Etruscan Coast’s Petra Vineyards Review – Come for the Architecture, Stay for the Wine

A view of Petra's facility that shows the logo similar to that of the San Francisco Contemporary Art Museum. Photo: Peter Kachergis

 

Like the monolith in the movie 2001, you’ll see the Petra logo implanted into the landscape as if it were the footprints of Zeus.  If it looks familiar it could be that you’ve had the wine or seen the wine label in wine stores before.  For American contemporary art lovers however, it could be that the variant of a bisected circle looks very much like the cap on the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art that you have visited before.  Not all of Swiss architect Mario Botta’s buildings have this signature, but these two --the museum and Petra vineyards --look like twins separated at birth.

 

 

Of his commission to create the vineyard for industrialist Vittorio Moretti, Botta says, “The geometric design of the vineyard contrasts with the wavy orthographic nature of the soil, superimposing a streamlined design that highlights the measure, the beauty and the depth of the landscape. It was with the intention of reorganizing the land at the foot of the country hills of Suvereto in mind that I undertook the project for this new cellar.”

 

 

This area, Suvereto, named for the trees here that produce cork, is indeed extraordinarily beautiful like many places in Tuscany, which has no shortage of scenic spots to savor.  If schedules allow, this would seem to be an ideal place for an easy half-day’s countryside hike. 

 

 

You can also, with prescheduling, join the 5,000 or so people who each year come to tour the Petra vineyards almost literal architectural stamp in this countryside.  Many of the visitors are actually fellow vintners who come to see Moretti’s ingenious system of modular warehouse design at work.   Having made his fortune in formed concrete construction assemblies, Moretti put his expertise to work in his wine cellar design.  Like interlocking legos, these thin concrete forms can be quickly joined to expand the cellar space keeping soil moisture out of the halls of aging wine barrels.  In Petra’s case, the underground cellar has been expanded to the very border of its land.  

 

 

Similar to the Argentiera vineyards that we had visited not long before, the overall effect was that of a cathedral.  In Petra’s case a wine display at the entrance to a long tunnel like structure extending underground to the winery’s edge seemed to be an altar.

 

Petra Vineyard also hosts art and other civic events.  When we visited an exhibit profiling the founder of the Slow Food Movement’s new book “Food and Freedom” was on display, subject matter that struck as a bit ironic in the Petra context, which seems to say “Supersize Me” in contrast to the small producers of the slow food movement pictured on the banners in the exhibit.

 

 

For those of us who hunger for smart solutions to climate change the top attraction at Petra Vineyards will likely be the floating PV panels in a vineyard lake that result in a 0 carbon footprint.  They are on a raft with a small propeller that guides them into optimum position to catch the best rays.  We heard from our tour guide and host of the wine tasting that followed, Ettore Maggi (Petra Hospitality Manager), that there is some controversy as to whether Moretti was the first to make such a PV raft. “ Who cares?”, was my thought.  This is a brilliant idea put to work and it holds potential to inspire other creative energy solutions from those who tour the vineyard and see it.

 

All this and then there’s the wine tasting.  We tasted a pure San Giovese and also a blend of Merlot with Cabernet Sauvignon, contrasting how the two interacted with the savory and fat taste of the paired food before us.  

 

If you are visiting the Archeological Park of Baratti and Populonia, Petra Vineyard is not far away and makes a great counterpoint to help vary your day. 

 

Tours are free but must be arranged in advance.

 

Contact: 

 

Petra Vineyard Website 

Localita San Lorenzo Alto, 131

57028 Suvereto, Livorno, Italy

 

(+39) 0565 84 53 08

 

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Photos: Courtesy of Petra Wine, unless otherwise indicated

 

 

 

 

 

 

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