by Lucia Bigozzi

Ilaria is a young woman about to become a mother, with a clear look deep in her big blue eyes. Marco has an open smile, warm, authentic. Strong Tuscan hospitality. They live in a farmhouse perched on a hill overlooking the Val d’Orcia, Pienza, Montepulciano and the Monte Amiata, where life has another meaning, with a slow rhythm and pace of working in the fields.

Montalcino, with the still warm light of October, is a jewel among the vineyards that gives the “petrolio rosso”(“red oil”). Brunello as a commandment, an ancient rule handed down from generation to generation. Like life, from father to son.

At the age of eighteen Marco Mantengoli was a boy like many others: wanting to have fun and share with friends the carelessness of an age that is about to become adult but that is still adolescent. One day after graduating from agricultural college, having specialized in viticulture and enology, he receives the keys of the family business from his father, instead of the keys of his first car. Vasco realized that this was the right moment to pass on to his son the baton of his life spent on the farm, using the tractor on the four hectares of land to produce “Brunello as God intended”. Vasco has decided to make a generation change fifteen years ahead of time; he has understood and has made his choice.

Today Marco is 37 years old and has all the responsibility of the company on his shoulders. Vasco is there and even though he is eighty years old, continues to work like a boy. “My dad is a crucial operational support for me, the center of gravity of our company”. His mother, Elide, still waits, as always, for ‘her’ men to return from the fields and from the vineyard, treats them with the domestic wisdom of women of Montalcino. Daily pampering at the table. As always.

Here in Montalcino, the farm is like a family, a treasure to be treated with the sensitivity for things that matter, authentic ones. Here the land is a difficult concept to explain, it is like the main wall around which you build your house, the cornerstone of your being, the future inheritance you build, and will one day be handed over to those who, after you, will continue to farm with the same care, because it is the land from which you draw strength and the strength you give to what you do. Land as home, as strength, as an inescapable reference. There is everything in La Rasina, everything we need for life: the garden, the vineyard, the olive grove, the wheat. Livelihood and completing the cycle of nature.

“The keys of the company were a good present” Marco smiles because perhaps at eighteen he expected the car of his childhood dreams. It came later, but he earned it with as a reward of the daily grind, with perhaps the biggest choices of his age, to decide what to grow on the farm. “Grow or die” is the motto of La Rasina (name of the farm that has its roots in the early twentieth century and evokes the corresponding Etruscan name Rasna), the material and moral inheritance of the patriarch-philosopher Santi Mantengoli, founder of one of the most aristocratic families in Montalcino. “Growth at that time meant increasing the number of hectares cultivated, today growth is not only what you produce but also to develop a culture centered on strong ties with the earth, and to know how to care for it, to obtain maximum results for quality: from the vineyard to the cellar”.

Here it works this way: from birth you grow up with strict rules and a tradition of wine making, and the work is sacred: you cannot change course, the road is clear and you have to follow, knowing what you have to do to go straight on. Vasco has learned this from his father and has taught Marco, who proudly shows his twelve hectares of Brunello: in fifteen years he has more than doubled the land received from his father. Next to the main house there is a one for guests, who choose to spend a time of relaxation. Farming yes, but as Marco wants. This is the rule behind the company philosophy. “Our guests can taste the garden products but they must go to pick them and then cook themselves. We believe in the opportunity for people who live in the city to have a real and direct relationship with the countryside, nature and its products”.

La Rasina today is a robust business, well placed in international markets (from the US to Europe and in the East, latest commercial conquest) and Social networks are the highways that, after work in the vineyard and in the fields, Marco travels every day, to tell about the “DiVasco” Brunello Riserva (a tribute to his father, cornerstone of the family), the Rosso di Montalcino and the IGT Toscana Sangiovese. “They are our open window to the world, a working tool, indispensable nowadays. The relationship with users of the network, more and more wine connoisseurs and therefore more demanding, allows you to interact, to tell, to photograph what you do. But the Social networks are also key to promoting the result of your work, to make it known and commercialize it”, says Marco while he chats with the United States.

Grow or die, said Santi. Nowadays Marco adds the word “together”. Together with the people who work with him, starting with the employees, always involved in consultation that leads to the final choice, at each stage of the production. “There is a constant consultation between us: from family, employees and consultants, because the concept is very simple: if the company is good, it’s good for everyone”, says Marco focusing on the empowerment concept. Notice well: we don’t sign in and out of work.

Each hectare of Brunello is monitored at every stage, from the growing season to the productive stage, and for every plot of land we known potential and characteristics. In the cellar the grapes are processed separately, as the various techniques applied in the vineyard.

What is wine for Marco? “It’s the daytime, but we also go to bed with it”. And if you ask him why his Brunello should be different from the others, he doesn’t hesitate a moment: “My wine is the result of a very rigorous production philosophy, where the technique and knowledge come together with the experience and the continuous search for perfection. My Brunello has the soul of who makes it”.

At 2.30 PM on a Sunday in October, full of sun playing on the vineyard’s leaves that turn yellow and color red under the heat, Marco is in the office to compile the oil register. “Paperwork and more paperwork, rules of absurd standards, increasingly stringent, that take away time, energy and money. Bureaucracy is an ugly beast that is crushing us, imprisons us in a fix of absurd obligations. I would like a country where all are rowing for the same side because we are all together in this craft, and because we are saved or sink together”, he snorts irritated.

Responsibility and timeless work. The future of Marco and Ilaria is already here: in the womb of a young mother there is a little heart that beats, eyes that will open to life. “We did not want to know if it is male or female” they say in unison. Life to life. For him or her, the keys to the La Rasina (and of the future) are ready. In eighteen years.