Il Palagio, the Tuscan estate of musician and rock star Sting and his wife, actress and director Trudie Styler, has hired enologist Riccardo Cotarella to oversee the vineyards and winemaking. Cotarella, 72, widely considered to be Italy’s leading consulting enologist, plans to focus on making wines with both the Chianti and Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT) designations beginning with the 2020 harvest.
“It's important in the life of any business to keep challenging yourself and your decisions and always to look for ways to develop, grow and stay fresh,” Sting and Styler explained in a statement issued by the winery. “Our winemaking venture at Il Palagio is something we take very seriously, and never want to just sit back and continue doing things exactly as we’ve done before.”
“The goal we have set ourselves is to make great wines given the potential of the territory,” Cotarella says. “[Il Palagio] has excellent hilly exposures where the vineyards have abundant sunshine. I have tasted their wines and I believe there is room for improvement.”
The current range of wines includes the Toscana IGT Sister Moon, a blend of 60 percent Sangiovese, 30 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 10 percent Merlot; Toscana IGT Casino delle Vie, comprising 95 percent Sangiovese and 5 percent Cabernet; and Chianti When We Dance, 90 percent Sangiovese plus equal parts Colorino and Canaiolo. Once the fermentations this year are complete, Cotarella plans to review the blends.
The Chianti remains an important focus of the lineup. “I am working on stronger identity in this wine,” explains Cotarella. “I am blending now and waiting for new harvest to see what we can achieve.”
He also noted that the Toscana Message in a Bottle and Toscana Roxanne reds are both works in progress. “I will know after harvest where we are with blends, but both will have predominately Sangiovese.” The corresponding Toscana Message in a Bottle and Toscana Roxanne whites will be based on Vermentino.
There are also a few new projects in the works, along with a new look for the brand to be launched next year. A 100 percent Merlot limited edition from the 2017 harvest called Il Palagio 1530 is scheduled to be released at Vinitaly 2021; there's also a Bordeaux-style blend and a traditional method sparkling rosé based on Sangiovese to be released after four years.
Sting and Styler purchased the 16th century Il Palagio estate in 1997. The 270 acres included 28 acres of rundown vineyards. An adjoining 520-acre property and its 42 acres of vines was purchased in 2004. The original vines were replanted between 2000 and 2002. The couple invested millions restoring the villa, its gardens and vineyards, and are committed to its wine production.
“We have been growing wines at Palagio for almost two decades now,” said Sting. “We have been very fortunate in those 20 years to have collaborators who share the same ethos towards the natural environment as we do. As in music, when you look for collaborators you hope to attract the best. Riccardo Cotarella is at the top of everyone’s list in his own field and he also shares our philosophy of caring for the long-term well-being of the terroir.”
Cotarella, whose family also makes wines in Umbria and Lazio at its Famiglia Cotarella estate, has consulted with many Italian wineries during his career, including Donnachiara, Fattoria Galardi, Montevetrano, Morgante, Villa Matilde, Torre Rosazza, Leone di Castris, Masseria Li Veli, Villa Sandi and Castello di Volpaia. Most of these producers participated in OperaWine, the exclusive tasting organized by Wine Spectator and Vinitaly on the eve of the Italian wine fair.
He is known for clean, modern wines emphasizing fruit, but also retaining the character of the territory. Cotarella has a particular affinity for Merlot, creating Montiano from the volcanic soils of Lazio in 1993, the flagship of the Falesco label, now Famiglia Cotarella.
Cotarella is also president of Assoenologi, Italy’s national association of wine technicians and co-president of Union Internationale des Enologues. For the past decade, he has been teaching Enology and Viticulture at the University of Tuscia in Lazio, allowing him to keep abreast of the latest scientific research and, more important, he taps his best students to work on his projects.
Galardi and Montevetrano in Campania and Masseria Li Veli in Puglia are examples of the success that Cotarella has achieved in southern Italy. His expertise and guidance could be just what Il Palagio needs to take it to the next level.