The world’s densest vineyard
If you like good coffee, as I do, the brandname Illy must be familiar to you. Last August, during a concert given in Tuscany by Mark Springer, I was introduced to Francesco Illy, a member of the Italian family who founded the now internationally renowned Illycaffè company.
At one point in our friendly conversation, Francesco revealed to me that he owned and ran a winery near Montalcino, a town located 120 km south of Florence in the heart of one of Italy’s best winemaking regions.
– I would love to visit your winery, I told Francesco. Do you think it would be possible?
– Of course, Katharina. I would be delighted to show you around. How about this coming Friday?
– My winery is within a stone’s throw of the Sant’Antimo abbey.
– Oh, is it?
A beautiful abbey, by the way. Worth the detour if you happen to be in the area.
After welcoming me at his house, on the following Friday, Francesco took me on a tour of his vineyard, which he christened Le Ripi and which is well-known by connoisseurs for a unique experiment undertaken by Francesco.
Francesco has actually planted the world’s densest vineyard, with 62,500 plants per hectare! For comparison, famous wineries such as the Château d’Yquem has 8 to 10,000 vines per hectare. High density viticulture means that vines, having to “fight harder” between themselves to draw their nutrients from the soil, produce grapes in smaller amounts but with a more concentrated flavour. Francesco has named this experiment the Bonsai Concept.
When I tasted the wine from this vineyard, what particularly struck me was the rich mouthfeel and the exceptional length on the palate. The flavour just lingered on in my mouth.
Last but not least, Francesco and his architect son have finished building a spectacular round-shaped cellar called the Golden Cellar. This project required 7 years of careful planning, and building the structure took 4 years and 750,000 bricks made of natural mortar. The circular cellar is sort of embedded in the hill, and a ramp goes from the top, where the harvested grapes arrive, down to the bottom, where the wine is left to age in old casks – so that no mechanical pumping is necessary to transport the wine: gravity takes care of it!
Francesco Illy is a proponent of direct sales to consumers. The cost of his excellent wines ranges from 25€ to 200€. Should you like to visit his winery, please contact him through his website: www.podereleripi.it, or just call this number: +39 0577 835 641.