In Montalcino in the heart of Tuscany, between the Orcia Valley and dormant Amiata volcano, sits Podere Le Ripi winery. Specialising in the Sangiovese grapes used for the famous Brunello and Rosso di Montalcino wines, a visit to Podere Le Ripi reveals how traditional techniques paired with modern knowledge work together to produce their wines.
Situated less than two miles from the 12thcentury Sant’Antimo Abbey, Podere Le Ripi occupies 33 acres from a hilltop vantage point. Owner Francesco Illy bought the land from a Sardinian shepherd in 1997; back then, there wasn’t a single vine, just fields of flowers and herbs, which still flourish today.
Not a single chemical has ever been sprayed, and in 2010, Podere Le Ripi committed to biodynamic farming by enriching the soil with micorrizas, a mix of insects, worms and roots. This has promoted a highly complex structure and aroma spectrum of the wine, resulting in the winery being the third in Montalcino to achieve organic and biodynamic certification.
The Podere Le Ripi’s Bonsai vineyard is renowned. Legend has it that Illy was once told by an old Burgundy winemaker that a vineyard makes a good wine only after 35-40 years. He had no intention of waiting until he was 90 to sip his great wine, so he asked himself what would happen if he planted more vines to force competition between their roots?
Bravely, he planted 62,000 vines just 40cm apart. The sturdy plants were compelled to find soil, water and nutrition at greater depths, and after only four years, their roots had grown to the astonishing depth of 10ft. This strategy is the key to the winery’s best wine. First, the grapes are fermented in oak vats, then refined in big oak barrels for up to five years, before being bottled and aged. The wine is never exported.
The vineyard offers various tours and tastings that can be booked online, including a guided cellar visit. An exclusive lunch or dinner — typical Tuscan cuisine of salami, ham, cheeses and pastas — is served, paired with Podere Le Ripi’s finest wines on a sunny terrace with stunning views.
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