I’ve just got back from one of my little trips to do with wine, which took me to the “courtyard”- in the strict agricultural sense – of Roberto Di Filippo, owner of the Agricultural Business Di Filippo. Roberto has been a point of reference for me for some years, an example and one of those winegrowers that stand out as a winemaker as opposed to a manufacturer. Roberto is a farmer, a breeder, a man who runs a genuine agricultural business which is all-embracing, where everything is interconnected and every aspect contributes to the quality and sustainability of production. Above all, wine.
Roberto Di Filippo does organic and biodynamic farming, but it is not of the fanciful or unreliable sort practiced by some phantom guru who bottles stories and humbug rather than the fruit of serious work and respect for Nature and the consumer.. Roberto works the vineyards with majestic horses, and today I saw him really upset when he noticed that one of his horses was suffering from a serious problem in her hooves. Horses that work in the vineyards, geese free to run about in the vineyard and eat specially cultivated greens to give them natural food, which is then transformed into manure. You can’t get more organic than that!
This is not done to put it in a brochure or post a few photos on social media, however – I can do that if needs be! – nor is it the fruit of a stroke of genius based on convictions that are not very tangible. Every choice, every action, every aspect of Di Filippo‘s business is thought out and followed through with a strong critical sense and obsessive attention to details, with the support of important universities and researchers who can give scientific and practical answers to concepts which are already right because they are ecofriendly. Making wine is a job, which we all too often forget, or perhaps just pretend to forget. The route Roberto has taken is that of Agriforestry (or agroforestry), a simbiotic approach to viticulture and livestock, in which the two types of farming interreact. The ultimate aim is of quality and ethical, ecological and economic sustainability. This only really makes sense if the end result is clean, high quality wine, with a strong identity of the terroir. I tasted Roberto’s wines again today, after over a year, and I must admit that the wine, both in the tanks and the barrels, gave me the sensation of a step up in quality, especially in the case of Trebbiano Spoletino, which is no longer seen as a niche curiosity, but has its place among Umbrian white wines.
Grechetto Sassi d’Arenaria 2015 has a high varietal standard, fresher than is usually the case with this grape, and mineral, like the chalky soil in which it is grown.
Montefalco Rosso and Sagrantino are still wines of constantly high quality, both with two versions:
Montefalco Rosso 2014: a more ready wine, with easy approach, influenced by steel, which releases the aroma and brings a really deep freshness to the palate. Excellent grape balance between Sangiovese (60%), Barbera (30%) and Sagrantino (10%).
Montefalco Rosso Sallustio 2013: a year older, the same grapes, but more complex compared to the former, and able to retain a linear freshness and fine fruit, complete, not at all irritated by the wood which gives it a tertiary hint of spice and blends perfectly with the natural spice of Sangiovese. It reminds one of a good evolutionary outlook.. the intriguing side of Montefalco Rosso. Etnico Montefalco Sagrantino docg 2012: as with the Montefalco Rosso, I notice more spontaneity in this version, with fewer frills and flights of fancy. A frank and very solid wine. It’s greater approachability is not synonymous simply with “ease”, but tannic polishing, a rare thing in this wine which is considered the most tannic in the world. A Sagrantino which can be easily drunk today, without any difficulty. Not bad, considering the “ethnicity”!
Montefalco Sagrantino docg 2012: This is the thoroughbred, Sagrantino in all its tannic magnificence and passionate structure. A fine dialogue between the hard and soft parts, between fruit and dynamism to the taste, between ash and light. A wine which allows a glimpse of its potential today, which lingers on your teeth and on your palate. It is a wine which is there, and demands to be waited for. Some bottles are allowed, and it is a pleasurable experience, with the expectation of more evolved emotions later.
Traditions can be kept, knowing that the vision is to transform the choices of today into the traditions of the future. And Roberto Di Filippo is a master in this. Vernaccia di Cannara and Sagrantino Passito are the two sweet wines. They are well balanced and should be drunk idly. There’s no doubt they can be appreciated even by those who are not keen on this type of wine.
The results obtained in the wines “without sulphites” are interesting, especially in the case of Grechetto. They are the result of research aimed at reducing the use of chemicals, not only in the vineyard, but in the winery itself, step by step, and without losing any enjoyment of the wine. With this in mind, I asked Roberto what he feels you need to make a “natural” wine, and he, in his proverbial down to earth way replied “a lot more care, technical expertise and cleanness than you would need for conventional wines, because it is the glass of wine that does the talking, and if it’s not right, it’s not right!”
I need make no further comments, I think his words say a lot about the importance of skill and awareness in order to produce a wine which is respectful all round.
This journey, even more so than previous ones I have made, confirms that a wine which is “clean within and clean outside” is possible, and technique and experience cannot be ignored to produce it.