Looking Beyond Biodynamic Certification at Cantina di Filippo #ItalianFWT

Umbria countryside near Montefalco, olive trees, grapes and a host of other agricultural products abound

Italian Food, Wine and Travel Writers Explore More Sustainable Viticulture
This month, our Italian Wine, Food and Travel group is researching sustainable approaches to winemaking in Italy. Our investigation started as a look into biodynamics, but it turns out that can be a bit problematic. Why? Because certification isn’t right in every situation. The real key is to understand the grower’s approach, their challenges and how they surmount them. Our group is sure to have some interesting insights, jump to the bottom of this post to see the contributions of my fellow Italian wine enthusiast friends!

Sustainable Agriculture and Viticulture for the Future
Organic, biodynamic, sustainable how do we know what’s best for the vines, the environment, the workers, the winery business? Figuring out that challenge is a tall order, but I think Roberto di Filippo is on to something with his approach at Cantina di Filippo in Montefalco, Umbria. I had the opportunity to spend some time with Roberto on my recent trip to Montefalco, Umbria. Organic viticulture avoids modern chemical and systemic products, but even some organic approved products raise concern, copper sulfate being the chief culprit. The climate and indigenous grapes in this region put harvest at risk for organic growers. Sagrantino is a late ripening variety and is very susceptible to downy mildew, for which the only approved control is copper sulfate. But there are limits to how much can be used in a year. In 2014 and 2018, many growers could only harvest a fraction of their Sagrantino (most valuable crop) due to downy mildew.

As Roberto explains in the video clip below, he is not dogmatic in his approach. He is searching for the best, most truly sustainable approach. Right now, that includes organic and biodynamic viticulture.  However, if better methods are developed, he’ll switch.

Biodynamic Certification Challenges
As we toured, I could see the commitment to biodynamic methods in the vineyard. Roberto shared that he has submitted for Demeter certification but has had challenges. While some wineries with no animals on-site can achieve certification, he has not yet succeeded. He accepts the challenges and soldiers on.  I could see this is a vineyard and winery deserving attention!

Roberto and his team (including a total of 9 horses + hundreds of geese and chickens) manage a total of 30 hectares of vineyards. The plot we saw is 4 hectares, managed entirely by horse, goose and chicken.  A total of 20 hectares are managed by horse, and they are working constantly to expand their approach to their entire farm. Respecting the work of Masanobu Fukuoka, Roberto makes a wine from the 4 hectare plot with the “one goose revolution” motto.

Disclosure: I attended Anteprima Sagrantino as a press member and my trip was sponsored by the Consorzio Tutela Vini Montefalco. All opinions expressed are my own.

Tasting the Wines
Organic and biodynamic viticulture is all well and good, but do the wines taste good?  Careful and mindful winemaking is still required. Roberto di Filippo and his crew show they are up to the task. Their standard wines are made with little intervention, but they are able to fully conform to IGT, DOC and DOCG standards.  Plus, they are delicious!  In addition, a couple of their wines are made in the no-sulfites-added natural realm and they are perfectly clean and delicious. Well done!  They have limited distribution in the US, you may be able to find them in your market or online here. (click on any photo below for a full size slide show, hit “escape” to return to the post)

Other Italian Food Wine & Travel Writers Thoughts on Viticulture in Italy
If you see this post soon enough, please join our conversation on Twitter at #ItalianFWT on Saturday March 2 at 10am CST. We love visitors to join in the chat!

You Can Visit
Do you have plans for a trip to Tuscany? Consider spending a few days in Tuscany’s quieter, friendly neighbor, Umbria.  Cantina di Filippo welcomes visitors, you can tour the farm just as I did, and taste their wines first hand.  I know I’ll be returning!



16 Responses to “Looking Beyond Biodynamic Certification at Cantina di Filippo #ItalianFWT”
  1. culinarycam says:

    As always, Jeff, GREAT post. Thanks for sharing…and what a great trip! Can’t wait to learn more from the #ItalianFWT bloggers tomorrow.

  2. Katarina Andersson says:

    Great article Jeff and also great that you enjoyed the visit to Roberto’s winery. He is the best, and he makes fab wines. :-))

  3. joyofwine says:

    First hand experience is the best! It’s the stories that sell wine..truly!

  4. Lynn says:

    Roberto is doing some great things. I question whether that demeter certification is really necessary? It’s a label eye-catcher as more people get in tune with it. A topic for the chat today. What a visit you had!

  5. I’ve so enjoyed following your IG posts during Anteprima Sagrantino. Here, you’ve given us a clear example of why the biodynamic certification issue is a complex one requiring more scrutiny. Thanks for letting us tag along!

  6. Nicole Ruiz Hudson says:

    What am amazing trip! And yes, the certifications can be super tricky territory.

  7. Troy Seefeldt says:

    Great post Jeff! Great site.

  8. wendyklik says:

    What a wonderful opportunity you were given. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  9. Looks like you had quite a visit! Timely link to the topic this month. Curious about that sweet Sagrantino.

  10. Jill Barth says:

    Thanks for the bonus video. I considered Roberto’s phrase, we can’t have a whole forest for one person, and I’m still contemplating this sense of balance… how we get there. Thanks for sharing the incredible experience with us. It’s a conversation we’ll continue to have.

Check out what others are saying...
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  4. […] lieu of pesticides and geese as his weed control. I covered my visit and interview with Roberto in this post back in […]

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