Petra is a women’s company, and its progress has been directed by women for more than 200 years: from Elisa Bonaparte to Francesca Moretti.
In 1808, Elisa Bonaparte Baciocchi (Napoleone’s sister, Princess of Lucca and Piombino and grand duchess of Tuscany) chose this place to establish the first seed of an agricultural and vinicultural project.
Two centuries later, travelling by car to Bordeaux with her father Vittorio, Francesca Moretti fell in love with the history and the culture of the chateaux. She decided to set aside her initial aspirations of becoming a vet to study agriculture and oenology, and started searching for a property that could be converted into a wine-making company in the Bordeaux tradition. Tuscany was perhaps an obvious choice at the time (the late 90s) of this winemaking renaissance. But Vittorio and Francesca Moretti had the intuition to search in the Maremma area, and not around Bolgheri but in the fertile Val di Cornia.
In 1997, Vittorio Moretti purchased 60 hectares in San Lorenzo and 45 in Campiglia Marittima, a few kilometres from Piombino, in the Suvereto area. It was a seed, the start of an extensive and contemporary project. This is how the idea of Petra was born and how Francesca Moretti found her second home. It is a home in all the meanings of the word, as well-loved as her home in Franciacorta.
The Princess’ Vineyard and Gardens
Francesca Moretti was still attending university when the first vine varietals were planted, but she was the one who chose what would be grown on this terroir. Her choice favoured international varieties in addition to Sangiovese and Vermentino varieties, which were extremely suitable to the area whilst also ready for a new and contemporary reinterpretation.
Two centuries earlier, Elisa Bonaparte planted Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes in a 5 hectare plot, which later became known as “the Princess Vineyard”. Francesca planned to recreate the historical Vineyard and Princess Elisa’s Gardens. The Gardens constitute a collection of aromatic herbs on a panoramic terrace adjacent to the winery. Today, the Gardens faithfully reproduce Elisa Bonaparte’s original plans according to the illustration of historical botanist Paolo Tomei, from the University of Siena.
The estate is a natural oasis steeped in a very special ecosystem. It breathes and whispers, permeated by warmth and an underground current that pervades the soil and reaches through the produce of the land. Petra’s landscape and nature are unique: the green belt of the Colline Metallifere, near the Montioni Natural Park, with the Poggio Tre Cancelli Natural Reserve, up to the Sterpaia Coastal Park, looking over the Tyrrhenian Sea, a constant presence on the horizon, a single blue tone in a landscape otherwise dominated by two essential colours – green and russet.
The hot summers are tempered by brackish coastal winds and the Mediterranean scrub, where Turkey oak, cork and arbutus mix with heather, mastic and myrtle, is home to deer, boars, porcupines, hedgehogs, badgers, foxes, kestrels, buzzards and owls. A cohesive coexistence and a spontaneous dialogue link Petra to its land, starting from the light environmental footprint of its winemaking and agricultural practices.
Petra is a collection of nuanced landscapes and microclimates, a series of substrates. A first zoning process carried out by Attilio Scienza highlighted the presence of a superficial stony and dry layer of tectonic origins, followed by a layer rich in manganese and other metals, of alluvial origins, and a basal muddy layer. This study was followed by a detailed cartographic classification of the property, in cooperation with CREA in Florence, providing a wealth of essential scientific data to understand how best to express the vineyards’ potential.
“A rational design that highlights the measure, beauty and depth of the landscape.” — Mario Botta.
The Swiss architect Mario Botta was appointed by Vittorio Moretti to give shape and purpose to the operative heart of Petra. A single frontage downstream, with a 25 m tall central cylindrical body and oriented 45/90 degrees with respect to the vine-rows around it. Totemic and organic, the symbol of a sensitive approach to a technological process, the cylinder includes the reception and winemaking activities. The roof – an inclined plane parallel to the hill – is where the grape clusters are gathered: from here the grapes, separated from the stem, fall softly into the maceration and fermentation tanks.
Soft, respectful, with a low impact — the overall Petra approach to winemaking from the grapes to the bottle. The ageing chambers (in casks and bottles) are in the heart of the hill. In addition to the space reserved for Slavonian oak barrels, a long gallery penetrates deeply and comes to an end in front of a solid rock wall. This is the final place where the wines rest, a space for meeting and reflecting, as the Rivadossi Altar suggests. An umbilical cord that links Petra to the petra mater of the Colline Metallifere.
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