Live your authentic Wine Experience, meet Podere le Ripi!

Podere Le Ripi grapevines

Why? Our Belief

Because harmony has always been my dream.

This is the place in which I made my dreams come true.
I know I’ll never reach perfection...
..but this remains the perfect place to try.
Because this is my dream: Since I was a child I thought beauty was the only answer.
Beauty is perceived by all our senses. From music to images, from food to caresses.
Beauty produces harmony.
And harmony brings quality of life to everyone.
Here I can search for beauty and harmony.
And those who work here can touch it.

Biodynamic Winery in Montalcino

Where everything has started

Biodynamic Winery in Montalcino

Podere Le Ripi: the place of my life.
133 acres of forest, vineyards and olive trees
inhabited by a shepherd and his sheep until 1998.
Uncontaminated soil with marvelous vegetal diversity
surrounded by breathtaking views and pure air.
At that time, I wasn’t a winemaker,
but a nature photographer
and I inevitably fell in love with this place.

A while ago, in 1984, I fell in love with Montalcino. I am a nature photographer and these landscapes – as our poet Ungaretti would say – “flooded me with the light of the immense” and simply stole my soul: I needed to have a house there.

So, in 1987 I began searching for my Tuscan “mansion” without even thinking about producing wine: I was a wine lover who thought he was too old to enter this world made of incredibly long waiting periods.

Every estate proposal was either too big, too expensive or not suitable… so it took ten years before my friend Carlo Vittori called me and said: “I found the place, hurry up here and take a look, before the housing prices in Montalcino explode!” And, recalling his words now…how right he was!

So, I made it back to Tuscany driving from Switzerland (I used to live there) and after a six hours drive I met a shepherd who was taking his afternoon nap under a centenary Oak. His sheep were bleating and ruminating around him and the big white Maremmano Shepherd dogs were running in circle to keep the herd in place. Two of these dogs, mother and daughter, were so wild that they would’ve been eventually left behind, ending up staying with me: the shepherd wasn’t able to load them on to his truck the day he left for good. And when a few months later I asked him what to do with them, he candidly told me with his strong Sardinian accent to shoot them, which I obviously never did.

I immediately understood that this was my place. The place of my life.

The beauty, the distance from what we would call “civilization”, the absolute absence of the horrible architectural slaughter of the last century that has destroyed so many Italian landscapes. That’s where we are: a land in the middle of the UNESCO World Heritage site Orcia Valley, with the perfumes that pervade all year long around these hills, the deep view to the east on Monticchiello and Montepulciano, the prehistoric volcano Monte Amiata to the south, the near amphitheatrical hills protecting Le Ripi to the west and north sides... all of this was so spectacular...

The estate was also so uncontaminated. Unpopulated for thousands of years with a poor and dry soil that gives very poor crops, it reaches over 40°C in summer and has frozen lakes during winter, with 400-year-old olive trees, forests of incredibly many different trees and shrubs, and flowers - flowers, flowers everywhere - all year round. Not to mention wild asparagus, Porcini mushrooms, blackberries, the white and black truffles that only my friend Francesco’s dog was able to unearth, the wonderful red “corbezzolo” (arbutus), as well as wildlife, with rabbits and deer, boars and porcupines, wolves and yews, badgers and foxes, eagles from the Amiata Mountain and herons, buzzards, hawks, and the storks passing by the Orcia river twice a year, or all kinds of ducks that come into my lakes.

This is my dream come true: Podere Le Ripi
Francesco Illy, winemaker in Montalcino

We are Podere Le Ripi

The dreamer
My name is Francesco Illy.
I come from an Espresso Coffee makers family.
A family well-known for quality.

I love quality, pardon, excellence*:
I believe excellence gives emotions.
And emotions give joy.
But emotions also help our brain to remember,
and this produces culture.
And culture has always produced a better life.
Sometimes we forget it and we put something at risk:
our future,
which is based on the evolution of our culture.

*Definition of excellence:
From the Latin ex (out) and cellere (to move, to push): excellence defines the highest level of quality.

Winemakers in Montalcino in the vineyard

Our guardians (our people)

A Team of Friends

We might sound strange but we believe that products express the love people have been investing in them. That’s why we invest a lot in our people. We are involved both economically and emotionally with our one: we are a team of friends. Most of them have been working at Podere le Ripi for years, and they are very proud of the wines they make here. Particularly Sebastian (our chief-oenologist AND CEO) and Alessandro (our Chief-Agronomist): we love to have lunches and dinners together discussing our wines and comparing them with others. Lead by our mantra “Be Crazy my Friend” and by a good amount of curiosity, we have one of the best teams in Montalcino, proving that happy people are able to do magic!

Excellence in food & wine: Who defines the highest levels of quality? Many producers are in the “pursuit of excellence” even if today “becoming the best” is getting harder. The outcome of such competition results in a variety of “interpretations of excellence” that allow us to enjoy the many faces of perfection.

*We accept the notion that our excellence is the product of winemaking practices that we conceive as the best possible. It means that we accept the limits that our sensibility has in defining those practices, and we go through experience and confrontation with any kind of criticism so that we can constantly increase such sensibility.

