Tuscan traditions are evident throughout the farm at Poggio Alloro, one being the way the vines are tied in the vineyard. Instead of nylon twine or another inorganic material, the vines are trained to tuteurs (supports) using twists of willow. It's a traditional Tuscan method that is rarely seen today, and Amico Fioroni explains the process: The young shoots (or suckers) from the willow tree are harvested when still fresh, then kept in water to maintain their flexibility, so they are as supple as string. Plus, the willow is free—a gift of nature—and naturally attractive in the landscape, and obviously it doesn't leave any waste at the end of the cycle.
Good as Gold
Innovation that harks back to tradition keeps Fattoria Poggio Alloro in the public eye; in 1997, the farm added the production of a historic local crop, saffron. During the medieval period and Renaissance, San Gimignano's economy was largely supported by the production of zafferano, a precious—and pricey—commodity. Saffron is made from the dried stigmas of the flowering bulb Crocus sativus, and more than 225,000 hand-picked stigmas are needed to make a single pound, qualifying saffron as the world's most expensive spice. C. sativus grows especially well in the stony fields around San Gimignano, benefiting from the sharp drainage and the cold winters and dry summers of central Tuscany. The crop is harvested by hand in the fall, and it takes a lot of work to produce just one kilogram (less than 3 pounds) of saffron, the best harvest in a good year. Apart from its rarity, the flavor it brings to risotto is its real gift.
Fattoria Poggio Alloro, Via S. Andrea, 23-53037 San Gimignano (SI) Italia, phone 011-39-0577-950-153