Getting to Know Il Palazzone
An Overview and Interview with Richard Parsons
Distribution and Sales
Mandy Presser, director of sales in The United States, was kind enough to shed some insight on the business end of things. I asked her about production levels.
Mandy: The 2006 normale Brunello is only 8300 bottles, and the Riserva was just 100 cases. So, we're not trying to take over the world." "The Rosso production for the 2013 blend is around 13,000 bottles."
Me: Do you do "cellar releases" of later vintages.
Mandy: Sort of. We don't specifically hold back vintages for later sales, but if inventory remains, when the next vintage comes out, then we focus on selling the new vintages and the remainder stays in the cellar for a while.
Me: What might I, as a consumer, be able to find?
Mandy: The oldest that is out there right now is the 2001 Riserva, there are a handful of the 1995's.
Me: Here's a corny question, what would you say is the "heart" of Il Palazzone.
Mandy: Well, I'm going to give you a corny answer. The personalities...Dick, Laura, and Marco are great.
Really the heart of it is the great passion that they have for the work ...it's not just a job...it's like every bottle is a child going out to the world. We love to hear stories of people enjoying the wine as part of a special evening.
Laura says, "When people ask, "are you organic", I joke about the proximity of our children to the vineyard, playing on their swing set, a few meters away." Il Palazzone is not certified, organic, which is a rigorous process that may be more trouble than it's worth for some producers.
The kids at play amongst the Sangiovese
"We seek a symbiotic, sensitive relationship with the environment. We're not certified organic, but we are extremely careful, giving consideration to things like packaging, and bottle weight so as to minimize our carbon footprint. Whatever we do is subject to revaluation; we're constantly striving to make good decisions." They have even gone to the extent of using willow ties to secure the vines, a practice that was used in ages past.These simply fall to the ground and biodegrade when their useful life is over.Il Palazzone is a member of One Percent for the Planet, a non-profit whose members have committed to donate one percent of their gross sales to planet friendly organizations. You can read more about that in my post from May 2013.
Wine Making Modernization
Marco oversaw the construction of their new cellar, a beautiful structure that fits perfectly with its old world surroundings, but has modern wine making capabilities, and environmental considerations. It was designed to be as "green" as possible, and to support Il Palazzone's policy of sustainable agriculture. You can read much more about this in Mandy Presser's post on their blog.
In addition to building a new cellar, the winery has added eight new wood fermenting vats. These too represent a traditional approach to wine making while utilizing the modern tools that are available. Fermentation in wood is a significant refinement over the former stainless steel.
One of the four new fermenters.
The temperature in the vats is individually controlled by a computerized system, but fermentation is natural, using yeasts indigenous to the grapes.
Another big improvement is the new bottling machine, which has quickened and improved that process. Its first assignment, was the bottling of the latest Rosso Del Palazzone, in June of this year. Next, the 2009 Brunello bottling, all 9,304 bottles, was completed in one single (long) day. This resulted in more time for other important tasks.
Clearly, there is no skimping here when it comes to creating a facility that enables them to make the best wine that they can. This bodes well for future releases, which should logically improve the, already excellent, level of quality.
The Rosso Del Palazzone
Most Brunello producers make a Rosso Di Montalcino, DOC, as a second wine to their Brunello. Il Palazzone does not produce a Rosso Di Montalcino, rather, they produce their "Rosso Del Palazzone", which is composed of 100% Sangiovese Grosso, but does not officially conform to the DOC protocol for a Rosso Di Montalcino.
Because their Brunello is made from a blend of three different vineyards, and the selection is critical, at the blending of each vintage a certain amount of wine from a particular vintage / vineyard may not be included. The "leftover" wine is blended (multiple vintages) to make the Rosso Del Palazzone. The result is an excellent wine that outshines a fair number of Brunellos, and this at a great price.
Laura says, "I'm very proud of the Rosso [It was her idea]. I thought if we make a wine that was unique, and had its own story, it would be easier to market.
It's always terrifically popular and we always run out quickly. Stories sell wine...the Rosso is a great story since it is the remaining "Brunello" that we chose not to use in the final blend. The most recent (2013 release) is a blend of 2011 and 2012, both top vintages."
In my conversation with Mandy Presser, she explained that the Rosso is a great candidate for "by-the-glass" pours in restaurants and is frequently used as such.
I asked her if people are turned off by the "NV" (non-vintage) designation. She said, "Actually, I think it sometimes helps sell the wine. It starts a conversation about why it's non-vintage, and then they hear the story of how it's made."
About 13,000 bottles of the NV Rosso were produced this year. Until recently they were only distributed in New York, where they sold out quickly. Now the Rosso can be found in Florida, Las Vegas, and California.