Josephin and Jarkko Peränen are bringing a modern perspective to the traditions of Chianti, making elegant, energetic wines in the heart of the Classico region. We spoke to them to find out more the story behind their project.
Jarkko came into wine by coincidence. He hung out with a lot of Italians while studying in Holland, visited during harvest, and ended up staying on to work with a small producer in Chianti Classico for the next 5 years. His wife Josephin is from a German brewing family, she says she “grew up in the countryside with the smell of brewing steam in her nose”, and knew she wanted to be involved in agriculture in some way. They met in Italy and bought their farm in 2002.
Candialle is an ancient place for growing vines and olives, it was first mentioned in papers from the 14th Century, and officially mapped in a census in 1716. They think the name derives from Latin and means ‘The House of Candio’. It’s located at the southern tip of the “Conca d’Oro” an amphitheatre of vines just below of the village of Panzano in the heart of Chianti. The farm is surrounded by woodlands, 20 of the 48 hectares that they own is wooded, there are also meadows, scrub and olive trees. Josephin explained that there’s a long history of polyculture in Tuscany, people owned a mix of fruit and olive trees, vines and vegetables.
“The area really began to focus on wine in the 1960s. Bigger wine companies moved in, tractors replaced oxen, and production increased. They flattened many of the traditional terraces, and the mixed planting started to disappear”.
When Jarkko and Josephin arrived there were only 2.5 hectares of vines. They started planting more in 2004, and now have 9.6 hectares of mostly Sangiovese, plus a little Malvasia Nera, Canaiolo and Colorino del Valdarno. In the cooler spots they have small plantings of international varieties: Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. They initially worked with the renowned agronomist Remigio Bordini who introduced his own massale selection vines. But now they take cuttings from their own vines, and work with a small organic nursery close by, which propagates with material from local producers. Jarkko has been collecting pieces of a Sangiovese vine he thinks is at least 100 years old, and field grafting buds onto a plot of Merlot. And now they have a small plot of their own Sangiovese clone.
Focus on the soil
They have worked organically from the beginning, and have been certified since 2019. They work regeneratively, which means focusing on soil health: producing their own organic fertilizers, not tilling the soil, and using ground plant cover to support biodiversity. They have animals – two very characterful highland cattle – for compost; collect all their pruning clippings to compost; and marc from the fermentation.
“Everything we take out from the vineyard returns there. Almost like a closed cycle farm.”
The are located on the famous galestro soils – the Italian name for the crumbly clay/schist – which makes the terracotta tiles you see on Tuscan buildings.
Jarkko: “This soil produces strong, rather tannic, and for Sangiovese a deep coloured wine, this is typical from Panzano”. It used to be referred to as the ‘nero de Panzano’ the black wine of Panzano. “In other regions where they have more of the chalky albarese soil the wines tend to be lighter in colour and structure and are more floral. But what made Panzano famous was the more full-bodied wines from the galestro.”
Jarkko describes their winemaking as very simple. They pick by hand into small crates, making their grape selections in the vineyard. They keep the crates in refrigerated shipping containers to cool them so the fermentation starts slowly, and they don’t need to cool the must during fermentation.
They’ve been doing some experiments with stems, but don’t think Sangiovese benefits from having them included as it’s tannic enough already. In the past people might have included some to increase they pH of the wine, but with good farming, and in a warm climate the grapes are ripe enough so they don’t want to increase the pH. The maceration lasts 25-30 days depending on the year, they do some punch downs and pump overs after the first five days, and reduce them towards the end of the fermentation. They press with an old basket press then the different wines are aged in different vessels. Over time they’ve seen different parcels seem to age better in different vessels which is one of the main differences between their wines.
La Misse, which means the ‘little miss’ in local dialect is described as their baby wine. It comes from younger vines and they co-ferment a little Caniolo and Malvasia Nera in the blend. It’s fermented and aged in concrete tanks.
Their Candialle Chianti Classico is made from grapes from particular plots with a late maturing clone from Romagna, which produces full bodied wines with a low pH and lots of colour, which can take the oak ageing.
Mimas, also Sangiovese, aged in 250 litre round ceramic claver, produced by a small company in Genoa. They were the first to use them for commercial winemaking, they have claver number 6 and 7 off the production line! Jarkko describes it as a ‘hyper-modern amphora’ thin walls allow micro-oxygenation like you would get in barrel, but no flavour to fully express the Sangiovese. The wine is labelled IGT because they make such a small quantity, it doesn’t make sense to take it through all the Classico tasting panels.
MN was an experiment made from 100% Malvasia Nero. Normally they co-ferment this with Sangiovese which bring acidity, thy noticed that the pH was low in 2016 and they have made a fresh and supple with feather-light alcohol – just 11% – which they describe as a great lunchtime wine!