In The Vineyards With: Filippo Filippi (Soave, Veneto)

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Billy is getting increasingly agitated. The smell of the BBQ is too much to bear. This is a rustic kind of grill and it always requires some time for it to reach the right temperature. Fortunately, now that the embers are glowing, the spare ribs, hamburgers and polenta are sizzling away.

There are four of us are sitting around the garden table, enjoying a magnum of Vigne della Bra 2006. (Incidentally, it was stunning and remarkably fresh!)

This is my first night staying here and we’re making small talk. However, it turns out that I had just made that very English faux-pas of not rolling my Rs enough. Trying to explain about a marinated meat (“carne“) that I had many times in Siberia called shashlik, it turns out that I had just said that marinated dog (“cane“) was delicious!

No wonder Billy’s protests had been becoming louder and louder. Billy is Filippo’s German Shepherd, in case you were wondering!

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May 2015. Photo (c) Emma Bentley

Located a short drive east from Verona is the village of Castelcerino, which at 400m above sea level is the highest point in the hills of Soave. The Filiippi vineyards are situated just a couple of hundred metres outside the Soave Classico DOC area… so the wines are labelled Soave DOC or Verona IGT instead.

From where we are sitting, there are breathtaking views over the valley. Wave after wave of teal green hillside, which stretch for as far as the eye can see. Immediately below us are rows of vines which eventually resurface as the Valipolicella hills. It is so picturesque, it feels as though it has come straight out of a painting or an American feel-good film set in Italy.

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May 2015. Photo (c) Emma Bentley

When we think of volcanic wines, our thoughts automatically jump to exotic islands like Sicily or Santorini. That Soave’s terroir is also made up of black basalt soil is harder to comprehend.

Filippo makes parcellaire wines – meaning that the names of the wine correspond to the precise plot of land from which the grapes have come.

In such a geologically-rich land, each of the different parcels have their very distinct typicities. Castelcerino, for example, has a very marked volcanic terroir; in contrast, the Vigne della Bra plot is made up of red clay soil. Vigne della Bra, with its south-easterly facing slopes, is also exposed to the softer rays of the evening sun.

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May 2015. Photo (c) Emma Bentley

There are 14 hectares of vines in total and a further 20 of woodland and forest. A mountain source of fresh water flows down the hillside and, if you know where to look, hidden between the Monteseroni and Vigne della Bra, you’ll find a magical grotto.

At the top of the hill, completely surrounded by woodland, is the Turbiana vineyard, planted with Trebbiano di Soave. There is also Susinara, planted with Chardonnay in guyot. The Garganega (the most dominant grape in Soave) is planted in the Veronese pergola style. All the vineyards are worked organically.

The amount of bird song you hear in this enchanted place is astounding. From the very first rays in the morning until nightfall, there is an audible tapestry of cuckoo, pigeon, swallow, woodpecker, everything…

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May 2015. Photo (c) Emma Bentley

Moving into the cellar, this is natural winemaking so only indigenous yeasts, no enzymes and minimal sulfites. The whites ferment and age in large stainless steel tanks, where they will stay, by and large, for 18 months on the lees (obviously, this depends on the bottling and the particularity of each wine and its vintage.)

Filippo’s first vintage was 2007 but previously he had been working alongside his brother (N.B. the brother did the winemaking, while Filippo did the agriculture.)

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Filippo himself is a fantastic character. At first, he’s a bit of an enigma. Age-less. Larger than life. He’s always laughing – either at a joke or a funny turn of events. Simple things seem to amuse him. It’s an energy that is immediately conveyed to those around him. Once you get to know him better, you realise that this energy is like an aurora. It’s magnetic.

One of my most vivid memories of him from this trip was of him trudging through the courtyard, muttering “piogg, piogg, piogg..” (rain, rain, again…) He was clearly frustrated that he couldn’t get on with his work but the tone of voice was almost childlike.

Normally, I only take one photo of the winemaker to illustrate the blog post but for Filippo, because his expression so often, I felt I needed three!

Harvesting at Filippi (September 2015)

Making Recioto di Soave at Filippi (May 2016)

Filippi on Facebook

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