Poggio Argentiera is an exciting estate located in Tuscany’s coastal Maremma region and the source of high-quality wines from the local Sangiovese, Ciliegiolo and Vermentino varieties, but also international favorites such as Syrah and Cabernet Franc. It first gained attention under the ownership of Gianpaolo Puglia and his English wife, but in 2015 the 20-hectare property was acquired by the experienced and respected owners of Tua Rita - who immediately set about taking the project to the next level. The family felt a long-term vision was needed and challenged 25-year-old Giovanni Frascolla to make the wines. With very few vintages behind him, and plenty of eyes watching his development, will he be able to build a real identity for these wines and ensure Poggio Argentiera becomes a genuine reference for the area? Paul Caputo caught up with Giovanni to talk about his progress so far.
You have an incredible opportunity to put your name on the winemaking map with this project, but you are one of the youngest winemakers in Tuscany, perhaps even Italy. How are you feeling about it all?
I see this challenge as an opportunity for personal growth, and to make the company grow along with me. It’s an uphill task, but there’s lots of room for improvement and to develop our project at Poggio Argentiera. I have working alongside me a team that’s full of ideas and, backing me up, the experience of professionals like my father who are always ready to give me advice.
Not only are you considered very young for a lead enologist, you have decided to surround yourself with a very inexperienced winemaking team. What is your thinking here?
Ideas are what we need to “fan the flames” of our project. The world today turns at breakneck speed and we have to plan ahead, experiment and be courageous. In our evolving society, I need a team that isn’t afraid of making mistakes and is willing to take the plunge.
Did you have to fight for the opportunity to take over at Poggio Argentiera? Was there any resistance to putting you in charge, or were you always destined for the role?
It was I who really wanted to dedicate myself to Poggio Argentiera at the beginning of my career. I grew up at Tua Rita; I learnt to walk in the old barrel cellar; I spent loads of afternoons on the tractor with my grandfather. But, professionally speaking, I came of age at Poggio Argentiera with our first vintage in 2016: I saw the project coming to fruition with my own eyes, and I absolutely wanted to play my part.
There will inevitably be comparisons with your family’s success at Tua Rita. Presumably this is a bit of a double-edged sword. How do you view the situation?
Tua Rita and Poggio Argentiera are both part of a single family: the brands are separate, but the minds are the same. There’s lots of cooperation between the two teams and there is no competition between us. Our goal is to make both the companies grow day by day, and to pursue our mission.
The Maremma is a much bigger and more varied region, and you have to really understand it. As far as viticulture is concerned, you have to really take into account its “fickle moods” in terms of weather, and understand the variations in terroir in such a vast area, because we have vineyards in two completely distinct parts of the region.
Tua Rita achieved success through the quality of their wines, but also by tapping into the appeal of Super Tuscans. How do you feel about the DOCG system, and can you achieve your commercial goals by marrying the winery to the Morellino Scansano appellation in the eyes of the consumer?
At present, the company works to a great extent with IGTs (mainly single varietals), like we do at Tua Rita: it’s our trademark and we want to keep it that way. The Maremma area, though, has great potential for IGTs, Maremma Toscana DOC and Morellino di Scansano DOCG. One can obtain “friendly” wines for drinking young, or more complex, richly structured products designed for more demanding consumers.
Poggio Argentiera was founded by Gianpaolo Paglia and his wife Justine. How do you feel about the past?
First of all, we must thank Gianpaolo Paglia for having created a really important brand here in the Maremma. My family has taught me that ours is a job we must do by respecting the past but looking towards the future. So, for the first two vintages, we tried to keep the same range of products as the previous owner had, seeking to understand the potential of the various grapes and terroirs. In the last few years, we have combined our little bit of experience with the know-how of Tua Rita, starting to produce single-varietal wines, the result of strict selections in the vineyard and vinifications that respect the qualities of the fruit.
What changes have you made so far, and what, if anything, do you envisage changing in your work to best showcase your vineyards?
Since 2015, we have concentrated all our efforts on the vineyards, working in a more manual and meticulous manner. We have completely eliminated trimming the tops of the shoots, which allows us to save a lot of water and keep the bunches protected from the sun: these are the sort of measures we have learnt in the last few years.
What is your winemaking philosophy?
Every bottle must be a true representation of the bunch of grapes from which it is made. For this reason, we like to work with single varietals, in order to highlight the cultivar and the terroir. This is my grandfather’s legacy, and I shall always continue to follow this philosophy.
Tua Rita has established some world-renowned labels - Redigaffi, Per Sempre and Giusto di Notri are highly regarded. Which wines should we be looking out for at Poggio Argentiera? Which do you feel have the potential to become household names?
I think there is a lot of potential for international varieties, like Cabernet Franc for instance: our Poggioraso has the characteristics and the quality to be a great ambassador for Tuscany around the world. Poggio Argentiera has always had some wines like Capatosta (Sangiovese and Alicante) and the Bellamarsilia Morellino di Scansano that may be considered brilliant and representative examples of winemaking in the Maremma.