Meet our main trail blazers

Sebastian

Sebastian Nasello
Head Winemaker and CEO, he likes to think of himself as a “ragazzo di bottega” and enjoys life as a Scorpio. Also, he believes to have superpowers.

Alessandro

Alessandro “Baffino” Riccò
He’s our Agronomist, meaning that he basically takes care of the land and makes sure we get grapes to make wine. His nickname refers to his medieval-style beard. In typical Italian tradition, he still lives with his mom.

Giulia

Giulia “the Samurai” Barcucci
She runs the hospitality team, she organizes lunches, dinners, tastings and everything in between. Do not say no to her, otherwise, heads will roll. Winner of the Podere le Ripi limbo championship.

Felicia

Felicia “Felix” Carrara
Straight from the Dolomites, Felicia came to teach us how to live on a budget. She deals with numbers, banks, accountants. She doesn’t believe in mistakes.

Martina

Martina Di Paola
She takes care of clients’ complains, complains a lot herself. Started working at Podere le Ripi by mistake and doesn’t even like wine that much.

Matteo

Matteo Mitch Melfi
One of our historical team members, without him we would be lost. He is the real Bonsai vineyard expert. The ultimate yes man, no one has ever heard the word “no” from him.

Simone

Simone “Chavo” Ignesti
He’s our Cellar Master, he likes food, wine and long walks on the beach. We’ll gift a bottle of Brunello to whoever convinces him to cut his hair.

Matteo

Matteo “Ozy” Ozzella
Our Storage Manager: holds the world record of hand-labeled bottles and loves junk food. Also, cusses like a sailor.

Chiara

Chiara Uliano
Perpetually overly excited for ANYTHING, Chiara makes sure our guests leave with a smile on their faces. Warning: the pitch of her voice might cause serious ear injuries.

Edoardo

Edoardo Cucini
Our Junior Agronomist, he plays basketball and really likes his legs.

David

Davi The Faun Holzberger
He’s the guardian of our beautiful garden, and he probably lives there too. Speaks to plants and animals (and they reply back).

What we do for our People and our Planet

Let’s take a closer look at Podere le Ripi employees:
Young team – With an average age of 27 years, Podere le Ripi team is a mixed group of people coming from different parts of Italy and very different backgrounds. This mix of Energy, professionalism, experience and knowledge allows a continuous stream of new ideas and projects aimed towards the growth of our biodynamic winery.

Training – Training sessions are often organized to reinforce a constant exchange of information between seniors and interns. We go through a wide range of topics going from wine to marketing. We want to connect minds to keep improving our soft skills. And not to forget, a great team cannot evolve as such without having crazy team buildings!

Wine Trips – Ready, set, go! Once a year, the team is ready to leave for wine regions around the world in order to expand knowledge and strengthen the teamwork.

Wine Masterclasses – Podere le Ripi is providing now Wine Classes hosted by special guests and wine professionals from all over the world – a unique opportunity to learn about different wine regions and taste special wines (and not just Brunello !!)

...The green face of Podere le Ripi

Years go by and now more than ever our planet needs to be saved. So here some small things that Podere le Ripi believes could make the difference!
The biodynamic agriculture itself is one of the most respectful and natural ways to treat the soil and work with the land. Taking care of our compost, we think of the final product as perfectly in agreement with nature; such as removing CO2 from the atmosphere.
Wine processes happen in a 100% ecological wine cellar, built to have zero impact on the environment;
Reducing CO2 by optimizing transports and cars, walking or biking to work as much as possible;
Separate collection for a better final recycling result, and avoiding waste of food by feeding our farm pigs;
Life in plastic is NOT fantastic! Our team has decided to use eco-friendly water bottles instead of the single-use plastic ones;
From 2020 all wine shipments will be 100% plastic free;
Francesco and his brave project of planting trees in the Sarah Desert started in 2010.

#SummerParty... Not just a simple event

You may have heard of it, and if have not... stay tuned for next summer! Started as party with a small group of loyal friends and families, the Summer Party is now the biggest event of the Val d’Orcia, calling people from any corner of the world and fields of work. In one magical night of July, Podere le Ripi opens the doors of the wine cellar and shows a side of itself unknown to many. With local food and some OF OUR Brunello, our guests are greatly surprised every year with special entertainment, interacting on the notes of international DJs. The Summer Party for us is more than a party, is a demonstration that with patience and a lot of elbow grease, you get far.

So, dream big and remember... be crazy my friends!

Biodynamic grapes

How?

By respecting the beauty we found here.

The best we can do is not consistent with ruining
the wonders this land is giving to us.
Humility is the best way to get to understand;
after all, such a land produces wonders even just by its mere existence.
If we transform these wonders,
we need to keep their essence and their strength untouched,
trying to understand what keeps its character that way.
If we change it, we destroy it...
... and we will never understand it.
This is why we do not intervene.

Our belief about humility

If we want to keep all learning processes alive, the main attitude is that of humility. “You shouldn’t gloat about anything you’ve done; you ought to keep going and find something better to do”. (David Packard, co-founder of Hewlett Packard)
I believe that an open mind is able to increase sensitivity and that it is only possible if somebody is able of a very high level of self-criticism: sensitivity is “conditio sine qua non” in the production of excellence and the humble attitude of openness towards criticism and learning is the best way to increase it.

