The estate did not give up all of its old wine customs, however. Sting and Trudie wanted to keep some of the old style but combine it with new ideas. Growing the wine organically was one of these ideas.
Trudie explains that taking on organic farming practices forms a part of a larger process related to biodynamic agriculture.
“We do our best to produce our wines as naturally as possible. We are not yet officially registered as an organic producer, but we are continuously working on creating a better wine. My father has been a role model for me in farming. You have to start by cleaning the land, and continue doing that all the time. When the soil is healthy it makes everything else possible,” Trudie says.
The owners of Il Palagio say that they are constantly learning more about wine production from real professionals in the field. They admit having been on the receiving end of some doubts and criticism for only making it in the business due to their celebrity.
“I see where they are coming from, but the truth is that we are doing this together with genuine experts. The bottom line is the taste and quality of the wine,” Trudie says.
One of their advisors is the internationally renowned organic winemaker Alan York, who is especially known for his contributions to the Californian producer Benziger. Il Palagio’s oenologist is Paolo Caciorgna.
“This year, crops have been affected by the weather. It rained a lot in the spring. Still, we believe that we can create better and better quality every year. The soil is in much better shape now than when we started this new production phase a few years ago,” he says.
Sting feels that organic wine production is a good choice of direction, because Il Palagio is not able to compete with non-organically farmed products coming from the world’s biggest wine districts. Their production volumes and marketing machines are too large.
“We decided to make a wine that is non-generic, and typical only of us. We wanted people to be able to enjoy characteristic Il Palagio wine. I don’t think our wines taste the same as other producers’ wines. We can only compete in the wine world by having products with their own fingerprint,” Sting explains.
In Sting’s view, most non-organic wines are quite homogeneous, with very similar tastes and characters. He compares wines to music. “Anyone can compose a song. For a star to be born you need originality, for your song or performance to be instantly recognisable – your voice, your sound, your rendering or something else completely unique. We want to create a star in the wine world which is not mass-produced but completely unique.”
“Sometimes a song may be written in a minute, but there is a lot of work that has gone into it beforehand. Speaking of creativity, I like to quote golfer Jack Nicklaus, who said ‘The more I practice, the luckier I get’.”
Most of the grapes grown at Il Palagio are of the Sangiovese variety, but there are also Canaiolo, Colorino, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes here. All in all, Il Palagio will produce around 30,000 bottles in 2012, consisting of three different wines: Sister Moon (10,000 bottles), When We Dance (5,000 bottles) and Casino delle vie (13,000-15,000 bottles). The first two are named after songs by Sting.
The couple have a clear distribution of duties when it comes to winemaking.
“I drink it and appreciate it,” Sting hastens to say with a smile. Before him is a glass of When We Dance.
“I work on diverse production principles, methods and all the stages of operation at Il Palagio. I discuss things with Paolo and the others and I want to be a part of the team. I like that,” Trudie says.
At the estate, Trudie and Sting came to realise that building an irrigation system is one of the most challenging things, requiring both expertise and money. Watering plays an important role together with the other ways to look after the soil. According to Estate Manager Paolo Rossi, vines yield for around 25 years. “They have to be watered correctly from the very start. Otherwise their production as a whole may be compromised,” he says.
Progress through collaboration
Il Palagio works together with other wineries in Tuscany in order to keep abreast of the times and trends in wine production. None of them is an expert at each of the details of the process, so working together they can achieve better results. Comparing experiences and sharing new ideas is important for all.
Some of Sting and Trudie’s Italian musician friends are also in wine.
“Andrea Bocelli and Zucchero at least are in the business. Of course we compare our wines, and naturally ours is the best,” Sting quips, accompanied by amused laughter from Trudie.
In future, work will be done at Il Palagio to investigate growth opportunities and recognise some of the challenges in the sector. Il Palagio wines can currently be bought in the United States, China and many European countries: Italy, as well as the UK, Belgium, Luxembourg and Poland, among others. Negotiations concerning new markets are under way.
“My band was recently invited for dinner in Poland. The host served all of our wines with the fine meal. Also in Las Vegas we were served Sister Moon at 250 dollars a bottle. I asked if the sommelier could bring us something cheaper,” Sting chuckles.
FINE tells Sting and Trudie that the hotel close to their estate is also sold out of Il Palagio wines. Trudie seizes the opportunity with a smile, asking Paolo to call them and ask if they need more wine.
As his all-time favourite wine, Sting cites Petrus.
“I have always liked it. Trudie has bought it for my birthdays and it is delicious. I have also received some wine training at a cellar at Châteauneuf-du-Pape. If I order wine at a restaurant, I usually go for Brunello.”
One of Trudie’s favourite white wines played an important role on the couple’s big day.
“At our wedding in 1992 we served Antinori’s Cervario, which was delightful.”
Lunchtime approaches at Il Palagio. After a photography session Sting and Trudie step out with style and ease to greet their friends and guests. In the future this estate will produce excellent wines and wonderful music. That’s not a bad combination.