Matteo Vaccari and Maddalena Fucile are breathing new life into the Chianti Classico appellation. After studying oenology in Florence and working abroad chez Rajat Parr and Sashi Moorman in California (Sandhi/Domaine de la Côte), the pair returned home and has since devoted their lives to the production of fresh, soil-driven, and minimally-worked Sangiovese. From farming philosophies to winemaker inspiration to their favorite Italian dishes, get to know this dynamic duo better through our exclusive interview with them, here.
Did you always know you wanted to make wine?
Maddalena: No, I wanted to be a veterinarian. I tried to study it and failed, but then also fell in love with agriculture. Although I was born in the city, I moved to Cigliano di Sopra as a teenager and I fell in love with the countryside.
Matteo: In a certain way I always knew that I wanted to make wine, but at first I tried to study medicine like my mother. After two months, I realized it wasn’t my passion and I started studying winemaking (where I met Maddalena at University in Florence). Then we started working together.
What inspired you to pursue winemaking?
Maddalena: The fascinating part of winemaking is that you can make everything! You choose fermentations, when to pick, etc. You have 90% of it under control. Nature makes up the other 10%.
Matteo: I was inspired by the possibility to work in the countryside in an open space with nature, to eat great food and drink great wine. When I was a child, many of my friends’ families produced wine, so in a certain way I grew up in this world. I’ve always been fascinated by wine, so I decided to try and do it my way.
Tell us about your time in Santa Barbara. How did it help formulate your winemaking mentality?
Maddalena: I went to Santa Barbara for the first time in 2016 to learn English. I was in the city center and an American family hosted me for eight weeks. I did intensive courses in English and I fell in love with California, so the year after I decided to go there and harvest. I was hired by Sashi Moorman and Raj Parr and it was an amazing experience. They have an amazing vision of wine, really natural wines. They taught me that humans are simply assistants of nature. They opened really amazing bottles everyday, because the best way to learn how to make wine is to drink great wines from all over the world. They also helped us to understand natural wines and taught us how to have respect about brettanomyces.
Matteo: The first time I visited Santa Barbara was in 2014. I decided to do an experience in winemaking because I like the area and the wines, and I think that Domaine de la Côte is one of the best wineries in all of California. At first, me and Maddalena didn’t know that we’d be working together in California. We found out when we were there! A really big part of what I know now about winemaking, I learned from Sashi and Raj. They really explain drinking great wines and teach how to react during fermentation, when to pick grapes, how to rack wine, how to work in a very respectable and natural way with the grapes and transform them into wines that are almost perfect. No additions, but wines that are balanced and great. Before, I didn’t know how to obtain these results. But this experience taught me how to work with macerations, pigeages. It was really important. Everything that I know now about Sangiovese, I learned from Pinot Noir.
How would you describe your farming/winemaking style?
Maddalena & Matteo: All of the balance is fundamental and found in picking. Our farming is organic, we use some biodynamic principles, and some principles from classic agriculture. We are a guest of our land, so if we want to do something intensive, we try to enhance biodiversity, but a vineyard is still a vineyard. We are inspired by forests, which are ecosystems where everything works together. We are trying to reduce spraying by only doing just it when it is necessary, in fundamental moments of the cycle. We don’t hedge the vines. We just let the vines grow and remove some leaves before harvest to avoid mildew on the grapes
Who are some winemakers that inspire you?
Maddalena: Raj & Sashi of course, and Montevertine.
Matteo: One of my mentors was Sergio Manetti, the winemaker at Montevertine. He’s the father of one of my best friends and he’s taught me a lot of things.
What are some of your personal goals at the winery?
Maddalena & Matteo: In the next 5-10 years, we hope to bottle all of our production (we bottle about 25-30 percent now). Hopefully we can increase from 2-3K bottles. Now we are making a big production of bulk wine and the goal is get all wine into bottles. Also, to produce better and better wines every year! Maybe a Gran Selezione in the future, (right now we only make Chianti Classico), but let’s see what happens.
What are some wines you like to drink besides Chianti?
Matteo: We drink a lot of Burgundy! Pinot Noir from Mugneret-Gibourg, Sylvain Pataille, Dujac. We also love Bandol for rosé (Tempier), We like lots of Syrah from Côte-Rôtie and Saint-Joseph, Cornas, Hervé Souhaut. For aperitivo, we drink wines from Lapierre and Domaine de la Grand’Cour, My favorite wine (that is no longer accessible) is Clos Rougeard. It changed my mind on the world of wine! It has the perfect complexity and is something extra special. It’s the wine that I’d bring to space! We sometimes drink Nebbiolo, but these are wines that need to wait. The tannins are often very, very heavy.
Maddalena: I love whites from Sicily. We drink a lot of French wine because we have a small house in the Alps in France that is just five hours away from Florence, so we go there often. We buy wine and bring back. We also go visit other wineries that we like about twice a month to learn. They teach us how they make wine and we learn from them.
Matteo: We drink a lot of good wines with our interns/friends, like Raj and Sashi did for us. It’s a way to teach them what wine is.
What are some of your favorite Italian foods/recipes to eat?
Maddalena: We are trying not to say pasta, but… we love to eat everything!
Matteo: Obviously I think the Pesto Genovese is the best! I also love bistecca fiorentina. It’s a classic.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time when not at the winery?
Maddalena: The beach is only an hour from the winery. I like sailing, so sometimes I go on the weekends.
Matteo: Generally I go fishing, hiking, and mountain biking. I love the islands, specifically the Archipelago Toscano. I love to go there with friends. Cooking too is a passion for me as well.
Where do you see yourselves in 5 years? 10 years?
Maddalena: Improving this project, I hope! I would also like to make a dry white wine from Malvasia like in Sicily. Maybe in ten years I can buy a small vineyard there and make one! Volcanic lands are amazing.
Matteo: I think I will still be here if the winery starts to grow and increase in production. I’d also like to work as a consultant for other wineries in Tuscany.
Tell us a random fact about yourself.
Maddalena: I am really strict about myself and the things that I do. I like to be really rigorous and sometimes this is a limitation. Also, I love animals.
Matteo: I eat too much!