthusiast: “Wine has been with me since I was born. When I was a child my bedroom was above the cellar and I smelt the odor of the grape must before my mother’s milk”. Destiny? Perhaps, but also looked for, because when Alfonso shows you the ‘barricaia’, the large steel vats, he stops in front of buttons and computer led lights that control temperature and automation, you feel the pride and passion of those who do this job by choice. The feeling becomes a certainty when he tells you that his wine is a continuous research: “I would like to convey my identity to the wine, I would like my wine to be immediately identifiable and recognizable”. In short, the presence of Alfonso in Baldetti wine. His wish becomes a goal achieved thanks to the thirteen hectares of vineyard. Tasting his wines, his wish finds an answer: the Chagrè (Chardonnay and Grechetto acronym), the Crano (genuine syrah in the land of the DOC of the rediscovered grape variety) which takes its name from the legendary King of Cortona, the son of Noah. And again: the Baldo, brut sparkling wine produced by the method “Charmant lungo” and the latest in the Baldetti vineyard, the Piet Rosé, made from the grapes of Syrah, Sangiovese and Merlot with the technique of cold pre-fermentation soaking, for which Alfonso’s sons have created a vintage label inspired by the art of Andy Warhol. And then there is ‘his majesty ‘Leopoldo, vin santo (sweet wine) made from dried grapes, fermented and aged in small oak barrels. The family is proud to also produce ‘the green gold’: extra virgin olive oil Poggiobarullo (olives processed the same day of picking in the oil mill that uses a low-temperature extraction system to enhance the characteristics and improve the shelf life).

Aspiration after aspiration, this is the tradition and even the pride of the Baldetti family. The success of this family also comes from a different way of interpreting the relationship with the customer: the company looks towards the world, operating in the US and European markets, where it points towards Luxembourg, but without “chasing markets” or trends of the moment, says Alfonso. At the same time the company is ‘agorà’ (center) where the art of wine making becomes common heritage: Alfonso welcomes people from all over the world, who can reach him at Pietraia through the web. “Internet is amazing: you can communicate with the world in real time. For me who has white hair it’s almost magic, but it is incredible what can be achieved with just a click. My son types on the computer as if he was playing a piano: very fast. It is a very smart communication that connects you with the world, incredible. It’s our telematic calling card. For us, it is a very important tool”.

With new technologies in the cellar, research and experimentation, new purposes and new web frontiers to make known a trade and its products. And since Alfonso, as Mario before, never stops, he is already thinking about the next stage: an emotional trip in the vineyard. He wants to convey emotions and history to those who are short on heritage which here at Pietraia is timeless. The phone rings: at the entrance there is a group of Australian tourists who ask for him. A cellar tour and guided wine tasting: being pampered with wine and typical products of Cortona. The power of the web: those clicks on Twitter and Facebook have made a long trip to the other side of the world and got people in the wine cellar.

This is Alfonso, holding in his hands a glass of Marius with a smile and full of hospitality, typical of this beautiful part of Tuscany.