<A vineyard can produce good grapes only after 35 years.> told me an old winegrower in Burgundy. I wondered: <Should I wait until I get ninethy to start producing a great wine?>
Therefore I decided to try something new and innovative, I forced my plants to go through many different geological layers in a short time span, by planting them in such a high density system. This gave them a single chance in order to survive: go deeper with the roots or die.
All my consultants told me I was crazy and that the plants would simply die
The opposite happened: the mortality of Bonsai stopped at 8%. All the other vineyards had an average of 30%!
We gave every plant a thiny support pole of acacia and we grew the vines with goblet vine training system, called in Italy “alberello” and meaning literally "small tree". Two and a half years later, with their third bud, they made the first barrique of wine, the Bonsai Sangiovese 2007.
I could not believe it: none of the vineyards I had planted had even shown a grape before the fourth bud!
The Bonsai experiment, started in 2005, was a tenth of an hectare and the production was roughly 3.300 kg per hectare from the very beginning!
So we took a 500 liter new oak tonneau and left the grapes there to ferment. And after a few weeks we moved the wine into a new barrique and...surprise: the wine had an extremely weak colour. It looked almost like a dark rosèe. I was disappointed. But the wine was very good, thin but incredibly elegant and with marvelous flowery aromas.
About a month later I tasted the wine again and to my surprise the wine had developed a colour as intense as all the other Sangiovese: the contact to the Vosges Oak in the barrique had produced it’s wonder. (Later Maurizio Castelli, my enologist, told that this is pretty normal, so, no wonder except for me).
I tasted and tasted and tasted for infinite months and the question was always: “When should it be ready for bottling?” In August 2010 it was. Harvested in September 2007, it had refined for 35 months in a new oak barrel.
Later on I gave my wine in tasting to the most important experts of France. I heard in unison, and I still hear it today age long, the same remarks: <I cannot believe that such a wine comes from a young vineyards!> Is it truly a matter of the age of the plant or of the depth roots can reach?
I deem it is the second.
I reflected for a long time about the Burgundian's statement. For sure, the vine plant, has no rush to push its roots deep in the soil, especially in Burgundy where it has more than a square meter at its disposal. However the soil is friable so the roots run down but without haste and it takes years before they can reach the depth needed. The root competition of the Bonsai implants is made in such a way to force roots getting deeper in a faster lapse of time, due to the lack of nutrients created by such a throng of roots. Against laziness, nothing is more incisive than hunger.
Here at Le Ripi diversified geological stratifications sedimented during different eras, as a result minerals change their composition in every single layer. A great complexity and a diversificate feeding of the vines result in the grapes and consequently into the wine body. The range of minerals synthesized from the soil return in a wide olfactive scope. Furthermore we need to consider that humidity is always present at three meters depth: vines are always moisted and therefore hydrated, suffering less water stress.
The plant grows thanks to the osmotic pressure: leaves make water evaporate and the concentration of nutrients and minerals, contained in the leaf itself, increase. This creates the osmotic pressure, moving other liquids with a lesser concentration. These liquids usually come from the roots and they contain dissolved the nutrients necessary.
When drought comes the osmotic pressure continues to work but since less concentrated liquids are not to find in the roots, the plants starts to transport liquids from the only place in which it can find it: the grape! The grape gives parts of its liquids, containing minerals and organic compounds synthesized in the months before, to the plant. Once these compounds are transferred into the leaves they cannot come back to the grape, because the osmotic pressure does not work in reverso. For this reason these compounds lack in the structure of the grape, creating a nonconformity that is typical of the wines that have been made by grapes, suffering water stress.
the soil, the geology, the microclimate, the unpolluted environment are the best I could find for my place. These are the best conditions to make very important wines.
Almost every vineyard I planted has a potent character: this means that I can produce fantastic grapes. This is why I decided to make my wines with the highest attention, with the needed investments, with the best techniques and technology, in the best possible way, honouring those marvellous gift of Nature. And now that I begun give my wines in tasting, you can not imagine how many say to me: “I can’t believe this wine is done by so young vines.”
This confirms that my soil is really peculiar and I was right to take care of my grapes in such an important way.
In the meanwhile we planted 900m2 more of Bonsai Sangiovese and one hectare more in a new field. We have in total almost 1,2 hectares of Bonsai Sangiovese and 2.000 m2 of Bonsai Syrah. We can assert at the ninth harvest that the best wine comes from the Bonsai vineyard.
I noticed by chance in 2008, that the roots were so deep. One of the square of the first experiment were suffering and in my humble opinion just because the roots of a holm oak there near, were sucking away the nutrients. I took the excavator and i digged a deep furrow of 3.5 meters, once inside I saw the Bonsai roots. Two years later I did the same furrow and the roots were still there.
Now the plants are grown-up and produce about 200 grams of grape per plant. Of course some have died, others do not produce at all in some vintages and sometimes others produce more than five bunches. In this case we throw in the ground some bunches one month before the harvest, in order to get mature maximum three bunches per plant. The work in the Bonsai is huge, from the pruning to the mulching with organic straw, passing by the harvest done with the buckets. The results is simply unbelievable and the Bonsai wine is sold out quickly, regardless the elevate price.
Still we want to create a winery with a very harmonious environment: between coworkers and clients, between animals and plants. If this means to assume more workers, coming in this amazing place with a fantastic group of people...here we go! This is the model of bussiness I wanted to create since the very beginning.