Owner of Domain Petrolo
Met by Gerda at the Domaine
When you arrive at Petrolo, you are impressed by the tremendous beauty of the landscape. It is located in the wildest corner of Tuscany. When you step out the car you are immediately convinced that people who live here are nature lover. As the owner, Luca Sanjust describes: all the love and respect we dedicate to farming our land in Petrolo is returned in the beauty of the wines that nature bestows on us.
Petrolo is a property of 300 hectares of which only 31 is planted under vines. Back in 1716, wine and olive oil were produced at Petrolo. Wines produced nowadays at Petrolo have their roots in Luca Sanjust’s grandfather period (in the 40’s/70’s) and in his mother’s (in 80’s/90’s). The vineyard is planted with sangiovese, merlot and a little bit of cabernet sauvignon. Around 90 000 bottles are produced each year: Torrione 50.000, Galatrona 30.000, and Bòggina 12.000. The soil type is mostly loam soil, with variable rocky stratifications of schist, marl and sandstone. The altitude is between 250 and 500 meters above sea level.
So let’s have a talk with the “wine artist” Luca Sanjust. Sebastiano Pompa who is in charge of La Place de Bordeaux releases was also present on the day of my visit. He was coming back from Bordeaux where he presented 2020 vintage.
Gerda: Tell us about you…
Luca Sanjust: I am a man with many passions: art, culture and beauty in general. I am eclectic, very curious and I love the renaissance period of our history. You can even say that I am a relaxed person but a serious one (smiling). Everything must be done in a serious way but not boring!
Wine is for me the transformation of nature in culture made by men. It is a union between land, vine and men trying to cultivate it… it is only with passion and day-by-day work (kindness in everything), that great wine can be produced. For that, we have to convince the plants to produce the right amount of grapes as harmoniously as possible by trying not to spoil everything in the cellar… Above all, we must not force nature, just help it give us good grapes, lovely ripe.. All the grapes’ elements, from the skin to the contents inside, are held together in harmony, ready to fulfill their destiny, therefore wine.
Gerda: What are the main challenges you personally face, in the practice of your work?
Luca Sanjust: To convince Nature to give the best product. Petrolo has something special and unique. It is an interconnected ecosystem: forest, olive trees, vines, gardens, bees.
My family, the Bazzochi’s, who comes from Rome, bought the property in the ’40s. Petrolo is not a part of the historical appellation Chianti Classico, it is in fact, located at 100 meters away from the border appellation. This was a nightmare for my father. My mother took it as a challenge and more freedom in grape selections. Sangiovese was already planted at the property but she decided to plant merlot and cabernet sauvignon. Her decision helped to give to this land the important French concept of terroir, genius of the place (genius loci). My philosophy of life is to transform land and Nature into wine.
Harvest is exhausting me each year, but when I taste wines 6 months later or more, everything goes away and I am amazed by this beautiful product. This transformation is really magical!
The brand Petrolo Galatrona today and tomorrow
Gerda: What positioning (s) do you want for your brand (s)?
Luca Sanjust: Are there other brands in the world (laughing). To be more serious: I want to be recognized as a producer of Grands Crus with a small land. We don’t produce any entry-level wines. We only want to produce selected wines with their own signature. We are unique in many ways: we don’t come from this world of producers but from art, history, and our family roots are in Rome. Our property is totally organic and I want to transfer this land to better conditions as I got it from my grandfather. Better in terms of landscapes’ beauty: the forest, olive trees and vines. It is a combination of everything and it makes the singularity of this place.
G: How do your wines stand out and are unique?
LS: My wines speak the language of my land. To be more precise: I don’t like wines which are made in the cellar. Wines should have the expression of where they come from. Man’s hands are only there to transform the grapes into wine in a natural and easy way.
My wines are the expression of beauty, they should be like art or music. They give a smile on faces. I like wines from all around the world and drink always while eating. I don’t like strong and over-extracted wines. Our wines have balance, elegancy and purity. Wine is a memory like a beautiful painting you will never forget.
Denis Durantou, who was a close friend, told me that Galatrona is the pure expression of merlot in Tuscany. It has a natural acidity, sapidity and after ageing it has the aromas of truffle, underwood of an exceptional merlot. Galatrona is surrounded by exceptional elements which is reflected into the wine
G: Which of your recent accomplishments would you like to share with our customers?
LS: Allora…. There are too many and they are not necessarily recent. We started to age our sangiovese in Amphoraes when nobody did it before. We did it, in order to keep the purity and the full expression of this grape variety. We started many years ago with the concept of a single vineyard like producers do in Piedmonte and Burgundy. Petrolo is on the map of the best areas in Tuscany and my aim is to have the best single vineyards on this map. Great wines have been produced there for more than 200 years. We have the responsibility to not destroy this special area. Nature is perfect unlike human being.
It has to do also with our culture. Italy has invented sprezzatura which is the symbol of renaissance: making a masterpiece without seeing the effort (Sprezzatura : This ability to give an appearance of ease, and naturalness to the most difficult achievements is one of the characteristics of the art of the Renaissance). It is for me the concept of the best things and making wine is for me sprezzatura
G: What future project are you currently working on (technique, commercial)
LS: Good question and the answer is…. staying alive, running every day, and having fun! Trying not to make too many errors and enjoying life!
