Tuscany is known for the land of the golden grapes and prize-winning wines. In the Val d’Orcia, South of Siena and west of Pienza, Francesco Illy has carved a little land for his divine, biodynamic wine at Podere le Ripi. Illy, you ask? Yes, that Illy of the coffee family. Francesco, a photographer, was Illy’s creative director responsible for the whimsical and artistic coffee cup sets, until he moved to Montalcino.
“We believe that our land itself is great, and we just need to keep the soil and ecosystem alive and rich in biodiversity to have sustainable farming and a more healthy product…..We are spending more time in trying to not ruin its beauty. [The farmlands] are not trying to manipulate the grape.”
Francesco’s photography may have focused on landscapes but it was his love of terrain and permaculture that led him to create one of Montalcino’s greatest Brunello wines, and one of its most curious- Bonsai. Podere Le Ripi’s Bonsai is a little more exaggerated in all aspects- vines are planted only 40 centimeters apart, resulting in a density of 62.500 plants per hectare. Fact check: Brunello wine was invented in 1880, is made from 100% Sangiovese grapes and requires a lengthy process of two years in wooden casks, plus at least five more years in cantina.
“Curiosity is a universal gift.”
But that’s not entirely what Francesco did. He invested in the land around him and the people. The entire vineyard is biodynamic- a farming method is inspired by older, even more traditional methods of farming where what, where and how you grow is foremost and its main philosophy is the natural replenishment of nutrients into the soil. In other words, no manipulation nor artificial fortifiers. And Francesco is growing a future for Montalcino, bringing in a team of young winemakers to invigorate the community. Listen in for more on Farmhouse Harmony and Podere le Ripi’s biodynamic synergetic garden.
More In This Episode
[00:56] Let’s go to Montalcino
[02:05] Francesco Illy
[03:17] Biodynamic wine
[10:55] Making Brunello
[13:10] The Labels of Podere Le Ripi
[19:41] Biodynamic Synergetic Garden
[29:42] The Cantina
[39:01] Digging Deeper