Josetta Saffirio, a wine producer suspended between sustainability and magic

by Cristina Fracchia

The first time the sat-nav directed me to the Josetta Saffirio winery, making me drive on improbable roads, I had the feeling that I had entered a magic land, despite only being a few miles from where I live.  I thought it was perfect when I discovered that the iconic image of the winery is a gnome.

In this fantastic land I found Sara Vezza, a young fourth generation producer in love with this territory.  "I attended college and I graduated in Communication Sciences, but if I had chosen a different working path, I would have betrayed the bond I feel with these hills."  This bond was born at childhood and strengthened thanks to the stories of her family members, which told of the houses of the gnomes in the woods nearby.  The gnomes with which Sara maintained a sort of "correspondence" with in her childhood, then, when adolescent, asked her parents not to reveal the identity of this character, so as to keep intact and enchanted her young memories.

The relationship with the land was also strengthened by her parents, who helped to raise in her the desire to produce.  Sara's mother, Josetta, has a degree in agricultural sciences and is a teacher.  Her father, Roberto is enologist at the historic winery Marchesi di Barolo.  For a while, in the 80s, the family decided to make wine and bottled directly at their vineyards instead of selling the grapes as they had always done, getting very good results.  In '97 the family resumed production and Sara chose to stay in the business while continuing to study.  After she graduated, she took over the reins of the winery, dealing with marketing and sales, making the agronomic choices and planning cultural initiatives, while her father made the wine.  A few years ago Sara married a wine producer from Serralunga and became, in turn, mother of three children.  It then grew stronger in her mind the importance of environmental sustainability to leave a clean world for the future generations.  For this reason, for the last two years, the production of 25-30,000 bottles from the 5 acre property is obtained organically.  She also had a solar electricity system installed in order to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.  The company uses lighter packaging and chooses suppliers that share the same environmentally aware philosophy where ever possible.

Among their projects related to the environment is the creation of a bio-park, wisely choosing tree species to plant that attract nesting birds and other small animals of the local hills with a view of offering training courses for schools of all levels, at no cost, in the future.

And so, while she talks, we taste a few bottles.  I have fresh in my mind their Nebbiolo d'Alba classic method sparkling brut rosé 2009 (their first production of this type), tasted a few days before, obtained from a “Bleeding of Barolo” as she calls it.  A wine, that while contrary to my preferences, I loved right away, delicate, floral and citrusy, with a perfect balance in the mouth.  Sara makes me taste the Langhe Doc Rossese white 2012, a serious youthful wine that will age for much longer in their 3000 bottles.  The choice of such a grape variety is somewhat peculiar and is due to the discovery in the area by other producers of Rossese vines, evidently from the time of the salt road, brought there from nearby Ligura (along with anchovies).  However, it is a vine that has perfectly adapted to the local soil, expressing great strength and the potential to be enjoyed in the future.  Among the other tastings made, how could it be otherwise?  There is the Barolo DOCG 2011, which, although very young, promises great emotions in a few years as it already expresses decisive and intense hints of red fruit from which emerge vanilla, fresh tobacco and slight licorice.

The afternoon goes by and I do not even realize it, taken as I am by the stories told by these people, who love this land with such intensity.  While chatting, I notice that on the bottle caps are written some poetic phrases, almost like those found on the Baci Perugina, another idea of Sara’s that somehow proves her ability to make the wine and the region where it is produced, idyllic and magical at the same time.

It is time to leave, I farewell Sara expressing the feeling that her winery, albeit small, will be in the coming years a reference point for many other wine realities.

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