In the foothills of Emilia-Romagna’s Val d’Arda – just south of the city of Piacenza, near the eastern border of Lombardy – Massimiliano Croci produces stunning natural wines. Founded by his grandfather as a dairy-focused farm in 1935, the Croci estate switched to the production of conventional wine from 1970 onwards. Taking over from his father in 1999, Massimiliano downscaled the operation and converted it to the making of high-quality natural wines. Respect for the land and the vine is central to this third-generation vignaiolo’s way of working, using traditional techniques while experimenting with modern vinification methods, with the aim of producing authentic, terroir-driven wines that exhibit a true sense of place.
His Valtolla Bianco consists of 100% Malvasia di Candia Aromatica from old vines, organically grown in a steep hillside vineyard at 260 meters above sea level. Its soil consists of loose sand and red clay, filled with fossilized, limestone-rich seashells dating back about 5 million years – known as terre dei fossili dei piacentini. Yields are kept low and the grapes were harvested manually. The fruit was destemmed, crushed and loaded into cement tanks to spontaneously ferment and macerate with its skins for 30 days. After pressing, the wine was aged for 10 months in steel, followed by 12 months in the bottle. It was bottled unfined, unfiltered, with a minimal dose of sulphites.
The 2019 vintage has a bright, yet fairly cloudy orange color. The bouquet is intense, lively and cheerful – the frisky, floral fruit tempting you to immediately take a sip. Aromas of apricot, tangerine and mango leap out of the glass, followed by pine needle, black pepper, honey and rose water. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied and slightly cider-like, with crisp acidity, clean minerality and a gentle tannic undertone. It’s refreshing, drinkable and energetic, the fruit being backed up by slate, pine resin and a splash of gunpowder tea. The finish is lengthy, leaning on a pleasant bitterness, and filled with orange peel, perfumed rose petals and dried herbs, mainly oregano.