Boutique. Artisan. Organic. Family owned. That’s the story of Setriolo in a nutshell.
Setriolo is located in Castellina in Chianti and is run by Susanna Soderi. Although the family have been grape growers since the 1800’s, ownership of the Setriolo farm is more recent. The property was originally purchased by Susanna’s father in 1989 and for decades he farmed the vineyards and sold the grapes to various wineries. Today, the estate produces organic fruit and olive oil from their small 3.5 hectares of land. Every aspect of the production is done on the “micro” level.
The first harvest that Susanna decided to produce under her own label was the 2003 vintage which debuted in 2005. When vintage conditions permit, three wines are produced: Chianti Classico, Chianti Classico Riserva and an IGT Merlot. For this article I tasted the two most recent Sangiovese and then sat down for a Q&A with Susanna.
The 2016 Setriolo Chianti Classico is 100% Sangiovese. Deep violet in color through to the rim, this wine bursts from the glass with crushed berry, fresh blue flowers, Tuscan herbs and tobacco. The aromatics are wonderful. On the palate, the wine is fresh and lively with a large core of wild cherry fruit that is sapid and mouthwatering. Dusty tannins are well integrated and backed by sweet tobacco, cypress herb and toasted spices. This is medium to full bodied and vibrant. A wonderful Chianti Classico that drinks well now and will last at least 5-8 years in the cellar. The Classico is vinified in a combination of stainless steel and cement vats. Then, 60% of the wine remains in vats to age while the remaining 40% is aged in used tonneaux. 92 points. Find this wine.
Susanna spends the majority of her time working in the cellar and tending the vines row by row. Working in the vineyards is her passion and here is where she finds quiet peace. However, she’s never out there alone. Her dog Bull is always around to keep her company!
The 2016 Setriolo Chianti Classico Riserva is also 100% Sangiovese. Deep violet in color, the extra aging prior to release allows the taster to witness a slight ring of copper around the rim of the bowl. Crushed cherry is prominent on the nose with cured meat, toasted spices and Tuscan scrub. Alluring on the palate, this is full bodied and long. Wild cherry flavors are juicy and fresh and accented with cigar tobacco, roasted espresso bean and dusty woven tannins. You can sense the structure here but the wine is very well balanced and therefore approachable now. Decant for an hour. Wonderful Sangiovese. 95 points. Find this wine.
Rather than simply provide reviews on Setriolo’s releases, I sought out Susanna to see if she would be interested doing a short interview to lend further context to the wines and winery. She graciously accepted.
TV: Ciao Susanna and thank you for joining me today! I notice from your website that you only decided to begin making wine in 2003. If the farm was in the Soderi family hands before that point, what were you doing with the fruit?
Grazie Giovanni for tasting my wines and for the article. I am glad you enjoyed them! My father purchased the farm in 1989, and all the while he sold the grapes to other wineries in the area. His family were originally from Castellina from generations and my great grandfather was a producer of Chianti Classico since the end of the 1800’s. However, Setriolo was a dream come true for my dad after 40 years living in Venezuela. I was born in Florence but grew up in Venezuela, I wasn’t in lover with Italy for all my life, but one day I said to my dad that I will spend a year in Italy and then come back to Venezuela, (I was a psychologist and I loved living in Venezuela), but that year never ended! Slowly slowly I fell in love with Italy and Setriolo and when my father passed away I decided to change my life and start producing my own wine. (otherwise selling grapes was not enough to pay the bills!!)
TV: An absolutely amazing story! So even though you didn’t have the charm for Italy initially, she always gets her way! So you have only 3.5 hectares under vine. What is the breakdown between Sangiovese and Merlot? Is there anything else planted?
She definitely gets her way! As for the vineyards, there is around 85% Sangiovese and 15% Merlot. There is also a little bit of Alicante Bouchet (around 1,000 vines) but it’s really very small.
TV: I noticed that the 2014 and 2015 Chianti Classico included Merlot in the blend but 2016 was only Sangiovese. Why the change?
Our blends change year by year. I produce only with my grapes and depending on the quantity of grapes I have every vintage, the blends can change slightly. I like the vintage characters to show in the wines and my winemaker tries to get the best expression of the vintage every year. Naturally, we prefer to have Chianti Classico and Riserva 100% Sangiovese and IGT Memores 100% Merlot but it is not possible every year.
TV: What are the biggest challenges facing Setriolo right now? Is it related to marketing your winery? Covid? Climate change? Something else?
The biggest challenges are related to marketing for sure. The winery is very small, costs of productions are higher compared with the big producers and I spend most of my time working in vineyards and cellar, managing the farm and taking care of my mom. I am the gardener, the pool cleaner, the guide when I have visitors, deal with paper and computer work…..and a day has only 24 hours!!
It is hard to do all this alone. I have a worker that I share with another producer close by and he helps with some physical work in the farm. I am not a sales woman. Covid has been a difficult issue, especially because I lost most of my direct sales (no visitors, no direct sales) and that is where I can get a little better price for my wines and olive oil. Climate changes: we can deal with it, when we planted the new vineyard in 2005 we noticed that the weather was getting warmer and we chose vines that were resistant to the dry and hot climate. It really comes down to the many different hats I’m forced to wear.
TV: For certain. No matter the size of an operation, all of those roles still need to be fulfilled. You mention climate change. How have your winemaking practices changed in light of climate change?
My winemaking practices do not change so much. In some vintages I need to cool the grapes during harvest with dry ice because I don’t have the budget for walk in refrigeration.
TV: Let’s talk oak for a second. Do you utilize grande botte, tonneaux or barrique for your Sangiovese? Or a combination? Why?
At the beginning we used some new barriques and we also bought some used ones, but since 2007 we are using 500 liters tonneaux of both American and French oak. We use the wood containers as long as possible, I buy maybe two new tonneaux every 4 to 5 years. My winemaker suggested to use both kinds of oak to make a differentiation in the wines. IGT Memores is aged only in American oak (except vintage 2016 that will be bottled next Saturday that was aged in two new tonneaux of French oak). The Sangiovese mostly in French oak.
TV: What do you spend most of your time on? Vineyard management? Are you the winemaker or do you use a consultant?
I have a winemaker that is a consultant (and also a woman) since the beginning because I never drink wine living in Venezuela and I think I do not have the skills to be a professional winemaker. As I mentioned, I spend most of my time working in the vineyards, cellar and doing all what is needed in the winery.
TV: Finally, I see that you are Organic? Are you certified or simply following the proper practices?
I am certified organic in Italy but I never extended the certification to the US label of my importer in New York…(too much papers to do!!)
TV: Understood, but the practice is what’s important. Thank you so much Susanna and I will see you next time in Castellina.
Grazie a te, Giovanni!