G: Since 2016 GALATRONA is certified organic, why have you made that decision?
LS: We are organic because in Tuscany, we do have the best conditions to make wines without using any chemical product. Being organic is quite easy for us so why not to be certified?
La Place de Bordeaux
Gerda: What are the main reasons to sell your wines through La Place de Bordeaux?
LS: I am a very practical man: everybody has his own job. We produce great wines, and we are dedicated to it. Through La Place de Bordeaux I can sell my wines to the best places in the world and it makes the brand stronger. It is an honor that our wines are sold through this system. While selling your wine through la Place, producers can save time and spend more energy on their wine’s quality.
G: Has the type of distribution changed since you sell through La Place de Bordeaux?
LS: Not really, we had serious importers before we sold through La place and we still have them. On the other hand, our distribution is wider spread and to a greater number of clients. We still sell directly to the United States, Canada, Italy and Switzerland. 80% of our production is sold through la Place de Bordeaux.
Sebastiano Pompa: Yes, not dramatically, some very interesting accounts have been added, thanks to our partners of la Place. Our existing distributions which we had before are still focused on our brands. It is a win/win situation for all of us.
G: Do you get a larger exposure thanks to La Place de Bordeaux?
LS: Yes, we do but we don’t want to expand the 31 hectares of the property. Since my grandfather bought it we did not increase it, and i want to keep it that way in order to keep this landscape beauty. In two years we sell through la Place, distribution has shifted and we do sell to a greater number of clients. I do feel that there is greater confidence around the third release through la Place which will take place this month. Confidence in the quality of my wines is very important to me. I am not a fan of speculation because the aim of each bottle is to be drunk.
Sebastiano Pompa: Definitely, we are experiencing an increase in our positioning worldwide. From journalists to restaurant owners, they are all curious to know Petrolo better. Thanks to La Place the door is widely open.
G: Sebastiano, what is your role for Petrolo?
SP: Theoretically I have the same role for Petrolo, Mazzei and Tenuta Sette Ponti. I am the one involved with the releases through la Place de Bordeaux this month. I am in contact with courtier and negociants. Degree of involvement changes following sovereignty’s degree of the producer himself. Luca Sanjust is very much comparable to a Bordeaux Château owner, that allows him to delegate me all responsibility in my relationship with our partners of La Place de Bordeaux.
Gerda: The next release of Galatrona in September will be the vintage 2020, can you tell us about this vintage?
LS: After a rather mild winter, the initially warm spring brought abundant rains in May and rather cold temperatures for the period. At the beginning of summer, with heat wave in June, the development of vines was realigned to its usual course. We had few storms in July that were not of real concern and temperatures below average allowed a balanced growth. Grapes were washed by some rains in August but hot temperatures allowed a very good ripening. Harvest began with Merlot the first week of September. Sangiovese was harvested from the third week of September, same period as Trebbiano. Cabernet Sauvignon of Campo Lusso was, as usual, the last grape harvested start October.
I am very pleased about this vintage which is among the greatest we have ever produced at Petrolo.
The tased wines
Torrione 2020, IGT Toscana Rosso: This wine is a picture of Petrolo, a blend of the grapes from all the vineyards of Petrolo: 80% sangiovese, 15% merlot and 5% cabernet sauvignon.
The wine is appealing, it has plenty of red fruit. It is well balanced, crunchy and 20% of Bordeaux grape varieties give good weight on the mid-palate.
Boggina A 2020, DOC Val d’Arno: 100% sangiovese
Only 1296 bottles and 20 magnums are made of this wine which is vinified and aged for 5 months in terracotta amphoraes of 300 and 500 liters. The wine has the full expression of sangiovese: blood orange and earthy aromas. It has complexity and well-balanced freshness. It is crispy with lovely tension. It has already a lot of drinkability but can be kept for many more years. The full sangiovese expression of the beautiful terroir of Petrolo!
Galatrona 2020, DOC Val d’Arno: 100% merlot
I have often written that the best merlots are, in my opinion, in Bordeaux. But I must be honest, I am really impressed by this wine. The late Denis Durantou was right, Galatrona is the pure expression of Merlot in Tuscany. As Luca describes: the peculiar soil, rich in clay in combination with schist, marl and sandstones, allows the concentration of all the noble components of the grapes, fundamental for the great structure, elegance, balance and persistence wanted for this wine. I only can add BRAVO to this exceptional wine!
After the property visit we had a fantastic dinner with Luca during which we savoured a Galatrona 2005.
The smile on his face is the reflection of this exceptional wine. The goal of each bottle is to bring hapiness!
Boggina B 2020, IGT Toscana: 100% trebbiano
Vines are cloned from the original Trebbiano of Valdarno which were known since 300 years for its quality. For 15 months the wine is aged on lees in French oak with traditional stirring.
Again, Luca and his talented winemaker Simone Cucolli bring pure expression to the land trough the wine. The rocky Galestro soil in combination with the location and this local grape variety gives the wine beautiful full-bodied aromas of peach, honey, stony and all is uplifted by lemon. This white wine can be aged for many years!
Gerda BEZIADE has an incredible passion for wine and perfect knowledge of Bordeaux acquired within prestigious wine merchants for 25 years. Gerda joins Roland Coiffe & Associés in order to bring you, through “Inside La PLACE”, more information about the estates we sell.