- Tuscany, Italy
ilBioSelvatico is a young winery in Civitella in Val di Chiana, near Arezzo. Owner Filippo Volpi was born and bred in the area and comes from a family of restauranteurs. He caught the food and wine bug early on. As a teenager in the 1980s, he had already completed his sommelier course and had done formative stages in kitchens in Italy and France. His career brought him to cook at some of the most important restaurants of the era-- Vissani (Gianfranco Vissani), Trigabolo di Argenta (Igles Corelli and others), Pierre Gagnard, L’Arpège (Alain Passard). Along the way, he never lost track of wine. The front of house/back of house duality, and the division of attention between Italy and France, have served him well. Today he is considered one of Italy’s preeminent connoisseurs of Burgundy.
Filippo’s friends Federico Staderini and Stefano Amerighi encouraged him to stop selling grapes from his 4.2-hectare Sangiovese vineyard, which he first rented from and eventually bought from his father. The vineyard has been farmed organically since the late 1990s and these days is farmed biodynamically (with no desire for certification). It’s a fresh, windy site, with sandy clay topsoils. A gentle incline leads to the surrounding woods, a bit like in the Côte d’Or. On paper, it’s rather homogenous, with 15-30-year-old vines, all planted to one selection of Sangiovese. In practice, however, Filippo discovered lots of variation and nuance. He insists that it is not a “grand terroir,” but it is an intact ecosystem, capable of creating something highly original, provided he has the right sensibility.
For ilBioSelvatico, Filippo is inspired by early-1950s Burgundy “à l’ancienne,” both in the vineyard and cellar. He does a preliminary pruning selection in January/February, then a final one under a favorable moon in March, to push budbreak past the threat of frosts. He doesn’t do green harvest, nor does he top the vines, preferring to eventually roll and tie the highest canes together. Treatments are infrequent and limited to copper/sulfur, stinging nettles, algae, and citrus zest extracts. Once veraison begins he will hardly step in the vineyard until the first harvest. Harvest is protracted over a month, with 25 to 30 separate pickings happening from early September to mid-October. No analysis is done, but Filippo and his four-person crew look for the “best of the best” by taste on any given harvest day. They’ll only harvest in the morning, for four hours max, in order to bring in around 5,000 kg of grapes at a time.
In the cellar, much as it would have been in 1950s Burgundy, there is no crusher or destemmer or temperature control. All grapes are kept 100% whole cluster, vinified in open-top 500L tonneaux. A little more than half of the grapes are foot-tread and the rest of the bunches are left untouched in infusion. Once separated from the skins, the wines begin their aging in these same tonneaux before being moved to concrete vats. It’s a “gourmet cuisine” approach that took Filippo some time, experience, and courage to develop; he did not release his first three vintages, 2015, 2016, and 2017. The 2018 we have on offer is the commericial debut of ilBioSelvatico.