Podere le Ripi - a wine jewel in Montalcino!
The incredible beauty of the landscape steals your soul from the moment you arrive at Podere Le Ripi. Uncontaminated beauty, uncontaminated soil. In fact, Podere le Ripi was a shepherd’s land before Francesco Illy bought it in 1998.
The founder of this special vineyard is Francesco Illy. A nature photographer sensible to the beauty of the earth, comes from the family known in the whole world for the excellence of their coffee. How could he not make but excellent wines…
His friends from Burgundy told him that in order to make a good wine, at least a 30-year-old vineyard is necessary. In fact, the older the vines the deeper the roots go, they cross many layers of the soil, absorbing the available minerals to the grapes and therefore the wines.
As a 50-year-old man at the moment of purchase, Francesco did not want to wait another 30 years for his vines to be good enough. After planting his first vineyard with the normal density for the Montalcino area (4.500- 6000 vines per hectare) he has planted Sangiovese at a 11.200 density per hectare (the vineyard where Brunello Lupi and Sirene comes from). The many vines put in the competition would go deeper down in the search of water and nutriments.
He has later planted another Sangiovese vineyard at the highest density in the world, 62.500 vines per hectare producing the famous Bonsai Wine.
Francesco is helped by a great team of people, among others Sebastian, the oenologist and winery director and Alessandro, the agronomist whom we often have a pleasure to meet at the winery.
Different than others?
I manage to recognize the Podere Le Ripi bottles in quite a few blind tastings. Not sure if this is because of the organoleptic qualities or the vivid energy this wine transmits. The unique recognizable character may have many factors.
The position of the winery is very privileged for the wine production, in the South-Eastern part of Montalcino. The morning sun and ever-present breeze dries the night humidity if any and the night drops the temperature that helps concentrate the aromas. The soil is very rich in clay with mineral components, and we surely have some volcanic influence of Mount Amiata which is only 20km away. It is perhaps the minerality that gives this Brunello such a special character, you can perceive the mineral salts, almost saltiness in the aftertaste from the very young age of this wine.
Our September Selection Brunello Lupi e Sirene 2012
TASTING NOTES: Beautiful ruby red colour with garnet hints. In the nose, red fruits like cherry and strawberry dance together with the earthiness and notes of balsamic herbs, rounded by the hint of liquorice and pepper. The finesse is here! The aromas take you immediately to the beauty of the vineyard, to the long roots of the vines crossing many layers of the soil and the freshness of the ever-present breeze. In the mouth, elegant and balanced, with clearly perceptible minerality. You feel the great wine that speaks to your whole body.
DRINKING WINDOW: from now till 2027
SEASONAL PAIRINGS: Older cheese, truffle dishes, roasted meat with aromatic herbs. My favourite way of drinking this wine however is just alone, slowly enjoying every sip.
FOR THE WINE GEEKS: high density vineyard with deeper roots, fermentation with indigenous yeasts in open wooden cask and following maceration with the skins can last up to 40 days, aging in large French oak cask for 36 months, followed by 12 months in cement vat and 12 months in the bottle.
From the very beginning Francesco decided for an organic agriculture and from 2010 Podere le Ripi became biodynamic. In biodynamic the biodiversity in the vineyard and in the soil, is perceived as strengthening the vines and contributing to the life energy of the product.
SEBASTIAN: “Biodynamic is the old-fashioned way our ancestors grew plants and made wines for thousands of years, before the modern methods took place. “
“The biodynamic treated soil is very similar to the soil of a woodland and very different from a conventional agricultural soil. It is less compact, contains a great amount of humus and shows an incredibly strong and complex inner life, from worms to bacteria as to any vegetal and animal biological activity”
FRANCESCO: When I look to a wild forest I can feel an incredible healthiness, I can smell marvellous aromas, I can walk on a soft soil, I realize that the absence of human intervention is the best way for these plants to express their character. Biodynamics brings this kind of wild life to our vines, this kind of healthy strength.
Great wine is made in the vineyard
While most of the wineries proudly speak about manual harvest in Montalcino, here at Podere le Ripi, almost all work in the vineyard is done manually. For obvious reasons, no machine can enter the small spaces between the rows of vines.
SEBASTIAN: The wine must be done in the vineyard. I do not like the wines which are constructed in the cellar. The wine must be simple and speak directly. It should reflect the soil and the climate conditions the vineyard witnessed during the season. Following the harvest, we do not add anything but a minimal amount of sulphites to our wines”
SEBASTIAN: The manual harvest is like a party for us. It is the very end of a long process. With this high density, we do all the jobs manually.
The incredible golden-ratio cellar
Once the healthy grapes are manually harvested they arrive in the cellar. The cellar at Podere le Ripi is one of the most beautiful and special cellars I have visited in my life.
Build in the “golden ratio”, with 750.000 bricks hand-laid. One breathes the harmony here. Like in the very ancient temples that were build using the same architectural guidelines.
How not to admire the man that invest his patrimony to create such a beautiful space open to visits?
The wine can harmoniously rest in the large French oak casks for the required time. The wine maker, and not the Consortium rules will decide when to release it. And in fact, both Brunello Lupi e Sirene and Rosso di Montalcino are often released later than others.
"Curiosity leads to Culture leads to Sensitivity leads to Enthusiasm leads to Love leads to Magic leads to Universal Love. Because Everybody feels the Magic. Therefore, Curiosity is a Universal Gift." - Francesco Illy -