In the last year I have met Elena Vezzoli of Azienda Agricola Biologica Preggio at several local wine tastings. Elena has a two hectare vineyard with her husband Bruno and make around 9000 bottles of wine a year, two thirds of the production is red and one third white. Whilst I thought both wines were good, I was seriously impressed with the white, made with the local Grechetto grape and asked if I could visit their property to find out more.
Preggio is a hill top village above the Niccone Valley, the vineyard is just over 2km from the centre of the village, the only way there is by going through Preggio and taking a track at the back of the village (it starts behind the church) that descends towards the Pian di Marte. In case you are wondering car access from the other direction (the Pian di Marte) is not possible as the track below the farm has been cut off by a landslip. If you are staying in the Niccone Valley it is easy to visit and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the quality of the wines, it’s worth phoning or emailing ahead to check someone will be in.
Bruno and Elena moved here from Bergamo near Milan having run a computer business and a four-wheel drive camper van dealership. The property they bought came with a small, old vineyard with red and white vines planted together. They made some wine from this vineyard but decided it would be best to start afresh, planting mainly Grechetto (white) and Sangiovese (red) with a little Incrocio Manzoni, a hybrid grape variety created by Prof. Luigi Manzoni in the 1930’s and grown widely in the north of Italy. The vines are at around 500m altitude on south and south west facing slopes making this a perfect site for quality wine production.
Their wines are in all but name organic, the actual winemaking takes place at the Donini cantina in Trestina around 25km away, because this cellar is not certified organic, the wines can’t be labelled as such. We tried five wines, four of which are available commercially. We started off with a 2013 Incrocio Manzoni, put out under an Umbria Bianco IGT label. Delicately perfumed and flavoured with a pleasant acidity in the mouth, the only trouble with this wine (which Bruno pointed out) was the unflattering name of the grape, roughly translating as Manzoni’s Hybrid.
We then tried Grechetto from 2013 and 2014, as I said in the introduction, I’m really impressed with this wine, I found the nose quite hard to describe, deciding eventually on “grassy” with some yellow flower petals. The 2013 was fuller and more rounded in the mouth but Bruno was confident that the 2014 would develop in a similar manner given another year in the bottle. Both whites had a pleasant freshness and the 2013, in particular, had a notable minerality.
Going back to Incrocio Manzoni, we tried a white that had been macerated (left on the skins). The nose on this wine was like nothing I had ever smelled before and the tannic feel in the mouth was something of a surprise for a white wine. Bruno explained that the tannins acted as an antioxidant and meant that you could use a very low level of sulphites. I could see the appeal of this wine, it went very well with a piece of cheese, but accepted Bruno’s explanation that marketing such an unusual wine to consumers would be a difficult task. Elena explained that there is a small following of devotees for macerated white wines and, in the future, their limited amount of Incrocio Manzoni is likely to be used in this way.
Then it was on to the red wines, both 2013 Sangiovese with different amounts of oak ageing. Both had a lively acidity, the first, aged for 1 month in a 2000 litre barrel and costing €8, had a very subtle amount of oak which had left me confused when trying it at home on an earlier occasion, it looks like an un-oaked wine and the smell of cherries dominates the subtle note of sweet spice in the background. The second red had spent 15 months in the barrel and was still unlabelled, it will be released in a few weeks from now. With this wine, the spice was noticeable and I thought it was a good buy at €10. Neither wines were what you would call full bodied reds but were wines that I would happily recommend. Elena thinks that these reds will become more structured as the vines get older.
The wines are currently sold direct from the farm and via wine shops and local restaurants. The label on the bottles reads “Preggio Delèlena” with a picture of one of the farm’s geese.