Tuscany’s Paterna winery is proud of its certified organic status, but they’re even more proud of their commitment to working with people with special needs. They call the practice Agricoltura Sociale where those with disabilities are given a place in a rural setting. This philosophy also applies to their visitors, having made their Bed & Breakfast (or agriturismo) wheelchair accessible – a milestone in Italy where being physically disabled can be a true issue in terms of movement within the countryside.
Paterna, located near the city of Arezzo, has a very low-key vibe – no television sets for visitors. Rather they encourage visitors to take vegetables from the garden, cook outside with friends and share the outdoor spaces. They are also friendly and open to campers. They grow a host of indigenous grapes such as Sangiovese, Canaiolo, Colorino, Trebbiano and Malvasia. The winery has been organic for over 20 years.
The idea for this winery began in the 1970s, according to Marco Noferi, one of the founders. The terroir is a mixture of sand and fine clay, where Sangiovese flourishes. The area is located near the Pratomagno mountain which serves as a barrier from the winds from the Northeast. Marco told me they have considerable temperature shifts between day and night at the winery.
We spent a considerable amount of time talking about how much the countryside around Arezzo had changed. In the past, they had the culture of the Mezzadria where families would work the land for a “boss.” Sometimes, up to 200 families lived on the farms, working for the landowner. This system mostly ended by the 1960s, and there was an exodus from the countryside to the city. Some two-thirds of the population left and took with them the many skills needed to run country properties. During the 1980s, however, there was a return of interest in the area with people from Milano and from Switzerland looking to buy properties and using well-known consultants. Paterna was also founded in this period of time, but with a different philosophy. They are interested in recouping indigenous varieties, such as Pugnitello, and are one of the few wineries that grow this ancient grape.