Respect First of all, our wines must be healthy. We believe that any chemical added to the soil will ultimately end up - even if in tiny quantities - inside our wines.

We have witnessed that science hasn’t been capable of detecting certain molecules that have been later considered dangerous for our health. Therefore, we decided to avoid any non-natural molecule in our vineyards: by doing so, we don’t run the risk of discovering later that something we had first considered as harmless was, in fact, harmful.

As everybody knows, wine contains high contents of antioxidants, such as resveratrol and many others, that are known for their positive effect on health, so we can agree that a good glass of wine is a joy that enhances our well-being, as long as we do not exaggerate.

Sometimes, realizing that we don’t have control over the outcome and taking a step back is the only way to appreciate the characteristics of our land that are present only in certain wines. Having the chance to produce wine from important terroirs means accepting that the terroir itself is the main protagonist, and we must make sure not to suppress its true soul. Our approach to the vineyards and cellar starts from this philosophy.
Biodynamic Winery in Montalcino

With which techniques?

Biodynamics.

To me, Biodynamics
reflects the old-fashioned way
our ancestors used to grow plants and
make wines for thousands of years,
before the modern methods took place.

For this reason, a soil which is treated biodynamically is very similar to the soil of a woodland and very different from the soil of a conventional farm winery. Our soil is less compact and contains a great amount of humus, showing an incredibly strong and complex inner life, from worms to bacteria as well as many other vegetal and animal biological activities.

Biodynamic farming is, by definition, a philosophy that allows a farm to become a living entity inscribed in the larger context of the whole universe. That’s why in Biodynamics a calendar of the planetary events is very important. The moon phases determine the days in which certain activities must be done, from bottling or planting to preparing and spraying the 500 and 501 mixtures and the herbal preparations.

At Podere Le Ripi we started with biodynamic farming in 2010.

When I look at a wild forest, I can feel its incredible healthiness, I can smell marvelous aromas, I can walk on its soft soil; I realize that the absence of human intervention is the best way for these plants to express their own character. Biodynamics brings this wildlife power to our vines, a healthy strength.

What is wonderful about Biodynamics is that the studies made with these techniques have developed procedures, like the 500 or 501 preparations and the use of specific insects or hormones, that allow us to control diseases and parasites, quickly ameliorating the health of soil and plants.

Here’s something worth mentioning especially during these times of global warming: the biodynamic practices fix up to 4 tons CO2 into the soil every year, and when compared to conventional practices, it is by far much better: those free up to 4 tons of CO2 per year! Look at thecarbonunderground.org to understand how regenerative agriculture will decrease the CO2 concentration in the air and how this will stop climate change.

Vineyards and Winemaking

Our vineyards are divided between two different sides of Montalcino: East and West. Each side of the hill holds completely different soil characteristics. That’s why we believed from the start in a research path that aims to offer wines that are pure, both in terms of vintage and geological area.

On the Westside...
Rooted in a natural oasis called “Il Galampio”, in the middle of a native oak forest, our vineyards have managed to grow at an altitude of 150 meters above sea level. This side mainly receives evening sun and in the morning is sheltered by the surrounding hills of Montalcino. The average age of those vines is around 30 years old, planted following the real Montalcino tradition (4.500 plants per hectare) trained using spurred cordon. The soil is mainly composed of clay and limestone, rich in minerals with river pebbles and metamorphic rocks (galestro) belonging to a more recent geological age. Such components create feminine and classic wines, which also give generous grapes with crunchy tannins. That’s where we produce the Sogni e Follia and the Cielo D’Ulisse.

On the East Side...
Leaning on the eastern edge of Castelnuovo Dell’Abate, around 250 meters above sea level, over there our historical single vineyards are warmed up by a tepid morning sun.

Castelnuovo is renowned for wines with a well-structured body that show off some of Montalcino’s oldest terroir, characterized by 5mln years old oceanic clay, which is very often mixed with sodium so that the clay is quite salty. The tuff and the siliceous sand are compressed by geological pressures, resulting very compacted. Also very rich in limestone - coming from marine fossil - this makes our soil a very pure marn, influenced by all kinds of possible minerals. Furthermore, if we consider that the Monte Amiata – our ancient volcano - is only 7 nautical miles away, then is not surprising that sediments of volcanic debris can be found in the soil too.

Here the density of the vineyards varies between 5000 plants per hectare to 11100 vines per hectare, all the way to 62000 vines for the Bonsai vineyard. Mostly planted following ancient training methods such as goblet and guyot. The vineyards are constantly subjected to a natural breeze coming from the Orcia river and they are fairly well protected by the Amiata Mountain (1.738 masl) which allows Castelnuovo to be the driest subzone of Montalcino. Here we are able to express all the intensity of the best sangiovese with perfect mineral balance, which is the unmistakable character of these areas. The wines Bonsai, Lupi e Sirene and Amore e Magia are the main protagonists of this land.

Montalcino Wine Map