“An agricultural product is a flower that blossoms from the encounter of love between the creativity of nature and that of man.” — Stefano Bellotti
The Italian town of Gavi lay in the easternmost reaches of the Monferrato hills at the foot of the Ligurian Apennines mountain range. It is a region historically linked to Genoa and still expresses that city’s Mediterranean influence in customs, speech, and even climate. Hailing from a Genoese family, influential biodynamic winemaker Stefano Bellotti spent much of his youth in a nearby farming community and never gave up his love for agriculture and the countryside.
Stefano was only 11 years old when he began participating in the harvest at his small, family farm of Cascina degli Ulivi near the village of Tassarolo, just a few miles north of Gavi and at the time more of a hobby garden than an estate. At 17 years old he managed a harvest on his own, with the help of his elderly neighbor, Pietro Toccalino, who was illiterate yet full of winemaking knowledge. It was then that Stefano decided to move to Cascina degli Ulivi permanently and become a full-time farmer.
He had immediate aspirations to grow wheat and vegetables for sale but the ferrous red clay soils were not particularly suitable for those types of crops, presenting a challenge in terms of income. He decided to focus on the vines. In this regard, he was lucky enough to be guided by the last of the area peasants, “heirs of ancient knowledge and custodians of ancestral practices.”
A man very much in touch with what he understood as freedom and authenticity, Stefano respected the ways of his ancestors, and was one of the first winemakers of the modern era to implement biodynamic practices in the early 1980s, before they were trendy. Today, the estate is around 40 acres and works as a self-sufficient farm, growing their own vegetables and cereals, breeding animals for milk, meat, and eggs, and making bread and cheese. Sadly, Stefano passed away a little over a year ago but we can still enjoy some of the wines made under his unwavering belief in producing wine expressive of place and without artifice.
Special prices based on purchase of 6-pack (mix-and-match)
Stefano Bellotti advised letting his wines breathe in the glass, “Discovering a good wine is like making a meeting full of promise,” he says, “I want to leave the wine the time it takes to open up and let me discover its wonders little by little. The wine will be different after 15 minutes, it will evolve after 30 minutes, and its flavors will change again after an hour. We must not be in a hurry, let the charm act naturally!”
~$34 “Nibiô” (Vino Rosso 2013) RED
Declassified Monferrato DOC, “Nibiô” is the name for the red-stemmed Dolcetto grape in the local dialect. The wine is 100% Dolcetto fermented with indigenous yeasts, macerated on the skins for four weeks, and then aged for 24 months in 2,500 and 5,000 liter wood barrels. No sulfites are added. “Nibiô” is no simple Dolcetto. The nose is redolent of decaying flowers and juicy, wild orchard fruit. A sip expresses concentrated summer berries with a streak of wet stone and some gentle tannins to balance the wealth of fruit. The earthiness of this wine might pair exceptionally well with a goat cheese and mushroom pizza.
~$34 “Montemarino” (Vino Bianco 2017) WHITE
Declassified Monferrato DOC made from 100% Cortese, “Montemarino” is the name of a vineyard located on top of one of the highest hills in Gavi. The clay and limestone parcel receives full sun due to its southern exposure as well as maritime winds blowing in from the Mediterranean. The wine is fermented with indigenous yeasts in 1,500 liter wooden vats “sur lies” for 11 months. No sulfites are added. Aromas of ripe apple, pear, and a wisp of apricot, hover above subtle notes of hazelnut. It is round on the palate yet not overly fat, with a finish just acidic enough to make for a superbly balanced wine.
~$34 “Filagnotti” (Vino Bianco 2017) WHITE
Declassified Gavi DOCG made from 100% Cortese, “Filagnotti” is named after a parcel located near the town of Tassarolo with southwestern exposure and ferrous, red clay soils. The wine is fermented with indigenous yeasts in 2,500 liter acacia wood vats “sur lies” for 15 months. No sulfites are added. The aromas are reminiscent of hawthorn blossoms and citrus. On the palate there is a ferrous minerality with notes of fresh lemon and honey. It’s dense yet drinkable.