Podere Le Ripi

The Podere Le Ripi estate is a 54 hectare former sheep farm was purchased by Francesco Illy in the late 1990’s more for its beauty than for any other reason. The property was mostly covered with oak and olive trees and is located next to Mastrojanni (owned by Francesco’s brother) and Poggio di Soto in the Castelnuovo dell’Abate zone in the South of Montalcino. At the suggestion of an artist friend, Francesco started planting small amounts of Sangiovese in 2000. From the beginning, the flora of the land was respected, with no ploughing of the soils. Planting initially at 5,000 vines per hectare, believing that greater density might produce fewer bunches so greater intensity, the next planting in 2002 was done at 6.666 vines per hectare, then in 2003 at 11,111 vines per hectare. In 2005 an experiment was undertaken, planting the densest vineyard in the world at 62,500 vine per hectare (so with vines spaced at 40cm). This was just a tenth of a hectare planted in 4m x 4m squares, with the aim of making the plants drive very deep roots to survive. As this experiment bore fruit, so another area was planted, taking the total area to just 1.2 hectares. The work required in these plots is mind-boggling, from pruning to mulching to harvesting so many plants packed together, but from the start the fruit quality has been extraordinary. The estate converted to biodynamics in 2010 and yields are very low, averaging three tonnes per hectare (20 Hl/Ha). The winemaker from the start has been Sebastian Nasello, a thoughtful young man with great passion for the land. In 2012, Francesco bought another property in the west of the DOCG which is now incorporated into the produce. The Cielo d’Ulisse is from the second estate and is a more fragrant lighter style, whilst the Rosso di Montalcino is a blend of both vineyards. Lupe e Sirene and Amore e Magia are Brunellos from the original Castelnuovo vineyard. The wines here have long and gentle macerations and get extensive ageing in large old oak barrels. Canna Torta is a new amphora aged orange wine that manages to have classic citrus rind flavours and a bite of tannin, whilst remaining fresh and laden with fruit.