Welcoming La Massa to Our Italian Portfolio!
The vineyards at La Massa & Giampaolo Motta, the estate’s owner/winemaker
After spending time in Bordeaux, Giampaolo Motta left his family’s leather business behind in Naples and headed north to work in Chianti where he learned the art of winemaking. Here and in Bordeaux, he developed the practices and philosophy that he would come to embody at La Massa, where Giampaolo owns 27ha of vineyards in the “Conca d’Oro”, “The Golden Basin”, of Panzano, Chianti. Acquiring this ancient, hilly property in 1991, with its vineyards that have been farmed since the 15th century, Giampaolo gained a reputation with the release of his first vintage of Giorgio Primo, one year later. Proceeding to produce two Chianti Classico wines until he decided to declassify in 2002, Giampaolo immediately gained and maintained a fierce following, and so it is with great pleasure that we welcome La Massa, to our Italian Portfolio.
“It gives us a legitimate ‘left bank’ representation to our book,” says Greg Reeves, our Italian Portfolio Director, ” with their Cabernet based wines. He’s a very passionate, driven producer that spares no expense to realize his vision.”
Beginning in 1992 with one of the worst vintages of the past 20 years, Giampaolo released his first wine, Giorgio Primo. And though his financier was expecting a release of 180,000 bottles, Giampaolo was able to produce only 12,000 bottles of wine. Selecting only the best wines for the blend, Giampaolo named the wine after his grandfather and won the hearts of the press who were so impressed by this newcomer who was able to extract such a fine wine from such a “miserable” vintage. His image as “a rebel and a renegade in the Italian wine world” was at this point, traced in stone.
Six years later, in 1998, Giampaolo released La Massa, another Chianti Classico wine that he declassified in 2002. Wanting the freedom to produce high quality wines that didn’t require specific percentages of Sangiovese, Giampaolo decided to produce IGT wines that were driven by La Massa’s terrior. Nowadays, Giorgio Primo is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot, and La Massa consists of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot or Alicante B.
Seeking a better understanding of his estate’s terroir, in 2002, Giampaolo sought help from the University of Bordeaux and Bologna, to study “the three important influences in winemaking that make up the concept of terroir: soil, climate, and human intervention.” Once they’d identified the four different geological formations, including: undifferentiated complexes (clayey schist and calcareous green or gray marl), chaotic complex (blocks of layered gray and greenish marly limestone enclosed in a clayey matrix), marl of San Polo (Oligocene; yellowish and gray with scaly texture), and sandstone (Oligocene; sandstone of quartzose origin with calcite or calcspar and phyllosilicate), Giampaolo restructured his south-west and south-east facing vineyards. With a clearer understanding of how to better match the soil qualities with the needs of each varietal, Giampaolo then planted Sangiovese, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Farming with a density of 6250 vines per hectare, Giampaolo also established four weather huts to help determine the most appropriate time for harvest.
On the heels of receiving spectacular scores from the Wine Advocate, in 2008 Giampaolo hired his good friend of 15 years, Stéphane Derenoncourt, one of the most renowned winemakers in Bordeaux, to advise on vineyard management and in the cellar. Working as a consultant to 90+ wineries in Bordeaux and around the world, Derenoncourt learned his art not by studying, but by working in the vineyards. Working together with great respect for the earth and the fruit, Giampaolo and Stéphane practice “logical” agriculture, releasing Derenoncourt’s first vintage in 2009. ”We employ sustainable methods in growing grapes: no artificial fertilizers, but rather green manure. No herbicides, we use ‘sexual confusion’ as a pesticide, and very little spraying for peronospera [only 5 times a year, while the average is 12],” says Giampaolo. In the winery, they use natural yeasts, “since we have a high grape quality, very little sulfates for hygienic purposes of cleaning barriques and very little at bottling for conservation. We have kept the ecological equilibrium of La Massa intact.”
Practicing techniques that are typically Bordeaux, the team studies “parcel by parcel, the various types of soil to assess their qualitative characteristics.” In the cellar, they use barrique, battonage, micro-oxygenation and gravity as a gentler means to transfer the wine from vats to barrique. In French oak, the wine sits in contact with its lees for 10-11 months, when it is frequently stirred so that micro-oxygenation can take place. The last 7-8 months are spent in oak, to allow for “full polymerisation of the phenolic components, which gives the wine its complexity and elegance.”