Paolo’s family moved to Piombino to escape the mêlée, the farmhouse was a ruin and in the middle of nowhere, the perfect place to find some peace and not too far from the beach either. Paolo was studying economics and his brother design, their parents had the house and the grapes from their surrounding six hectares of vineyard were to be sold.
Then at 09:30, 21stSeptember 1995 hail struck just as the grapes were due to be picked and the family made the pivotal decision to make a wine themselves. They had no experience, but they did have a friendly oenologist who dropped in every day to point them in the right direction; equipment was borrowed, wine was made and poor Paolo caught the bug and left university…
That friendly oenologist now works full time at Banfi and Fabrizio Moltard has taken over the role of moral support at Agnese. Paolo has become more than just an instinctive winemaker, he is also a great believer in, and fine advert for, Val di Cornia and its wine.
His wines are brave and brilliant, bright and bold, there is a conviction about everything; most of the region’s wines are made before Paolo picks; his brother, Alessandro’s labels are a statement of intent. This is artisan, modernism with minimal and basic equipment at its best.
Val di Cornia is squeezed between the new wine regions of Bolgheri and Maremma, historically they would all have been in the Maremma but the renaissance of Tuscan wines demands providence, which is both excellent and confusing. Paolo has opted to de-classify his wines to Toscana IGT because most of his 20,000 bottles are enjoyed outside of Italy where very few have stumbled across Val di Cornia DOC (few in Italy have either).
The farm is a twenty five hectare small-holding, much of the six hectares of vineyard is within the curve of a gentle ridge that acts as an effective net to catch sea breezes. Ancient woodland has been left undisturbed, biodiversity is important for the health of the vines and there are olive groves and cereal crops planted. The soils are clay with small sedimentary rocks, a typical Tuscan galestro, though the landscape looks unlike the uniformed carpet of vines just a few miles north.
The winery is functional, an eclectic mix of concrete and steel, the cellar is the only new building and here the reds languish in barrique at a constant temperature.
The winery is not certified as organic but is farmed along organic lines, Paolo's commitment to ripeness is very unusual and he can find windows that just don’t exist for the big companies. The distances to the winery are tiny, the scale is very human and the wines gloriously reflect this.