Articolo disponibile anche in: Italian
In Tavarnelle they all know Stefano Panti. He is the “farm manager” at the Castello del Nero Hotel & Spa.
Stefano was born right here in 1964, in the splendid countryside between Spicciano and Tignano. To be precise, in the Podere la Pieve, in the Castle’s estate.
“My parents – he tells us – were tenant farmers at the farm owned by the Torrigiani family. They were working the land and also doing jobs at the Castle”.
He grew up among these woods, fields, olive groves and vineyards: “I spent my childhood here, helping my parents, at a time when we still used cows to work the land, and not tractors. Then I went to agricultural school and at the end of my studies I started working at the Consorzio Agrario in Tavarnelle, taking care of sales. Fertilizers, gasoline, agricultural machines and tools”.
Meanwhile, he started a collaboration with the Castello del Nero: “In 1985 the Torrigiani family sold the property to a Swiss company and I used to do their seasonal agricultural work plan. It was in fact a free consultation as they were buying products from me”.
Stefano’s sliding door has a precise date: December 16th 1991. “I made a life choice – he says smiling – I left my job behind and I became a full time employee at the Castello del Nero. I was basically responsible…for everything”.
Years of hard work, not an easy time. Then the turning point came with the new owners, the Trotta: “Everything has changed here over the past ten years – he says proudly – even in the agricultural sector. We have a vineyard of more than 3 hectares planted in 2003, one of over 4 hectares planted in 2014 that is in production this year. In total we have over 5 hectares of Chianti DOCG and the remaining IGT. Why not Chianti Classico? At the time the Torrigiani were not interested, because they were already successfully selling their wine”
“At the Castello”, he says, “We’ve always done well in the agricultural sector; wine and olive oil are our strong points. 90% of our extra virgin olive oil has always been sold to local people, while some is bought by the guests. We used to have a beautiful “orciaia”, where we kept the terracotta jars for the oil. This year? It went well, both in terms of quality and quantity. We don’t have the official certification, but it’s all organic: we have about 7000 productive plants, and as many non-productive ones, dating back to the 1985 frost”.
Today the Castello del Nero shows the same degree of care to the residence and the surrounding countryside. “The estate covers 296 hectares”.
Beehives have recently been introduced: “We started in 2017 – says Stefano – but because of the drought we produced very little honey. We have five beautiful hives, but they suffered badly. Let’s see how 2018 goes”.
“We have 110 hectares of arable land. We don’t make a profit out of it but we cultivate it to keep the land in good order. For the company, for the guests who enjoy walking in our fields: wheat, ancient grains, sunflower and favetta”.
The estate includes large woods: the “della Signora” wood, and “dei Pianacci” that borders with the “Chiostrini” wood. 105 hectares in total. This year we are going to start a plan of selective cuts that will provide firewood. In the meantime many wood paths will be restored.
Before we say good bye, he gives us a heads up: “I am working on a ‘co-cultivation’ historic vineyard – he announces with satisfaction – with different plants simultaneously planted in the same field, the way it used to be done in the past: poplars, olive trees, fruit trees, vines. It will be ready in 2018, a small plot in the same position where once the same kind of vineyard existed, along the road to Casaglia. The owners have a real heart for agriculture: for us the fields are our garden”.