The Terriccio area forms a vast, scrupulously conserved and protected nature reserve. Very low environmental impact farming techniques have made it a paradise for the local flora and fauna, which include wild boar, hare, pheasants, partridges, various species of hawk, fallow deer and roe deer that wander around the estate in absolute freedom and safety, as they would in any particularly favourable natural habitat.
The estate's history is very ancient, stretching back more than one thousand years.
The remains of Castello del Terriccio take us back to the Middle Ages. Standing in a strategic position atop the hills, the castle kept a weather eye on the entire coast, and on the watchtower from which the Pisans could spot incoming Saracen corsairs in good time and elude their devastating raiding parties.
In the late 13th and early 14th centuries, the bishop of Pisa, a nephew of Boniface VIII, rented the estate in perpetuity, on behalf of the Roman Church, to the Counts Gaetani. The family held it for five centuries, during which time the fortified castle became an increasingly substantial farm. To meet these new needs, the cultivation of the area's traditional crops, wheat, olives and grapes, was rationalised with the construction of the farm.
The main buildings were erected in the 17th century, to be followed later by the cellar. At the end of the 18th century, the branch of the Gaetani family that owned Terriccio remained heirless. The estate, which has great mining potential with its reserves of iron, copper and other minerals deep under the hills, was acquired by Polish emigrés, the Princes Poniatowski, who retained it until the First World War.
In the late 1980s, the Terriccio estate launched a new phase of production focusing on viticulture. The territory's promise, its vocation for quality and its potential for premium production were carefully assessed and explored. Grapes other than Sangiovese and the previously cultivated traditional white varieties were also planted.
The first to arrive were varieties like Chardonnay, introduced in 1988, and Sauvignon, planted in the following year. These were immediately followed by the red grapes that have made Bordeaux great, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The vines for these varieties were selected with particular care. Plants from Italian nurseries were not used. Instead, grafts were taken from prestigious estates in Bordeaux to ensure a stable vine population that had already been selected over time, and would be able to express its potential quickly, and to consistently high standards.
When the Cabernet Sauvignon from France was planted, it was cordon-trained and spur-pruned, a system that was preferred over the locally more common head training and spur pruning, which is less suitable because of the strong winds that blow off the sea.
The new vines rooted splendidly on the Terriccio hills and the Merlot enhanced its already considerable structure, thanks the Tuscan sun., yielding soft, long-lived wines. Sangiovese was selected from new plantings of Sangiovese Grosso clones from Montalcino.
Today, the 25 hectares under vine in the early 1980s have expanded to about 60 currently in production. Other grapes have been planted, in addition to the varieties already mentioned. Syrah, for example, was first planted in 1999 as part of an estate experiment to study, by means of microvinifications, the ability of other varieties to adapt and express themselves. The aim is to identify varieties that could expand the ampelographic profile of the area and offer new prospects for quality. The vine densities used for the new plantings were high, but not excessively so.
A figure of about 5,500 vines per hectare was adopted in the vineyards that supply the Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes for the second red wine, Tassinaia, and roughly 7,000 for the Cabernet Sauvignon and the small proportion (roughly 10%) of Merlot that go into the blend for Lupicaia.
Particularly after the arrival of the consultant oenologist and agronomist Carlo Ferrini in 1993, the objective in all the estate's vineyards has been to keep down yields not just per hectare but above all per vine, which is now about 900 grams of fruit. Low yields enable the winemaker to bring out the natural richness and concentration of the wine with a significant presence of polyphenols, enhancing structure and sweetness, and obtaining great longevity. The harvest is normally completed in September for red varieties. Merlot is picked in the first week of September, Cabernet Sauvignon in mid September and Sangiovese at the end of the month.